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The Fed Appoints First African American to Bank President Role

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We don't do short-form here.Photograph by Karen Bleier — AFP/Getty Images

University of Southern California economics professor Raphael Bostic, an expert on housing issues and former senior economist at the Fed’s Board of Governors, has been named the new president of the Atlanta Federal Reserve bank.

The appointment of Bostic, 50, comes amid calls for the Fed to diversify its leadership. He will become the only African American among Fed policymakers. From 2009 to 2012 he was an assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, where he spearheaded efforts against housing discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Over the last few years, the Federal Reserve has faced criticism about the lack of diversity among its policymakers. A 2011 investigation by the Government Accountability Office recommended the central bank increase diversity on its board, partly to avoid group think and improve its decision-making processes.

The Brookings Institution notes that throughout the history of the Federal Reserve System, zero of the 134 different presidents of Federal Reserve Regional Banks have been African American or Latino.

Meanwhile, only six women have served in this role in history.

The Fed has had three black governors on its Washington D.C. based board over the years—Andrew Brimmer, Emmett Rice, and Roger Ferguson—the Brookings Institution notes that throughout the history of the Federal Reserve System, zero of the 134 different presidents of the Fed’s regional banks have been African American or Latino.

This lack of diversity is meaningful because the central bank has a powerful role in determining the country’s monetary policy and banking regulation. The regional system, which includes 12 Federal Reserve banks dispersed throughout the country, was intentionally set up to decentralize these powers away from Washington D.C., and give more power to voices from other parts of the country.

But racial and gender diversity are important as well. So while Bostic’s appointment should be applauded, the central bank still has a long way to go.