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Wantchekon leads new effort to propel Black students into top economics Ph.D. programs

Leonard Wantchekon   Photo courtesy of Leonard Wantchekon
Thursday, August 20, 2020

By Delaney Parrish, Department of Economics

In 2014, Princeton professor Leonard Wantchekon opened the doors to what is now one of the top-ranked economics programs in Africa. Today, the African School of Economics (ASE), with campuses in Benin and Côte d’Ivoire, offers several undergraduate degrees, four master’s degrees, a Ph.D. program and a pre-doctoral program, all aimed at providing “a greater voice to African researchers and entrepreneurs in the debate over the continent’s development.”

Now, Wantchekon, a professor of politics and international affairs, is bringing his experience building academic pipelines in Africa to universities in the United States. This month, he announced a new partnership between ASE and Hunter College in New York City that, through a collaboration with Princeton University, will take direct aim at the underrepresentation of Black and minority students in the field of economics. Though African Americans make up 12.6% of the U.S. population, only 3.3% of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who earned a Ph.D. in economics in 2017 were Black or African American. As of May of 2018, Black economists made up only 1.2% of faculty in the top 20 economics departments in the U.S.

Through the new initiative, which focuses on enrollment and programming within Hunter College’s master’s program in economics, Wantchekon and his partners hope to create a deep pool of students prepared to earn admissions at top Ph.D. programs, including at Princeton.

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