University of Chicago

Expanding Diversity in Economics: A UChicago Summer Institute

Expanding Diversity in Economics is a new University of Chicago Summer Institute designed to identify and support talented undergraduate students from a broad range of backgrounds interested in the study of economics. Our goal is to diversify the pool of students majoring in economics, who may go on to a graduate program of study, or a career drawing on this important skill set.

The Diversity Challenge in Economics

Economics can help us answer many critical questions: Why are some countries rich while others are poor? How can we close achievement gaps in education and income among races? What is the most efficient approach to expanding health insurance coverage? These are just a small sample of the many relevant and urgent questions academic economists are working on at the University of Chicago and other institutions around the world today, all of which would benefit from a broad range of approaches and perspectives.

Yet there is little diversity among economics majors compared to other fields. Women account for 28.4 percent of the nation’s economics majors, according to a recent study, while just 14.7 percent of economics majors are Black, Hispanic, or Native American. This trails behind other STEM fields that have also historically lacked representation from women and minority groups. Other under-represented groups in economics include first generation college students, and students from rural areas of the United States.

This lack of diversity raises serious questions about whether the field is prioritizing the most important areas for research and producing the most reliable answers. Without a broad range of perspectives, the field’s contributions to public policy and society more broadly will continue to be limited.

Summer Institute Program Details

An important step in tackling this challenge is to encourage more college students from a broad range of backgrounds to study economics at the undergraduate level.

It is vital that the economics profession improves its outreach to students early in their academic career. The goal should be to excite students about the many ways the study of economics can have an impact on society, and to do so before students have already chosen other undergraduate majors.

With this in mind, the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics (BFI) has launched a first-of-its-kind, three-week Summer Institute at the University of Chicago. Our aim is to attract extraordinary students from colleges and universities around the country who would not otherwise consider studying economics and to get them excited about this important area of study through exposure to some of the most innovative faculty in the field.

Each year, BFI will accept approximately 30-40 participants to the Summer Institute, who will engage in daily lectures and skill-building coursework as well as other activities to promote networking. Participants will be exposed to a range of economic topics taught by a broad group of faculty. The Summer Institute will also promote a mentoring network, linking participants with faculty for guidance and support and providing opportunities for ongoing research experience during the academic year.

For students accepted to the Summer Institute, BFI will provide a stipend of $1,200. Participants who are Pell Grant recipients will receive a stipend of $2,400. In future years, BFI will cover costs of travel and housing for Summer Institute participants for on-campus programing.

Summer Institute Areas of Focus

The Summer Institute will cover three main areas of study drawing on the expertise of University of Chicago faculty:

  1. Building an Economic Toolkit. Drawing from UChicago’s unique approach to economics education, participants will build an analytical toolkit through coursework on Price Theory. Through innovative teaching, participants will explore a range of topics, which might include education, marriage, immigration, health decisions, and political bias and ideological segregation in the media – all through the lens of economic thinking. The curriculum will be designed to touch on topics most relevant to the diverse interests of participants in the Summer Institute.
  2. The Power of Combining Economics and Data. The world is being transformed by data, and data-driven analysis is rapidly becoming an integral part of policymaking and decision-making. Many economists are now using large scale administrative data from government and private companies to help answer critical questions facing society. Participants will learn how the widespread availability of data is transforming the kinds of observations economics can make about the world.
  3. Using Economics to Answer Big Questions. Woven into the curriculum will be an interactive luncheon series led by Chicago Economics scholars who produce cutting-edge research on a range of topics, such as climate change, poverty and inequality, and global trade. We want participants to leave our Summer Institute excited about the study of economics and the vast range of research issues being addressed in the field.

View the list of confirmed faculty and speakers to-date for the 2021 Summer Institute.

Ongoing Research Opportunities

As part of the Summer Institute, BFI will provide select opportunities for participants to engage in ongoing research projects with faculty.

Research Assistant Program

Participants may apply for a competitive research assistant program to work with UChicago faculty on research projects during the academic year. BFI will provide compensation of $5,000 per academic year to each participant placed in a research assistantship. This research experience will be invaluable to participants applying to graduate programs in economics, or for internships or research assistantships with other organizations or academic institutions.

Other Opportunities

  • We will foster an ongoing network and communication thread with each class of participants.
  • Over the years, we will create a broad network of Summer Institute alumni who can connect virtually over time (via tools like Slack and Zoom) or during occasional BFI-hosted in-person events.
  • BFI will also offer a menu of support services to Summer Institute alumni as they pursue graduate schools or jobs that engage their study of economics.

Additional Information and FAQ

Who Should Apply?

Students ages 18 and older who are enrolled in an undergraduate degree-granting institution. The ideal candidate will be early in their college career (e.g., freshman or sophomore), have an interest in learning more about economics, and have an aptitude for quantitative coursework. Our goal is to recruit a diverse group of students from a broad range of backgrounds.

Eligibility Requirements

Successful applicants will:

  • Have a strong interest in learning more about economics
  • Be enrolled in an undergraduate degree-granting program
  • Have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher (on a 4.0 scale)
  • Have taken coursework (high school or college) in calculus, statistics, economics, or other quantitative fields


I will graduate from high school and have been accepted to college for the next academic year. Am I eligible to apply?

No, the Summer Institute is not open to rising freshmen. Students who have already completed at least one semester of an undergraduate program are eligible for the Summer Institute.

I’m a freshman and have not yet declared my major. How will I know if I’m a strong candidate for this program?

This program is designed for undergraduate students who are early in their college career and may not have declared a major. The most important factors are an interest in economics and an aptitude for coursework that is quantitative in nature and relies on strong analytical skills.

I will receive my BA by the summer. Can I still apply?

The Summer Institute is designed for undergraduate students who are early in their college career (e.g., freshman or sophomore) and are considering the study of economics. It is not open to students who have already completed their undergraduate degree.

How many students will be admitted to the Summer Institute?

We anticipate a class of approximately 40 students.

Do I need to commit to the full three weeks of the program?

Yes, we expect students who accept an invitation to participate to stay for the full session, unless they have special circumstances they wish us to consider.

How much will this summer program cost?

There are no program fees for Summer Institute participants. Participants will be awarded a summer stipend of $1,200. Pell Grant recipients will receive a stipend of $2,400. In future years, the University of Chicago will cover the costs of economy-class domestic travel, housing, and meals, including several planned outings for the group if the Summer Institute is held in-person.

I am an international student. Can I apply?

Yes, the application process is open to all early career college students interested in learning more about the study of economics. BFI will not sponsor visas and will only cover costs of economy-class domestic travel for future in-person programming.

Will I receive academic credit for this summer program?

You will not receive academic credit from the University of Chicago for this program.

If I am not from a traditionally underrepresented group, can I still apply?

Yes, everyone is eligible to apply, regardless of gender or ethnicity.

What is the deadline to apply and how will I know if I have been accepted?

The application for 2021 has closed. Please stay tuned for the summer 2022 application.

Please contact with additional questions.

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