What happens when your ability to analyze data results in unique economic insights? If you are Lisa Cook, who is this week’s guest on Masters in Business, you end up doing research for many of the world’s most important institutions. 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 regional Federal Reserve banks – Minneapolis, New York and Philadelphia – and the World Bank.
Cook’s groundbreaking research is backed by deep mathematical proofs and often reveals overlooked truths. Her study on academia found that of all academic Ph.Ds granted, only 0.6% in economics went to Black women. (see ’It Was a Mistake for Me to Choose This Field’.) Cook’s research showed the lack of diversity in economics was even more egregious than the profession’s harshest critics believed.
Some of Cook’s most fascinating research is on the nature of patents, violence, innovation and race. Only 6 patents per million go to African Americans, versus 40 per million for women and 235 per million for all others. Surprised at the results, Cook presented her preliminary findings to a variety of economists. Instead of getting pushback, she was encouraged to publish by 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.
You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Overcast, Google, Bloomberg, Stitcher, 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 in January.