Ask most economists why the distribution of wealth in the United States has become so unequal over the last three decades and they will likely offer a two word answer: skills gap. They point out that Americans with a college education have a lower jobless rate than those without one, and that better-educated workers make more money than their counterparts.
Yet as regional Federal Reserve presidents disclosed their personal asset holdings for the first time ever, the figures showed a gaping range: from the tens of thousands to the tens of millions.
The report showed the wealthiest officials, Richard Fisher and William Dudley of the Dallas and New York Feds respectively, made millions working the financial industry – Fisher running a hedge fund and Dudley as chief U.S. economist and partner at Goldman Sachs. It would be tough to argue that the two are any more skilled than the career PhD Fed economists who were at the bottom of the list.
James Galbraith of the University of Texas at Austin LBJ School said in response to an email request for comment:
The Fed data show one of two things: either the skills gap is bunk, or the profession of economics (which invented the notion of a skills gap) does not impart valuable skills. Either way, the news for the economists is not good.