Why study economics (and some lessons for Indian central bank?)

Stanley Fischer, Vice chair of FOMC gives a convocation speech at Howard University:

I am very pleased to visit today with the students and faculty of the Howard University Economics Department. First, a fact that you know but others may not: The Howard University Economics Department is the only producer of economics Ph.D.’s among the nation’s historically black colleges and universities, and it has been teaching economics to undergraduates for nearly a century.1

Speaking as one economist to a group among whom I hope will be many future economists, let me start by saying that pursuing a degree in economics can bring many rewards. First, an economics degree provides many possible career paths. The discipline’s logical, structured approach to problem solving is valued in many settings, including academia, banking, business, consulting, government, and law. Economics majors typically receive salaries that represent a good return on their educational investment. Second, in addition to career prospects and financial rewards, economics offers a means of engaging in many of society’s most pressing issues. The study of economics provides a rigorous, analytic perspective on human behavior. It commands respect and has the ability to influence policies that address important issues.

A degree in economics will help you understand and participate in these policy debates, putting you in a good position to change the world for the better.

Next, I would like to discuss two current questions that economists are actively debating: First, why is participation in our nation’s labor force declining? And, second, what can be done to improve economic mobility (the ability to climb the economic ladder) for children from all groups and from all areas of the country? By doing so, I hope to illustrate the relevance of economics to important, real-life issues.

A degree in economics will help understand real world issues? Really Prof Fischer? Most students will be puzzled to find both the labor related issues highlighted by the vice chair to be missing from most “mainstream” economics textbooks.

Lessons for Indian central bank? Well the way Fed’s economists try and help students in their MA and PhD work should be done at India level too:

Economists tend to respond to the results of research. And the research shows the importance of diversity in decisionmaking. As a result, many organizations are working very seriously to become more diverse. At the Federal Reserve Board, these efforts include developing connections with the Economics Department here at Howard. Our economists have recently served as visiting faculty at Howard or have given guest lectures here.

During the past spring semester, Board economists served as mentors to Howard master’s degree and Ph.D. students. This fall, we are offering a class on statistical programming methods through the university.

On October 25th, we will host an open house with the undergraduate economics association here at Howard for students who are interested in learning more about the Federal Reserve. I encourage you to attend. I would also like to make you aware that the Board offers internships to qualified students, including Howard students studying economics.

Moreover, the Federal Reserve Board’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion is coordinating an effort to increase the diversity of our staff. Everyone at the Board with responsibility for recruiting, hiring, management, and promotion is involved. But I want to emphasize that these are steps on what will be a long road.

There are some internship options at Indian central bank but they are hardly enough to address the demand mismatch. There is a serious need to upgrade the research potential in the country and central bank can play a major role here. It is a win win for both the parties but one wonders why this is not tapped.


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