Duke Economics alumnus Omari Swinton was recently elected as the president of the National Economic Association (NEA). Swinton completed both his MA and Ph.D. in economics at Duke (’03 and ’07), and is currently an associate professor of economics at Howard University. Professor Charlie Becker, who taught Swinton at Duke, remembers him as, “Both friendly and outgoing, with a real sense of humor. He cares deeply about his research and his students, and is a highly productive scholar.”
According to a press release by Howard University, Swinton says, “My goal is to continue the tradition of supporting the professional development of minorities within the economics profession.” Speaking with Duke Econ, Swinton stressed the importance of encouraging universities to value diversity. “Many universities have a commitment to diversity, but don’t always put it into practice,” Swinton said. He hopes that his work with the NEA will encourage more minorities to enter and stay in the field of economics. As an academic field, economics has been in the spotlight recently for its lack of diversity and inclusion of minorities.
Swinton is well-qualified to take the helm of the organization. “Swinton’s work is on the economics of education and on discrimination,” said Becker. “His thesis revolved around the returns to rewarding students for effort in an experimental program at Benedict College, a leading HBCU in South Carolina. It was fascinating and innovative work.” Swinton is also the current chair of the economics department at Howard University, as well as the director of graduate studies. His research interests are in labor economics, the economics of education, industrial organization, and macroeconomics.
The National Economic Association promotes the professional lives of people of color in economics. They also provide grants and fellowships to underrepresented minorities. Swinton’s term as president coincides with the 50th anniversary of the organization.