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Economist Found $16 Trillion When She Tallied Cost of Racial Bias

Dana Peterson, who was a Citigroup global economist, recalled her own experiences of bigotry while researching how gaps between Black and White Americans eat into economic output.

Dana Peterson

Dana Peterson

Photographer: Yuri Gripas

As protests against racial injustice erupted across the U.S. in late May, an economist on Wall Street set aside her usual work of analyzing monetary policy and all things macro to try her hand at something few in her field have attempted: quantifying the cost of racism to the world’s largest economy.

From her home in northern New Jersey, Dana Peterson, who at the time was a global economist at Citigroup Inc., got to work parsing data stretching over two decades, a period that included the longest economic expansion in American history. Several months later, she revealed how that economic boom belied a glaring number: Closing racial gaps would have generated an additional $16 trillion in economic output since 2000, her research showed.