MiB: Making Economics Fun Through Groundbreaking Research



What happens when your ability to analyze data results in unique insights in economics?

If you are Dr. Lisa Cook, you end up doing research for many of the most important institutions in the world: For the professor of economics and international relations at Michigan State University, that meant serving at the Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama, the National Bureau of Economic Research; various Federal Reserve banks (Minneapolis, New York and Philadelphia) as well as the World Bank.

Cook’s research is unique and groundbreaking, backed by deep mathematical proofs, and often revealing of overlooked truths. Her study on academia found that of all academic PhDs. granted, only 0.6% in economics went to Black women. (see Black women are underrepresented in economics, which is bad for everyone). Her research showed the lack of diversity in economics was even more egregious than even the profession’s most harsh critics believed it to be.

Some of her most fascinating research is on the nature of patents, violence, innovation and race. African American patents peaked in 1899 and have since fallen dramatically. Only 6 patents per million go to African Americans in the population, versus 40 per million for women, and 235 per million for all others. Surprised at the results of her research, she presented her preliminary findings to a variety of economists. Instead of getting pushback, she was encouraged to publish by a variety of Nobel laureates, including Milton Friedman, who concluded that “extra-legal violence” interfered with the operations of the free market. The resulting paper Violence and Economic Activity: Evidence from African American Patents, 1870 to 1940, demonstrated the massive negative impact violence has on future economic growth.

A list of her favorite books are here; A transcript of our conversation is available here.

You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunesSpotifyOvercastGoogleBloombergStitcher, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.

Be sure to check out our Masters in Business next week with Ray Dalio, founder and Chairman of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund. His latest book, The Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail, will be published January 12, 2021.


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