The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Economist Nina Banks '99 Profiled in 'New York Times' Feature on Economics of Black Community Activism

Nina Banks '99, associate professor of economics at Bucknell University.Nina Banks '99, associate professor of economics at Bucknell University.
Saturday, February 6, 2021

Nina Banks, who earned her PhD in economics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has studied the economic impact of unpaid household work, disproportionately done by women. Now Banks is similarly studying the economics of community activism by Black and marginalized women. She and her work were the subjects of a recent New York Times profile.

“Not only are we doing paid work for our communities and unpaid work in our households. We are also doing a third layer of community work — we’re exhausted.” 

- Nina Banks '99, associate professor of economics at Bucknell University

Banks, associate professor of economics at Bucknell University, was recently named president of the National Economic Association, which has advocated for and promoted minority economists in a field dominated by white individuals.

The New York Times highlights Banks’s work studying the economics of Black community activism: in October 2020, Banks published an analysis in The Review of Black Political Economy that “illustrates that the community is a primary site of nonmarket production by Black women and other racialized women,” and notes that the “community is an important site where racialized women perform unpaid, nonmarket collective work to improve the welfare of community members and address community needs not met by the public and private sectors.”

In this way, community work is on a similar plane as the unpaid household labor done by women.

The Times further illuminates the difficulties Banks has encountered in her quest to shine a light on the work of Black women, including her time as an undergraduate where she was the only Black student in an economics class.

According to the Times, Banks chose to pursue graduate studies in the Department of Economics at UMass Amherst “specifically for its unorthodox approach."

Banks wrote her dissertation on the impact of the capitalist class transformation on African American households and community institutions during the Great Migration, using as a case study the Urban League of Pittsburgh's racial uplift program and its implications for African American migrant households and Pittsburgh industries.

Read the full New York Times article here.