Lisa Cook is the first Black woman to be nominated to the Federal Reserve Board in its 108-year history, but she’s facing questions concerning her research and experience.
Cook sports a Ph.D. in economics and a wealth of experience in the field.
According to Bloomberg News, Cook worked at the U.S. Treasury and for the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers and advised the Central Bank of Rwanda after the nation’s civil war in 1994.
Additionally, Cook holds two bachelor’s degrees from Spelman University and Oxford University and is also a professor of economics and international relations at Michigan State University.
However, Cook hasn’t weighed in publicly on the Fed’s current inflation challenge, which Fed Chair Jerome Powell is struggling to deal with. The COVID-19 pandemic, followed by billions in relief for Americans, has led to the biggest jump in consumer prices in four decades.
Some of Cook’s previous work, including her research on how violence against Black Americans coincided with a decline in patent filings by Black Americans, has received critical acclaim. It’s also received criticism from Republican lawmakers who say her work is too focused on “racial policies.”
Cook is set to appear Thursday before the Senate Banking Committee along with Sarah Bloom Raskin and Philip Jefferson, two other nominees for open seats on the seven-person board.
If confirmed, she will be a paramount figure in the debate over the pace for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to stem inflation in an environment in which many Black and minority workers have yet to recover financially from the pandemic.
Like many economists, Cook attributes supply chain disruptions to the pandemic and believes prices could ease once those issues are solved. Cook has direct knowledge and experience when it comes to matters of high inflation from her time in Africa and Russia during the collapse of communism when she was researching her dissertation.
Many believe Cook can be a wonderful resource who can add new ideas and viewpoints to a group that’s typically loaded with monetary economists.
“Lisa is being held to a different standard. She doesn’t look like a central banker, she doesn’t talk like one,” says Claudia Sahm, director of macroeconomic research at the Jain Family Institute and a former Fed Board economist told Bloomberg.
“Maximum employment is now about getting the last person across the finish line that you can in a sustainable way. And in the U.S. economy, the last person, though not always, is usually going to be Black or Brown. The new Fed needs new people.”