American men in their prime working years may be hunting for jobs at a lower rate because of public assistance income and a drop in demand for low skilled labor, Federal Reserve Governor Stanley Fischer said on Tuesday.

Speaking at Howard University in Washington, Fischer did not address the outlook for the U.S. economy or for monetary policy although he was due to take audience questions following his remarks.

Fischer urged students at the university, one of America's traditionally black colleges, to study economics and inject more diversity into the profession.

"Economic policy decisions are better when informed by a wide range of views and experiences, he said in prepared remarks.

Fischer said more diversity could help inform study of economic mysteries like the decline over the last half century in labor force participation by men in their prime working years.

Some research suggests the welfare state has played a role, while other studies finger technological changes that have reduced demand for low-skilled labor, Fischer said.

He also pointed to the question of what makes it easier or harder for people in some regions or from some minority groups to move up the income ladder. Fresh perspectives are necessary, he said.

"We need - and by that I mean society as a whole needs - a more diverse set of practitioners in economics, practitioners who may perceive different questions to be important and different answers to be more persuasive," Fischer said.

The Fed has come under fire for the dearth of minorities in its upper echelon. Only one of the U.S. central bank's 17 policymakers is from a minority group - Neil Kashkari, the president of the Minneapolis Fed, is the son of immigrants from India. None of the policymakers are black or Hispanic.

Fischer said the Fed was trying to increase diversity within the central bank. "These are steps on what will be a long road," he said. 

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