Economics’ diversity problem

In a speech at Macquarie U yesterday the Reserve Bank’s Jacqui Dwyer set out the numbers and offers very economics answers

Dr Dwyer pointed out that at school there are nearly twice as many young men studying economics as women. And at university the discipline is dominated by high SES students.

The risk, she warns, is whether “the current profile of enrolments – with its significantly reduced diversity – will diminish the health of the discipline and the quality of future public policymaking.”

The problems are both demand and supply side.

In schools what is taught interests more men than women and less advantaged students in general. “These students don’t realise that economics is for them – and could empower them to contribute to debate, even policy, about issues of interest or concern,” she states.

And there needs to be more economics out there, more economics-trained teachers in schools, more relevance to students lives in curricula, more awareness in education institutions about how economics contributes to, “economic literacy in society, a more effective citizenry and the design of good public policy.”

As to solutions, “relentless advocacy and targeted interventions” is required.

“There is perhaps much to be learned from other disciplines that have already confronted a decline in engagement and are reversing it.”