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A Seat at the Table: The Federal Reserve Banks and the Politics of Governance


This dissertation investigates the Federal Reserve Banks and their governance by boards of directors. It brings to bear original data to address a longstanding blind spot in the political science literature on the Fed. The first empirical chapter examines the political ideologies of Reserve Bank directors since 1975 and shows that directors are more conservative than the average campaign donor in the United States. The second empirical chapter analyzes one of the selection processes that generates this observed ideological distribution, the election of directors by private banks. The analysis first describes the contours of the electoral landscape, and then evaluates predictors of election outcomes. The final empirical chapter presents the results of an original survey of sitting and former directors, which provides first-hand accounts of what directors do, how Reserve Bank policymakers are selected, and how directors perceive their own policy influence. Taken together, the chapters shed light on the the Reserve Bank boards of directors and highlight the critical but little-known role they play in shaping monetary and regulatory policy. In doing so, this dissertation provides the first systematic inquiry into the Reserve Banks and the individuals who oversee them, laying the groundwork for a new research agenda that devotes greater attention to the “private” tier of the Federal Reserve System.

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