Published on 27/03/2023
Share this Article:
Aston University, Birmingham
  • The report found students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are less likely to choose economics at university, and more likely to drop out 
  • It argues that addressing the issues is crucial for promoting diversity throughout the economics pipeline from school to work
  • Experts say the report is a wake-up call, highlighting the need for urgent action to create a more diverse and inclusive field in economics.

A new report from the Royal Economic Society, co-authored by Dr Tim Burnett of Aston University, has shed light on the lack of socio-economic and gender diversity in the field of economics. 

It found that students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are less likely to choose economics at university, and those who do are more likely to drop out. Additionally, regardless of gender or ethnicity, students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to be awarded a lower degree classification.

The report, Who Studies Economics? An Analysis of Diversity in the UK Economics Pipeline, argues that addressing these issues is crucial for promoting diversity and ensuring that the economics profession is more representative of the wider population and the lack of diversity of female economists in senior roles cannot be justified by their performance at university, as female students tend to perform well in economics degrees.

In other findings, the report highlights the greater concentration of universities offering economics in the southern regions of England, and the concentration of students originating in this area - both of which contribute to the lack of diversity among economics students at entry level.

The report urges the need for universities to offer more flexibility in economics degrees, such as part-time degrees, which tend to attract more female students, mature students, and students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Additionally, it identifies the need for greater variety and geographic distribution of universities offering economics.

Dr Tim Burnett, senior lecturer in economics at Aston Business School, said:

“Our report has demonstrated deep-seated structural issues with diversity in the economics pipeline. We know from previous works that we are not seeing enough girls studying the subject, but our report has shown that socioeconomic diversity is just as lacking, and the intersection of gender, socioeconomic background, and ethnicity paints a very concerning picture. Only coordinated action by departments of economics, universities, and policymakers is going to help in addressing these structural issues. 

“We are calling on less selective universities outside the Russell Group to continue leading the way in widening participation by socio-economic background, and for Russell Group universities to address their under-representation of students from ethnic minorities and lower socio-economic backgrounds.

“This report serves as a wake-up call to the economics profession and highlights the need for urgent action to create a more diverse and inclusive field in economics.”

You can read the full report, Who Studies Economics? An Analysis of Diversity in the UK Economics Pipeline, here.
 

Notes to Editors

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a university since 1966, Aston is a long established university led by its three main beneficiary groups – students, business and the professions, and the West Midlands region and wider society. Located in Birmingham at the heart of a vibrant city, the campus houses all the University’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Aleks Subic is the Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive.

Aston University is ranked 22nd in the UK in the Guardian University Guide, based on measures including entry standards, student satisfaction, research quality and graduate prospects. The Aston Business School MBA programme was ranked in the top 100 in the world in the Economist MBA 2021 ranking.

For media inquiries in relation to this release, contact Sam Cook, Press and Communications Manager, on (+44)7446 910063 or email: s.cook2@aston.ac.uk

Be first to get the latest news, research and expert comment from Aston
by
following us on Twitter

Need an expert for your story? Browse our expert directory

 

Sue Smith,
Head of Press and Communications

 

Sam Cook,
Press and Communications Manager

 

Nicola Jones,
Press and Communications Manager

 

Helen Tunnicliffe,
Press and Communications Manager

 

Alternatively, email