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About Economic Research at the St. Louis Fed

Goals

Research Director Christopher J. Waller

Under the leadership of Research Director Christopher J. Waller, the Division's research economists expand the frontier of economic knowledge by producing high-quality original research in the areas of macroeconomics, money and banking, and applied microeconomics. They contribute to monetary policy discussions by advising Bank president James Bullard on a range of topics, especially in preparation for Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meetings.

The Research Division is in the top 1% of all economics research departments worldwide.1 The working paper series offers emerging research ideas to stimulate discussion, while St. Louis Fed publications provide analysis and instruction for the general public, journalists, and students. These outlets allow Division economists to quickly and efficiently address economic trends, explore historical and current data for economic policy, and expand the understanding of issues relevant to our region, the nation, and the world.

Research Environment

Economists in the Research Division have a primary responsibility to conduct research. Our economists publish in numerous refereed journals and present at conferences all over the world. Economists develop their own research topics; then, in a collegial environment, they are challenged to move their ideas even further. All the necessary supports are in place to allow them to focus on what they do best—research.

Division leadership understands that the proximity of innovative thinkers can expand current ideas and reveal new areas for exploration. The Division hosts visiting scholars for both short-term and long-term appointments and summer dissertation interns. The Division’s research associates, who support the economists in their research, are encouraged to actively participate in this environment to develop their own skills as future economists and policy experts.

The Division sponsors and cosponsors conferences, seminars, lectures, and workshops on a wide variety of economic topics and invites economists from all over the nation and the world. The regular seminar series features the work of Division economists, visiting scholars, and invited guests.

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Research Information

Many other division professional staff support the goals of the individual economists and the Division as a whole.

FRED Economic Data logo
  • The widely used FRED® data service is updated daily and allows 24/7 access to over 500,000 financial and economic data series from more than 85 public and proprietary sources.
  • FRASER®, a unique digital library of economic and financial history, offers access to more than half a million historical data, research, and policy documents.
  • The Economic Education team produces curriculum materials in the award-winning student and teacher online portal, econlowdown®.
  • Librarians in our Homer Jones Memorial Research Library facilitate access to economic data and information and maintain Fed in Print, the central online catalog of publications of the Federal Reserve System
  • IDEAS, a service of the international RePEc economics bibliographic database, is hosted and maintained by the Research Division under the direction of economist Christian Zimmermann
  • Dashboards of comparative state, county, and metro economic data for areas across the US are made available by the Regional Economics team, who also produce and disseminate Eighth District economic data and research like the Beige Book 

A History of Innovative Research

The St. Louis Fed’s tradition of leadership in the Federal Reserve System began decades ago with Homer Jones, the Bank’s director of research from 1958 to 1971. Under Jones and Bank president Darryl Francis, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review became the first Federal Reserve publication to become an academic-style journal. Since 1967, this peer-reviewed publication has featured research and commentary by world-renowned economists including John Taylor, Ben Bernanke, and Christina Romer

Homer Jones and Darryl Francis

Homer Jones is also known for the guiding principle that everyone should be able to access data the same way a professional researcher can. He instituted popular weekly and monthly data publications that were mailed to subscribers. A 1967 Business Week article about the St. Louis Fed described the process as follows:

Jones and his people take the basic material pumped out of Washington, then rework and polish it, and put it into highly readable form. As one Fed aide in Washington observes “Homer has the most merchantable stuff coming out of the system today.”

From 1975 to 1992, the Research Division was led by Anatol "Ted" Balbach, who expanded influence of the Review, enhanced databases and data publications, and launched a visiting scholar program that attracted leading economists from around the world. Learn more about the Balbach era in this 2008 Review article by Michael D. Bordo and Anna J. Schwartz.

Balbach's successor, Robert Rasche, was instrumental in driving the Division forward: Between 1999 and 2009, he dedicated the resources needed to build up FRED’s data, spearheaded the creation of FRASER, GeoFRED, and AlFRED, and built our information resources into globally recognized services. 

[1] As determined by the citation ranking tracked by the independent, volunteer-run RePEc service