Black and Ethnic Minority Economists in the UK

During Black History Month, we take a look at the representation of Black – and ethnic minority – academics and students in economics in UK universities and highlight organisations who are working towards change.

By Professor Sarah Smith


What is the situation in higher education?

A 2020 report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies provides a snapshot of ethnic diversity in economics in UK universities.

Nearly one-quarter (24%) of academic economists are from a non-White ethnic group – higher than the rest of the Social Sciences and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), similar to Business but below Finance and Accounting.

Figure 1 shows that Black African and Black Caribbean male and female academics are more likely to be in economics, compared to White academics. Women are under-represented in economics across almost all ethnic groups. However, almost half of White economists work in Russell Group universities, compared with 30% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi economists, and less than 20% overall for Black economists.

Ethnic Groups in Economics
Fig 1. Percentage of research academics from each ethnic group who work in economics (2018–19)

Looking at the pipeline, 37% of UK undergraduate economics students were from a non-White minority ethnic background, compared with 23% of those in other social sciences and 22% in STEM courses (the population share is 19%).

Black African and Black Caribbean male and female students are more likely to study economics than other subjects.

UK Nationality Students Graph
Fig. 2 Percentage of students from each ethnic group who study economics (2018–19)

How can I find out more?

Discover Economics is a campaign to promote diversity among economics students. Its aims are to broaden the appeal of economics to potential students, change their perceptions of economics and economists, particularly by promoting the voices of a more diverse set of economists, and attract more students from under-represented groups. The campaign targets 15-18 year olds – young people who are making choices about what post 16 qualifications to take and what subjects to study at university. Discover Economics runs regular events and outreach activities.

The Black Economists Network is an organisation dedicated to providing a platform through which professionals and students of Black African and Caribbean descent in economics can connect, collaborate, share ideas and support each other. They seek to challenge the lack of diversity by bringing together and raising the profile of black people in economics and by working alongside other organisations on their diversity strategies.

See more from Professor Sarah Smith including recent publications, visit her profile.

Discover more research from the School of Economics on our website.