ECONOMISTS, WHO extol the virtues of healthy labour markets, like to think that they practise what they preach. Not so. At this year’s conference of the American Economic Association (AEA) in San Diego, the profession’s lack of diversity was high on the agenda. In a session titled “How Can Economics Solve its Race Problem?” Janet Yellen, now the AEA’s president, summarised the situation as wasting talent and “deeply unfair”.

It was the second year that barriers to entry into economics were so prominent at economists’ biggest annual gathering. Early results of the pressure to improve were evident. As part of an effort led by Ben Bernanke, Ms Yellen’s predecessor, a lawyer contracted by the AEA was present to hear any complaints about professional misconduct.

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