At the St. Louis Fed, new chapters are being written in our story every day by employees in every division, department and unit. Our We Are Central profile series introduces you to people who help make the Bank central to the nation’s economy.
By Laura Hopper, External Engagement and Corporate Communications Staff
Ana Hernández Kent, senior researcher in the Center for Household Financial Stability, has been working at the St. Louis Fed for three years in community development. She attended the University of Notre Dame as an undergraduate and received a doctorate degree in experimental psychology from Saint Louis University.
Kent works on a team of three people in the center, and she attributes the team’s success and high level of productivity to their diverse backgrounds, such as hers in psychology.
When I was on the job market, I was trying to figure out what would be a career that would allow me to use the skills I learned in academia but in a more applied sort of way. I wanted to feel like I was really making a tangible difference in people’s lives.
The job description at the Fed stood out to me as being an avenue for allowing me to use my research and data analysis skills. The position was in community development, and it just really was this rare mix that you don’t find too frequently: where you’re able to use data analysis and research and have flexibility, but also apply that to have real-world impact.
That impact has become incredibly salient during the COVID-19 pandemic and a time of racial unrest. My team has been very responsive; for example, putting out information on the economic effect of the pandemic on women and highlighting the wealth gaps between non-Hispanic white families and Black and Hispanic families.
Basic responsibilities include temperature checks: seeing what’s out there and what’s on people’s minds, what’s already been written, and what’s something new we can add to the table. Data analysis is pretty major—and writing things up. The idea is to get our work out in front of the general public—people who are in this work and people who are just curious—and form conversations.
For example, we have a popular blog post which talks about wealth inequality by race and ethnicity, education and age. People come to us when they want the facts; like they might know a Black/white wealth gap exists but they might not know the actual numbers. We provide that information.
It’s really hard to pick just one thing. I’m a psychologist, so it’s like, “How did I end up at the Fed?” But I really enjoy everything I do, and I think a big part of that is just the people I work with. They’re amazing, very collaborative and allow us to write our own story. We do this in a way that’s really rigorous work but that’s also understandable to the general public. That’s what I enjoy a lot: We’re really outwardly focused, and we try to make our stuff digestible and very easy to understand.
I like to help start conversations. People can use our work as the fact base and then build on it by beginning to answer those tough questions: How can we promote economic equity and an economic system that works for all?
I have a 2-year-old, so there’s not time for much else! Working from home has allowed me to see the world more simply through his eyes, which are wide and hopeful. It’s encouraging.