Roland G. Fryer Jr., a prominent economist who is under investigation at Harvard University over allegations of sexual harassment, resigned on Tuesday as a leader of the most prestigious organization in academic economics.
The group, the American Economic Association, published a two-sentence statement on its website saying that Dr. Fryer was stepping down from the group’s executive committee, to which he was elected this year.
The move came as pressure mounted from fellow economists for Dr. Fryer to resign — or for the association to remove him — after The New York Times reported a Harvard investigator’s conclusion that Dr. Fryer had engaged in “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” toward four women who worked in the Harvard-affiliated research lab he created.
The president of the economic association, Olivier Blanchard, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund who is now at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, welcomed the move in an email on Tuesday. “I think Roland’s decision was the right one,” he wrote.
He declined to comment on the executive committee’s discussions about Dr. Fryer and whether the group had asked for his resignation. A spokesman for Dr. Fryer said he would not be issuing a statement.
Dr. Fryer, 41, has been one of the nation’s most celebrated young economists, and he is one of the highest-paid professors at Harvard. He won tenure at 30, the youngest African-American professor ever to do so at the university. In 2015 he received the John Bates Clark Medal, which honors an American under 40 for “a significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.”
His position could be in jeopardy as Harvard officials weigh the findings of several investigations into his conduct. An investigator has already substantiated seven distinct claims of instances in which Dr. Fryer subjected women to unwelcome sexual comments. At least one investigation into allegations of harassment and retaliation is continuing. The university is also investigating Dr. Fryer’s spending and the lab’s finances.
Dr. Fryer was already under investigation — and barred by Harvard from entering his lab — when the economic association nominated him for the executive committee, Dr. Blanchard said this fall. Some committee members learned of the allegations when The Harvard Crimson first reported on some of the investigations. But the group’s leadership never asked Dr. Fryer about the matter, Dr. Blanchard said.
This fall, Dr. Fryer was elected, but the vote caused a stir in the profession. Members of the executive committee posted a statement noting the allegations but saying they would wait for Harvard to conclude its investigations before considering how to respond.
After the Times article was published online Friday, several economists wrote on social media that Dr. Fryer should not serve on the committee, including Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist who has helped lead a push for the association to do more to reduce bias against women in the profession.
Earlier this year, the association adopted a code of conduct that reads, in part, “Economists have both an individual responsibility for their own conduct, and a collective responsibility to promote professional conduct.” The group’s annual meeting begins Jan. 4 in Atlanta.