Lisa Cook, First Black Woman Confirmed To Federal Reserve Board, Highlights Impact Of Racism On Economy

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Lisa Cook, who was confirmed on Tuesday as the first Black woman to serve on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, has completed vast research throughout her career to show the impact of racism on the economy. In a report she published in 2020, Cook said discrimination not only impacts those who are direct victims, but also reduces the wealth and income of millions of people.

In her research, Cook highlighted the amount of patents that were never issued due to the constant riots, lynchings and Jim Crow laws Black Americans faced between 1870 and 1940.

“The loss was considerable: The patents that African-Americans could have been expected to receive, given equal opportunity, would have roughly equaled the total for a medium-size European country during that time,” she wrote, The New York Times reports.

Cook also referred to work from other researchers, saying “aggregate economic output would have been $16 trillion higher since 2000 if racial gaps had been closed.”

“The gross domestic product of the United States in 2019 was $21.4 trillion,” she wrote. “The researchers estimate that economic activity could be $5 trillion higher over the next five years if equal opportunity is achieved.”

The Michigan State University professor proposed more training in science, technology, engineering and mathematic, particularly programs that encourage women and underrepresented minorities to participate in those fields.

She also said there is substantial evidence of systemic racism in education which must be addressed.

“Research shows that professors are less likely to respond to email inquiries about graduate study from Black, Hispanic and female students than from people who are discernibly white and male,” Cook said, adding that a system of incentives and penalties is needed to hold educators responsible accountable at every level of the education and training process.

At corporate and government levels, as well as in university labs, Cook said diversity helps create a more productive team. The researcher said it’s important to seek and recruit founders to invest in places like Atlanta, not just in Silicon Valley. She also highlights the need to address “systemic racism at every level of management and within venture capital firms.”

Cook added that it’s necessary to “diversify corporate boards so that senior leadership will be held accountable for diversity and workplace climate.”

According to NBC News, Cook was confirmed on Tuesday with a 51-50 party-line vote. Vice President Kamala Harris broke the tie with her vote.

In April, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke about the need to confirm Cook and other qualified nominees as soon as possible, despite Senate Republicans’ efforts to block the confirmations.

“It was egregious for Republicans to similarly prevent the nomination of Lisa Cook to go through this week. Make no mistake we are going to get her confirmed through the Senate as soon as we can,” Schumer said in April, according to a release shared with Blavity.

The Senate Majority Leader described Cook as a historic and highly qualified nominee.

“Her family literally fought segregation growing up in rural Georgia, and despite personally facing immense discrimination she is now a professor of economics at Michigan State, a former adviser to President Obama’s Counsel of Economic Advisers, and is on the Chicago Fed Board’s Academic advisory board,” he said. “A historic Federal Reserve nominee who accomplished as much as Lisa Cook deserves far, far better treatment than what Republicans have shown.”