Dr. Lisa DeNell Cook is an economist and a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. She is the first African American woman to sit on the Board. Cook was born in 1964 and raised in Milledgeville, Georgia. She is one of three daughters of Payton B. Cook and Mary M. Cook. Her father was a hospital chaplain, and her mother was a professor of nursing at Georgia College. She is a cousin of chemist Percy Julian.
In 1986, Cook earned a BA in Physics and Philosophy (magna cum laude) from Spelman College. Two years later she earned another BA in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from the University of Oxford in England. She studied philosophy at the University of Senegal. In 1997, Cook earned a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, under the guidance of Barry Eichengreen and David Romer.
From 1997 to 2002, Dr. Cook served on the faculty of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. While at Harvard, Dr. Cook also served as deputy director for Africa Research at the Center for International Development. From 2000 to 2001, she was a senior adviser at the U.S. Treasury Department as a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow. From 2002 to 2005, Cook was a National Fellow and Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. She has advised the Nigerian government on its banking reforms and the Rwanda government on economic development. In 2005, she became an assistant professor at Michigan State University and gained tenure in 2013. From 2011-2012 she served as a Senior Economist in the Barack Obama Administration’s Council of Economic Advisers.
Lisa Cook was inspired to study economics by Dr. Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in economics in the United States. Cook’s research focuses on African American history and innovation economics. Her research suggests that violence against African-Americans under the Jim Crow laws led to a lower-than-expected number of patents filed. Cook has collaborated with other economists to collate a database on lynching in the United States.
On May 10, 2022, the Senate confirmed Cook’s nomination by a 51-50 vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaking vote. Cook was sworn in as a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in May 2022, making her the first Black woman on the Federal Reserve’s board.
Cook supports reparations to compensate for Black Americans for being subjected to slavery and discrimination.