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Minorities and Diversity: Ideas, Measurement, Health, and Housing

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 5, 2024 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM (CST)

Grand Hyatt, Republic C
Hosted By: National Economic Association & American Society of Hispanic Economists
  • Chair: Alfonso Flores-Lagunes, Syracuse University

Ideas, Innovation, and the Racial and Ethnic Diversity of Economists

Francisca Antman
University of Colorado-Boulder
Kirk Doran
University of Notre Dame
Xuechao Qian
Stanford University
Bruce Weinberg
Ohio State University


What is the impact of diversifying the economics profession on research in economics? To address this underexamined question, we leverage the best sources of data available to tie the racial and ethnic diversity of economists to the evolution of research ideas and innovation in economics as well as the influence of supply- and demand-side factors which contribute to the participation of underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups in the profession. We begin by linking the universe of doctoral dissertations from ProQuest which include author name, title, field, institution, and dissertation advisors, with indicators of dissertation research topic given by the JEL codes found in the EconLit database. The resulting data set allows us to use naming algorithms to identify likely race and ethnicity of the dissertation authors as well as their advisors and explore whether URM authors are more likely to write on innovative topics and whether URM advisors are more likely to advise dissertations in innovative areas. We also examine whether URM authors are more likely to write on topics of particular benefit or interest to the broader URM population, thus marking an important contribution of URM economists in specific study areas and quantifying the value of demographic diversity in the research realm. Finally, we link URM economists by their field of research with data on the demand for economists by field and academic institution given by the JOE database to quantify the extent to which field-specific demand constraints affect the representation of URM individuals as professional academic economists. As the first analysis of the labor market for economists in this context, using the best available and previously unexamined data, this paper demonstrates the extent to which demand-side complexities coupled with research fields present limitations on the advancement of URM groups in the economics profession.

Which Mexicans Are White? Enumerator-Assigned Race in the 1930 Census and the Socioeconomic Integration of Mexican Americans

Stephen Trejo
University of Texas-Austin
Brian Duncan
University of Colorado-Denver


The authors explore unique complete-count data from the 1930 Census in which a respondent’s race was assigned by enumerators and “Mexican” was one of the possible responses. Census enumerators frequently and selectively assigned a non-Mexican race—predominantly “white”—to U.S.-born individuals of Mexican ancestry. As a result, using enumerator-assigned race to identify Mexican Americans misses a sizeable fraction of the relevant population and significantly understates this group’s socioeconomic attainment. The propensity for Census enumerators to identify Mexican Americans as white varied enormously across U.S. counties, and this variation is strongly associated with both the educational attainment of U.S.-born Mexican Americans observed in the 1940 Census and the amount of return migration by Mexican immigrants during the 1930s. As such, this variation may help to identify local environments that were more favorable for the integration of Mexican Americans.

Health Shocks and Older Minority Women Health: The Role of Private Transfer, Public Benefits and Neighborhood Characteristics

Monica Garcia-Perez
St. Cloud State University


Most racial wealth gap literature has focused on increasing wealth and reducing income, transfers, and asset-building barriers without considering the toll that increasing health expenses have on people with delayed diagnosed chronic diseases. When elders experience health changes, their resources will go beyond the household. Indeed, wealth transfers from minority-headed families are more likely to move from younger to older generations, with middle-aged adults caring for their elderly parents/grandparents. This transition contributes to caretakers' health deterioration, elderly care rising expenses after parents'/grandparents' diagnosis, and further health complications. Hence, while white households' wealth increases and moves forward in their lifetime, minority-headed households' wealth is more likely to decrease and move backward. Community and public resources are critical factors that lessen the financial impact of health change among caretakers, especially women caretakers.
Using the Health and Retirement Study from 1992-2020 and the National Neighborhood Data Archive, I analyze the relationship between health shocks and net wealth changes of older women across race and ethnicity relative to non-Hispanic white women. I emphasize the role of private transfers, public benefits, and neighborhood characteristics. I adopt an event-study framework where the estimates are based on the individual's position relative to the moment of the condition diagnosis. Newly diagnosed conditions are analyzed separately and also combined into Mild, Intermediate, and Severe. I analyze different measures of wealth and outcomes that provide insights into the mechanisms of the financial shock. I also emphasize the role of structural factors characterizing neighborhoods where women reside on their capacity to respond to the onset of new health conditions. Neighborhood characteristics are evaluated directly in the analysis to account for structural factors associated with the size impact and estimate its significance.

In Need of a Roof: Pandemic and Housing Vulnerability

Ruth Uwaifo Oyelere
Agnes Scott College
Kusum Mundra
Rutgers University


The COVID-19 pandemic left many households jobless, faced with tremendous anxiety and mental trauma, and acutely exposed to eviction and foreclosure. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) indicates that 65 to 75 million people may have entered into extreme poverty in 2020 with 80 million more undernourished compared to pre-pandemic levels. In 2020 over 2 million households were behind on their mortgage payment by over 3 months and there was simultaneously a rental crisis with over 8 million household behind in their rent. Recent reports using survey data from the Census Bureau show that in California, rent crisis was disproportionately tilted towards the minorities with, Blacks and Latinxs being two- to two-and-a-half times more likely to be behind in their rental payments. In this paper using the Pulse Survey Data, initiated as a result of the pandemic, we examine housing vulnerability during the pandemic for homeowners with mortgage as well as renters.

Randall Akee
University of California-Los Angeles
Maude Toussaint
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
Jose Fernandez
University of Louisville
Anita Alves-Pena
Colorado State University
JEL Classifications
  • A1 - General Economics