Anecdotes trump data for what I wish were a surprisingly large proportion of male American economists: Economist: Barriers to entry

Anecdotes trump data for what I wish were a surprisingly large proportion of male American economists: Economist: Barriers to entry: “In economics, men receive tenure at a rate 12 percentage points higher than women do, after controlling for family circumstances and publication records…

…Women who clear that hurdle are about half as likely as men to be named full professor within seven years. Just 4% of doctoral degrees in economics were awarded to African-Americans in 2011 (compared with about 8% across all academic fields). Something is broken within the market for economists, and the profession has moved only belatedly and partially to address it. A lack of inclusivity is not simply a problem in itself but a contributor to other troubles within the field.

Though women in economics have long been aware of the discipline’s biases, a growing body of research is making the problem harder for men to ignore. When decisions are made about tenure, men are not penalised for having co-authored lots of papers, whereas women who co-author with men are, according to work by Heather Sarsons, of Harvard University. That suggests women’s contributions to such papers are discounted; in other fields, like sociology, this is not the case. Research by Erin Hengel of the University of Liverpool has shown that papers by women are better-written, on average, than those by men, but spend longer in peer review, suggesting that women are held to a higher standard. That makes female researchers less productive. The climate within economics can be hostile as well….

The profession’s failings in this regard almost certainly influence the quality and focus of economic research. Putting women off careers in academic economics, and undermining the productivity of those who persist, means excluding good minds and good ideas. It also means excluding different viewpoints….

A survey of a random sample of members of the AEA, by Ann Mari May and Mary McGarvey of the University of Nebraska and Robert Whaples of Wake Forest University, found that hardly any men believed professional opportunities for economics faculty are tilted against women. Remarkably, about a third believe there is bias in favour of women. Many male economists seem to reckon the meritocracy is functioning perfectly well, with no problems to fix; men presumably dominate because of superior ability…

May 12, 2018


Brad DeLong
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