To conduct her research on how people in rural, Sub-Saharan African countries make choices concerning their time and money, Jessica Goldberg, a professor in the Department of Economics, relies on having a diverse range of inputs based on the experiences of her staff and local collaborators.
“Observations by members of the field team shape my work- sometimes changing the way we ask a particular survey question and sometimes inspiring an entirely new research question,” Goldberg explained. “The invaluable input from people who approach these research projects from different perspectives and life experiences than my own is an important reminder of how much individual perspectives shape the way we conduct research, and therefore the importance of diversity in the academic community.”
It was this very observation that inspired Goldberg to apply for a Moving Maryland Forward grant to fund a new diversity program for undergraduate economics students called Promoting Achievement and Diversity in Economics (PADE).
“The reality is that minority racial and ethnic groups are badly underrepresented in the economics profession,” Goldberg said. “In 2012-2013, the most recent year for which data is available, 3.2 percent of PhDs in economics were awarded to African Americas, a rate unchanged since the mid 1990s."
“Together, American Indians, blacks and Hispanics accounted for 9.6 percent of economics PhDs awarded in 2012-2013, and minority students are only slightly better represented at the undergraduate level,” Goldberg went on.
With funding from the Moving Maryland Forward grant as well as matching contributions from the Department of Economics and the Dean’s office, PADE will offer mentoring, tutoring, and professional development activities including weekly study sessions, guest speakers and networking opportunities with professionals from local institutions such as the Federal Reserve Board and the World Bank.
As a whole, PADE has three primary goals: to increase the number of underrepresented minority, low income and first generation college students who receive economics degrees from UMD; to improve the academic performance of those students; and to improve diversity in the profession by preparing underrepresented students to succeed in graduate school.
“Economics is about so much more than how businesses maximize profits, or whether the stock market is going up or down,” Goldberg said. “Economics provides really powerful tools to answer important questions about how people make decisions, and how programs and policies can help improve people’s lives.”
“Its really important that our research takes into account the needs of all communities and that the design of our studies is informed by appropriate contextual knowledge,” Goldberg went on. “That means we need many different and diverse voices setting the research agenda, and our current students can be those voices!”
Though the necessary math involved in pursuing an economics degree can seem like a daunting task for anyone interested in the profession, Goldberg reminds students to not get discouraged.
“Math wasn’t easy for me in college, and I almost gave up on being an economics major, but putting in extra time studying and asking for help from TAs and professors was worth it,” Goldberg concluded. “I hope our current students will stick with it and will take advantage of the resources the department and the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences have to offer.”