Philip Jefferson

Official portrait of Governor Philip N. Jefferson, June 16, 2022
Courtesy Federal Reserve under public domain

Philip Nathan Jefferson is an American economist who has been a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors since 2022. Jefferson is the fourth African American to serve as Governor. Jefferson was born and raised in the Kingman Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C. His parents divorced when he was young. Afterward Jefferson attended a private high school.

As a child, Jefferson watched the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite which he described as a “ritual in our house.” It was the late 1970s and the economy, inflation, and financial news filled the screen. Jefferson thought about his future. “Whenever I saw bankers on TV, they were at the center of everything.”

“On my block as a kid,” Jefferson later recalled, “there were good outcomes and there were examples of people who ended up in prisons. It really can result from making a bad decision one weekend.”

Jefferson studied economics at Vassar College in New York and later graduated from that institution.  He has been a trustee of Vassar College since 2002. In 1990 he completed a doctoral degree in economics from the University of Virginia. Jefferson was an assistant professor at Columbia University, a visiting professor at the University of California at Berkeley, and an economist at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. In 1997, he joined the faculty of Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.

In 2004, Jefferson was elected president of the National Economic Association, whose mission is to promote the professional lives of economists. In 2019, he became vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty at Davidson College in North Carolina.

On January 14, 2022, President Joe Biden nominated Jefferson to be a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. The Senate Banking committee supported his nomination by a 24-0 vote and the United States Senate confirmed his nomination by a 91-7 vote.

Jefferson’s current research interests are in macroeconomics, poverty, and applied econometrics. He has two published books, Poverty: A Very Short Introduction (2018) and The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Poverty (2012).