Lisa DeNell Cook is an American economist who has served as a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors since May 23, 2022. She is the first African American woman and first woman of color to sit on the Board. Cook previously was a professor of economics and international relations at Michigan State University and a member of the American Economic Association's Executive Committee. An authority on international economics, especially on the Russian economy, she has been involved in advising policymakers from the Obama Administration to the Nigerian and Rwandan governments. In 2022, Cook was elected to the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
Her research is at the intersection of macroeconomics and economic history, with recent work in African-American history and innovation economics. As one of the economic profession's few prominent black women, she has attracted attention within the economics profession for her efforts in mentoring black women and advocating for their inclusion in the field of economics. On January 14, 2022, President Joe Biden nominated her to serve as a member of the Board of Governors at the Federal Reserve System and was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 10, 2022. She was sworn in on May 23, 2022.
Cook was a visiting assistant professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and Harvard Business School from 1997 to 2002, where she was Deputy Director of Africa Research at Harvard's Center for International Development. From 2000 to 2001, she was a senior adviser on finance and development at the U.S. Treasury Department as a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow. She was a National Fellow and Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University from 2002 to 2005. Cook advised the Nigerian government on its banking reforms in 2005, and the government of Rwanda on economic development. In 2005, Cook joined Michigan State University as an assistant professor, becoming a tenured associate professor in 2013. She served as a Senior Economist in the Obama Administration's Council of Economic Advisers from August 2011 to August 2012.
Early in her career, Cook's research focused on international economics, particularly the Russian economy. Later she has broadened her research on economic growth to focus on the economic history of African-Americans. Her research suggested that violence against African-Americans under the Jim Crow laws led to a lower than expected number of actual patents filed. Together with other economists, she has collated a long-running database on lynching in the United States.
Since 2016, she has directed the American Economic Association's Summer Program for underrepresented minority students. She became a member of the American Economic Association's Executive Committee in 2019.
In November 2020, Cook was named a volunteer member of the Joe Biden presidential transition Agency Review Team to support transition efforts related to the Federal Reserve.
Federal Reserve nomination
In 2021, Senator Sherrod Brown reportedly pushed the Biden Administration to nominate Cook to serve on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. President Biden officially nominated Cook to be a member of the Board of Governors on January 14, 2022. She is the first Black woman on the Federal Reserve's board.
Hearings were held on Cook's nomination before the Senate Banking Committee on February 3, 2022. On March 16, 2022, the committee deadlocked on Cook's nomination in a party-line vote, forcing the entire Senate to move to discharge her nomination out of the committee. On March 29, 2022, the United States Senate discharged her nomination from the Senate Banking Committee by a 50-49 vote. On April 26, 2022 the Senate attempted to invoke cloture on her nomination, but it was not agreed to by a 47-51 vote because Senators Chris Murphy and Ron Wyden contracted COVID-19 and were unable to vote. No Senate Republican voted for her, characterizing her as unqualified and a left-wing extremist. On May 10, 2022, the Senate confirmed her nomination by a 51-50 vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaking vote, after cloture was invoked on her nomination by a 50-49 vote.