Looking for some compelling beach reading? This month we’ve compiled a list of recent prominent papers that we’ve been itching to dig into all year. The papers listed below touch on issues related to women in the workforce, and some specifically address women in economics. Taken together, these papers illustrate the breadth of recent work explaining gendered outcomes in the labor force and demonstrate the many channels that may contribute to the gender earnings gap.
For each paper we’ve included a brief summary, and for the CSWEP Annual Report we’ve highlighted the key takeaways. Happy reading!
Can Women Have Children and a Career? IV Evidence from IVF Treatments
Petter Lundborg, Erik Plug, and Astrid Würtz Rasmussen
American Economic Review, June 2017
Recognition for Group Work: Gender Differences in Academia
American Economic Review: Papers & Proceedings, May 2017
Gender Differences in Accepting and Receiving Requests for Tasks with Low Promotability
Linda Babcock, Maria P. Recalde, Lise Vesterlund, and Laurie Weingart
American Economic Review, March 2017
Bargaining, Sorting, and the Gender Wage Gap: Quantifying the Impact of Firms on the Relative Pay of Women
David Card, Ana Rute Cardoso, and Patrick Kline
Quarterly Journal of Economics, October 2015
Women and Power: Unpopular, Unwilling, or Held Back?
Pablo Casas-Arce and Albert Saiz
Journal of Political Economy, June 2015
Report: Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession
American Economic Review: Papers & Proceedings, May 2017
Authors: Fiona Burlig and Emily Eisner
In their 2017 AER paper, “Acting Wife,” Leonardo Burstyn, Thomas Fujiwara, and Amanda Pallais show that single women in MBA programs under-invest in career-improving activities when these actions are observable to their peers. The authors argue that single women face a trade-off between investment in their careers and investment in the marriage market. In the labor market, ambition, willingness to travel, and willingness to work longer hours are rewarded. On the other hand, research shows that heterosexual men often do not want spouses with higher ambition or higher earnings. This trade-off reduces the demonstrated ambition and career-investment of single heterosexual women compared to their non-single female peers.
The authors conducted a field experiment in a first-year MBA class using a survey that they were told would be used by the career center in summer internship matching. The survey, filled out on the first day of the MBA program, asked each student about their career preferences, desired compensation, desired hours, and leadership skills. The instructions on the top of the survey stated that students’ answers would be discussed in one of their first semester courses. One group of students had instructions stating that answers would be discussed anonymously, while another group’s survey instructions simply stated that answers would be discussed. Comparing the survey answers between these groups allowed the authors to measure how single women may avoid career-enhancing activities in front of peers who they may meet on the marriage market.
The results of the experiment show that single women consistently under-report their desired compensation, propensity for leadership, hours willing to work, and travel on the job compared to their non-single peers. Importantly, this under-reporting is only seen for women who thought their responses may be observable to classmates. Because the MBA students believed that survey answers would have a direct impact on their summer internship prospects, the under-reporting suggests real under-investment in career enhancing activities and predicts real under-performance.
The results of this paper are hard to dispute - the research design leaves little room for other possible explanations of the mechanism driving women to under-perform in this context. While I was not completely surprised by the results when I saw this paper, I was saddened by the fact that this marriage-market-labor-market trade-off may leave such strong marks on women’s participation in the labor market. To learn more, I emailed Amanda Pallais herself to see if she would talk with me about the paper, its inspiration, and her next steps in researching this topic.
EE: What led you to the idea that sparked this paper?
AP: My coauthors and I had read research that finds that men prefer female romantic partners who are less ambitious and successful than they are. This led us to believe that single women might face a trade-off between investment in the labor and marriage markets. Anecdotally, we also heard single women considering this trade-off and wanted to study it formally.
EE: How do you think about this work as part of the larger literature on gender norms in the labor market?
AP: We see our work as in line with this literature - gender norms can lead women to have worse labor market outcomes. One branch of literature studies the effect of having children on men and women’s labor market outcomes and tends to find that women’s careers suffer more than men’s after having a child. Our paper is related, but shows how these norms and the marriage market can affect women’s labor market success even before they are married.
EE: How has your paper been received by the public? I would imagine that it is hard to talk about these issues with some people?
AP: It hasn’t been particularly hard to talk with people about the results of our paper. It seems many people had a feeling that single women face a trade-off between the labor market and the marriage market - and it’s been nice to be able to formalize this.
EE: Have you at all considered using variation in sexual orientation to study whether non-heterosexual women and men face any similar trade-offs? Or have you thought to use non-heterosexual women as a sort of control group for the mechanism you’re identifying?
AP: We have thought about that, and would like to be able to explore the behavior of women who are not on the heterosexual marriage market. Unfortunately we don’t have data on sexual orientation, and even if we did, I don’t think we’d have enough power to identify anything given the sample size that we’re working with.
EE: Was there anything you found while writing this paper and running this experiment that particularly surprised you?
AP: The magnitude of these results was pretty surprising to me. My co-authors and I started this project to test whether single women respond to this trade-off, so we weren’t particularly surprised that they did. But the extent to which single women made themselves look less professionally appealing due to marriage market concerns was striking. For example, single women reported being willing to travel an average of seven fewer days a month when their answers would be seen by their classmates. That is a large difference, implying potentially dramatic professional sacrifices.
EE: So, what is your next step with this work?
AP: There are two branches of things that we’re interested in. One is to extend our results to different contexts such as high schools, colleges, and jobs, looking at the long run effects on women’s labor market and marriage market outcomes. The second is what policies could help mitigate the trade-off that leads women to under-invest in their careers. For example, we might think that we want to make women’s actions private, but that’s really hard to do. Something that may be more feasible would be to change some of the defaults, like going from hand-raising in-class to cold-calling. If women participate less in class because participating signals an undesirable trait to the marriage market, cold-calling might remove this signal and lead women to participate more.
While the results in this paper highlight some of the challenges in improving labor market opportunities for women, the paper also signifies an important line of work going on in economics. In order to increase equality in the labor market, we must understand the precise obstacles that women face. I look forward to seeing what other work this paper will motivate and how the discipline will respond.
Author: Emily Eisner
"The market is noisy" will be relayed to you umpteen times as you near the job market; you will hear it from professors, mentors, and loved ones that begin to spend too much time on EJMR*. However, understanding its full meaning is impossible before experiencing the market yourself. You will misinterpret and over-analyze interactions; you will be taxed - intellectually, emotionally, and physically - in ways you could never expect; and you will find delight in some of the peculiarities of the process. The intense uncertainty is not one-sided. Hiring committees also operate in a haze - trying to read your signals, reaching out to your letter writers to glean information on your preferences, and balancing this with the preferences of their colleagues and the administration.
For those less familiar with the job market, the economics profession adheres to a condensed process that features employers across academia, industry, and policy seeking to hire newly-minted economists. As women fresh off the market, we would like to pass on some reflections from our own experiences this year on the job market. We hope that a preview of what to expect and some advice on how to navigate this process will increase the enjoyable aspects of the process and decrease the stressful components.
The below advice, separated into different phases of the process, comes from graduating Cal women in Agriculture & Resource Economics, the Economics Department, and the Haas School of Business.
Preparation & Applications
The job market process formally begins with the decision to go on the market, which can be surprisingly fraught. By early August you should decide, schedule your fall practice job talks, and get your paper ready. Jobs will start getting posted in the early fall on econjobmarket.org and the AEA’s Job Openings for Economists. Most applications are due between mid October and early December. Many candidates submit well over 100 applications.
"Take time to self-reflect and come to an honest assessment of what you want for yourself in 10 years. What is most important to you: tenure at an R1? your research to directly impact policy? to specialize in working with cool datasets? to teach and mentor a generation of economists? well-paid in a cool city? Once you know your preferences, tell your letter writers about them and get them on board. Focus your job search on any job that might help you achieve your personal goal." - Anonymous
"Do good work! The better your CV, the easier the rest becomes." - Fiona Burlig
"Believe the adage, 'Every presentation is a job market presentation.' Present your job market paper (as often and early as possible) in workshops and smaller conferences (especially those in your field) during the summer and fall before the job market. I knew presenting my research would help me improve my paper but I was surprised by how many of my ASSA interviews stemmed from having made a connection with someone at a workshop/conference." - Becca Taylor
"Get advice from multiple people - especially the faculty you find most intimidating. There's someone scarier out in the world." - Fiona Burlig
"Save money for the job market. Reimbursements take a long time and there are several months between your last stipend and your first salary." - Anonymous
"Your job talk is incredibly important – practice it with audiences both in and outside your sub-field." - Anonymous
"Network early and often - the more people who have a positive impression of you, the better." - Fiona Burlig
"Buy your suits and dress shoes early in the fall. Make it a fun group activity with other job market candidates! Pant suits are preferable to skirt suits for interviews on hotel beds and fly-outs in freezing places." - Anonymous
"Don’t isolate yourself. Your cohort is not the competition; candidates at other schools are the competition. Practice your job talks and elevator pitches with one another. Discuss your anxieties. Go on walks. Take coffee breaks together. The job market requires strong mental stamina; remaining connected to your peers helps." - Sandile Hlatshwayo
"Being a good salesman is as important as the quality of your work (depends on your field though, some fields are better about this)." - Anonymous
"Writing and polishing the paper is the hardest and most stressful part, though the other/later parts take up at least as much time." - Gillian Brunet
Interviews & Fly-out Process
From early December onward, hiring committees will call to schedule interviews with you at the annual AEA meetings which are held in early January. Private sector and policy institutions sometimes schedule interviews beforehand so have your talk ready by early December. Use your network, beyond your school’s faculty, to get interviews; ask mentors to email their colleagues at your target schools on your behalf. Cawley (2016) provides a nice list of interview questions to prep for. After a flurry of interviews at the meetings, hiring committees will call to schedule on-campus "fly-out" interviews across the US and abroad. Some schools will try to book fly-outs on the same day as your interview. Discuss strategic scheduling with the placement director and your adviser. For research schools, the private sector, and policy institutions, fly-outs typically last one day. For liberal arts colleges, expect two-day fly-outs.
"You can and should actively enjoy interviews and fly-outs: you have the opportunity to discuss your work with smart people and it is actually wonderful. When people on the market in years ahead of me said this, I thought they were crazy/that I’m not extroverted enough for it to be true for me, but they were right. Channel your nervousness into excitement and enjoy the ride." - Gillian Brunet
"Take time to research each of the professors you will be meeting with during fly-outs. It’s amazing how a quick google search can translate into an interesting meeting with a professor because you’re able to talk about potential collaborations and overlap in interests." - Sandile Hlatshwayo
"Use your network. My advisor was not pushing me very hard but I got top interviews because people in my network wrote emails to R1 schools." - Anonymous
"People are looking for 'good colleagues,' which is a very holistic concept. It goes without saying that your paper is very important. However, also central is your ability to present your ideas, think on your feet, and engage in conversations about topics unrelated to your area of expertise." - Sandile Hlatshwayo
"You don’t have to go the ASSAs alone. Ask a family member, partner, close friend, or classmate on the market next year to come with you to the ASSA conference to help you get through it smoothly. This might not be for everyone, but I immensely appreciated having someone who knew me well to be my helper (e.g. brought me food, coffee, and things I forgot) and my cheerleader (e.g. cued Rocky theme song)." - Becca Taylor
"Catch up on sleep whenever you get the opportunity, buy a neck pillow for plane flights, and find shoes that are still comfortable after wearing them for 12 hours (possible even with serious foot problems - I managed it)." - Gillian Brunet
"Try to enjoy the ride and all the people you're going to meet in the next few months. It's like how you never learn more econ more quickly than you do in the first year. The job market is like that, but for networking. It will be intense, but also kind of life propelling." - Anonymous
"Buy a small travel iron, lint roller, and Febreze for when you have back to back fly-outs and no time to get your suits dry-cleaned." - Anonymous
"Expect stochasticity." - Fiona Burlig
Congratulations on your offer(s)!** Often hiring committees will call to discuss the preliminary offer with you, which is a starting point for negotiations. Everything is on the table for negotiations - salary, research budget, moving expenses, signing bonuses, teaching load, service duties, etc. Having a rough sense of your "ideal offer" in mind is helpful when entering into these conversations. Salary is probably the least flexible component of offers, but the broad "bounds" can be found in the annual Survey of the Labor Market for New Ph.D. Hires in Economics. Keep your adviser and placement director in the loop for these talks. A formal written offer will be sent following negotiations. Happy signing!
"Negotiate on the terms of your offer letter even if you don't have competing offers." - Anonymous
"Don't worry about how your decision might reflect on your advisors or on the department. And don't be dissuaded by what other people, especially fellow grad students or strangers on the internet, might think about the job you end up with. Do what is right for you, since ultimately you're the one who has to live your post-PhD life." - Anonymous
"Negotiate!" - Sandile Hlatshwayo
"Saying 'no' to places at the end can actually be really painful. No one told me this, so it was a shock. The fact that you may like multiple places that make you offers doesn’t mean you should second-guess your decision." - Gillian Brunet
"[Y]ou’ll end up somewhere that makes you happy, most likely somewhere you haven't spent more than a few minutes considering at this point in time, because that's what seems to happen to most." - Anonymous
"The final decision may come down to competing offers that take you in very different directions (e.g., a tenure-track job vs. a consulting firm). First, be clear and honest with yourself about what attracts you to each position. There are some metrics that shouldn’t feature (e.g., number of sick days or 'perceived' prestige). Second, if you’re still finding it difficult, before committing anywhere write down your gut choice on a post-it and stick it on your bathroom mirror before you go to bed. When you wake up, take a look at the post-it and then take a look at yourself in the mirror. Are you happy with your choice? If yes, great! If not, you know what to do." - Anonymous
For those of you at Cal, continue to use WEB and the connections you build through it as a resource as you navigate the job market. My experience was infinitely more enjoyable because of my fellow WEB job market candidates! If you ever want to chat, please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com. As a final reminder, keep perspective during the process and try not to stress too much - you are wildly employable and the market will clear!
* EJMR stands for Economics Job Market Rumors. The website hosts a job market wiki which gives noisy information on what schools are posting jobs, when they call to schedule interviews, who is flying out, who gets offers, and who accepts offers. It is also host to less-useful conversations about particular papers, professors, schools, hot economics-related topics (e.g., machine learning), and complete randomness. Postings are anonymous, which sometimes leads to negativity and 'isms' (e.g., sexism and racism). Take what is useful from it; ignore the rest.
**If you don't match with an employer through the first round of the market, there is a 'scramble' for unmatched candidates and employers in March.
Author: Sandile Hlatshwayo
At this year's ASSA meetings I had the privilege of attending the panel Best Practices in Recruiting and Mentoring Diverse Economists. The panel was jointly hosted by the Committee on the Status of Minority Groups in the Economic Profession (CSMGEP) and the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economic Profession (CSWEP). During the two-hour-long discussion, panelists provided concrete advice for departments and research institutions working to improve diversity among their faculty. Panelists' advice ranged from improvements to the hiring process, to strengthening retention and mentorship of junior faculty and researchers.
All the panelists agreed that increasing diversity in the economics profession is imperative. To paraphrase Professor David Laibson, there are two benefits to increased diversity in the field - better research and better pedagogy. According to him, "we are impoverished as scientists because we don't have those [diverse] perspectives in the room."
Discussions of implicit bias dominated the conversation. Professor Marie Mora proposed that search and tenure committees seek training to mitigate implicit bias. However, as Professor Terra McKinnish pointed out, before such training can be effective, a critical mass of senior economists must believe that implicit bias exists. McKinnish encouraged economists to read up on the existing literature* so as to inform themselves of the implicit bias faced by women and underrepresented minorities (URMs). Laibson encouraged faculty at universities to reach out directly to their colleagues in Psychology who research implicit bias.
Another takeaway from the discussion was that passive recruitment is not sufficient. Mora suggested that departments follow up job listings on sites like JOE with advertisements and reminders emailed to actively maintained listservs. Laibson reasoned that expanding hiring searches more broadly could yield positive results. Dr. Rhonda Sharpe agreed that it could be a good idea to be more inclusive in faculty recruitment, but cautioned that this policy should be accompanied by a sincere intention on the part of the department to offer interviews. Sharpe suggested that faculty have a candid conversation about what increasing diversity will mean for their department before implementing inclusive recruitment initiatives. Notably, Sharpe posited that as a profession "we use words like 'quality' and 'fit' to exclude people, we don't use 'quality' and 'fit' to include people."
Dr. David Wilcox pointed out that hiring committees will sometimes update their search criteria mid-process based on the candidates that they have seen. He urged departmental leadership to press against this and impose prior restraint on both the overall criteria for hiring and on the set of weights used when assessing said criteria. This aligned with Mora's advice that departments think explicitly about who might be a good fit for the position they are looking to fill before setting out to recruit. Wilcox allowed that sometimes there are valid reasons a committee may decide that a change to the criteria is necessary. He cautioned that the committee should justify the change and then go back and reevaluate all the candidates based on the updated criteria
Recruitment is not the only hurdle to diversity; inclusion after a person has been hired is also very important. Laibson posited that economics as a profession can often present a culture of aggression which can be discouraging at all stages of the pipeline. Mora described a policy at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley that provides flyout candidates an optional meeting with a member of the women’s faculty network. During these informal meetings candidates often ask questions relating to family leave, spousal hiring assistance, and other topics that may feel inappropriate to broach during a flyout. It seems to me that such meetings help support female job candidates and set a tone of inclusivity.
Inclusion is not simply a question of culture, but also of creating institutional norms that allow for retention and promotion of faculty and research staff. McKinnish argued that the more informal the flow of information, the greater the disparity in outcomes across women and underrepresented minorities. After all, when people are not as in-the-know, they can miss out on crucial opportunities. Wilcox agreed with this idea, explaining that his division has seen gains in diversity from conducting a personnel policy that is systematic and predictable, that is widely known and explainable, and that is transparent.
Wilcox pointed out that when a personnel policy is widely known, all employees know when their work is deserving of beneficial outcomes such as promotion or tenure. He refined transparency to mean that any hiring policy should "withstand the light of day". Wilcox further argued that when a promotion policy is predictable, everyone knows they will be treated equally according to their productivity and not according to their ability to negotiate or self-promote. This reminded me of a point that McKinnish had made earlier in the discussion, that women are judged differently for negotiating and advocating for themselves
Another recommendation put forth by McKinnish was to provide junior faculty with vitas from recent tenure cases to allow junior faculty to ask questions regarding expectations. She further asserted that departments should have well-documented tenure expectations. McKinnish contended that departments and institutions should be clear on how research funds may be accessed and how special considerations could be attained.
There is also an issue of mentoring that McKinnish argued as necessary to the promotion of junior faculty. According to her, most newly minted PhD’s have not been taught the necessary skills to achieve tenure. These skills include: how to pitch a paper to an editor, how to choose which journal to submit to, how to interpret and respond to reviewer feedback, how to build a professional network, and how to meet expectations in teaching, advising, and service while still meeting research goals.
With regards to mentoring, Mora recommended senior economists get involved with both minority and women’s groups. McKinnish pointed out that for a mentoring group to be successful, the mentors need to be candid, honest, and thoughtful with advice, and must be invested in mentoring. Unfortunately, she continued, people who are good at mentoring are often the same people who are good at other service work needed by the department. As such, McKinnish concluded, departments need to decide that mentoring is a priority if the mentoring program is to work well. One concrete step that McKinnish proposed was for department chairs to provide incentives for senior faculty to participate in mentoring.
The discussion shed light on the inherent tension between methods that reduce implicit bias and those that actively target women and URM economists. Despite the challenges involved in implementing practices designed to improve diversity in the profession, we at WEB strongly endorse the panel's view that diversity is incredibly important to the economics field. We hope that this panel is the first in a series of conversations across departments on the best strategies to achieve these goals.
* Existing literature on implicit bias includes Bayer & Rouse (2016) and Bertrand & Duflo (2016)
Author: Aluma Dembo
Economists have acknowledged that the undergraduate population of economics majors underrepresents women and minority groups. Less attention seems to be given to the graduate school admissions process, though disparities persist and perhaps worsen as students move into graduate school. A 2014 survey from the AEA suggests that over the last 10 years about 36% of undergraduate economics majors at top 10 ranked economics departments were female. However, only about 25% of first-year graduate students at the same institutions were female.* A similar trend holds for the top 20 institutions. These facts suggest a need for more analysis into our admissions process, and beg the question of whether our processes contribute to the "leaky pipeline."
The vast majority of people involved in admissions acknowledge the underrepresentation of women and minorities in the field. It is not individual acts of explicit bias or discrimination that seem to produce the lack of growth in representation over the last 20 years - rather it is the failure of our field to put in place systems and institutions that mitigate and counteract the implicit bias for which we are all culpable.
A large body of research by economists suggests that implicit bias generates discrimination in the labor force. For example, Bertrand and Mullainathan (2004) show that when identical resumes are assigned African-American-sounding names, applicants are called-back for an interview at only two-thirds the rate of an applicant with a white-sounding name. More recent work by Milkman, Akinola, and Chugh (2013) reveals the same gender and racial biases in an academic setting with faculty email response rates significantly higher for white and male students.
Given that implicit bias is pervasive, one can infer that the procedures we use in graduate admissions would not be free from this trap. Of course, anyone who has sat in on a conversation about recruiting female graduate students knows that the applicant pool (supply side) is highly unbalanced to begin with. This is an important issue that our field is beginning to address with efforts such as The Undergraduate Women in Economics Challenge. However, it does not preclude the need for faculty to pay attention to the application review and admission process (demand side). In fact, we need to evaluate and understand our process for building the graduate student cohorts so that we can address the supply side imbalances we face at the faculty-hiring stage.
Taking the supply side of graduate admissions as given, departments must ask themselves how they plan to build a cohort. Unfortunately, we do not currently have access to much data or research on how the admissions process works in various departments. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the guidelines given to admissions committees on how to evaluate candidates varies by department and remains vague.
Many departments employ some type of linear model that assigns value to candidates based on defined categories and produces a ranking of candidates from which the department can make admission decisions. However, evidence suggests that constructing a ranking of candidates may not be the best approach for constructing a cohort. Experimental research by Hoogendoorn et al. (2013) concludes that gender balance improves the success of teams, suggesting that departments should consider the composition of a cohort in addition to individual strengths. Scott E. Page, a professor at the University of Michigan, argues that organizations should invest in diversity to achieve their best and most productive workforce. This research implies that admissions models should consider complementarities between students.
Further, many of the measures used to evaluate applicants - GRE scores, GPA, research experience, and recommendation letters - may deliver systemic preference to certain demographic groups. Certainly statistical discrimination poses an issue - candidates from less-conventional backgrounds deliver a noisier signal than candidates that look familiar to those reviewing applications. Additionally, evidence suggests that these measures may include bias themselves. For example, Trix and Psenka (2003) find that recommendation letters written for women in the sciences tend to be shorter and to emphasize research skills less than recommendation letters for men.
More troubling, the measures and categories we use to evaluate applicant strength may not predict success in the field. The presumed objective function of an admissions committee is to admit a cohort of students who will (a) graduate and (b) go on to contribute meaningfully to the field (perhaps as measured by the prestige of the institution where they are hired). The measures used to assess applicants may be optimized to reduce attrition in the program, but may not select for future success. Informal analysis at various departments has shown that, conditional on admission, internal rankings of applicants does not predict future success in the field.
Practical steps that departments can take immediately to improve their admissions processes include collecting data on the admissions rankings of candidates and analyzing the long-term outcomes of students in their cohorts. Admissions committees, which often change year-to-year, can also record their goals and guidelines for building cohorts, so that we can evaluate and learn from past practices. Setting and communicating clear guidelines also helps to reduce bias and increase awareness of gender and racial disparity in the field. Finally, in order to take on and sustain this effort, departments should ensure that the transfer of roles (such as admissions chair) involves creating and transferring institutional memory.
When considering changes to the admissions process, matching the gender (and racial) distribution of incoming cohorts to that of the applicant pool is not the correct measure of success. It may be that female (and minority) applicants apply at lower rates because of discouragement or lack of information on how to apply, causing selection bias that would raise the average quality of female (or minority) applicants. Discussions with women currently in graduate school and in the process of applying corroborate this theory. A better measure of a successfully unbiased process is one where the expected marginal contribution of female (or minority) candidates is equal to the expected marginal contribution of male (or white) candidates. Of course, this would require establishing a measure of an individual’s contribution which, as previously discussed, is difficult in both theory and in practice. Nonetheless, collecting data on current admissions practices and considering what measures of contribution a department values are important steps towards improving the admissions processes.
Departments are intent upon contributing to a solution to the drop-off in diversity among graduate students. While there are checks in place to make sure that excellent candidates do not fall through the cracks, more can be done. With the preceding framework in mind, perhaps departments will engage with some of the fundamental questions important to improving our current systems.
* It should be noted that African Americans, and Hispanics/Latinos, Native Americans, first-generation college students, low-income students, and Pacific Islanders are also underrepresented but we have very limited data on these groups, so our analysis will pertain mainly to women. We intend our main message to extend to these other underrepresented groups.
Author: Emily Eisner
It is publicly known, though perhaps frequently underestimated, that academic economics disproportionately employs male and Caucasian economists. In their Fall 2016 Journal of Economic Perspectives paper, Amanda Bayer and Cecilia Elena Rouse construct a comprehensive argument for the need to address the persistent underrepresentation of women, African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and Native Americans in the economics profession. In the absence of a large and established literature on implicit biases and systemic discrimination in economics specifically, Bayer and Rouse leverage evidence of biases across a range of academic fields and career paths. The authors argue that economics may be severely behind peer fields in addressing biases and that, ultimately, more research and investment into diversity in economics is essential to the future of the field.
Bayer and Rouse present the statistic that in 2016, only 23.5 percent of tenured and tenure-track faculty in economics are women, with only 15 percent of full-professorships allocated to women. The authors note that "minority academic economists are even rarer" with only 6.3 percent of tenured and tenure-track economists identifying as African American or Hispanic, compared to about 30 percent of the overall US population.
Diversity in economics shows little improvement over time and has even gotten worse relative to other academic fields. These trends are visible in the chart below depicting the number of bachelor and doctorate degrees awarded to women and minority students over the past 20 years, presented originally by Bayer and Rouse. Additionally, hiring disparities are further exacerbated by striking gender salary gaps and publishing gaps. The authors cite that "female full professor salaries in economics as a proportion of male salaries dropped from 95 percent in 1995 to less than 75 percent in 2010," (Ceci, Ginther, Kahn, and Williams 2014). Further, female authorships only make up 13.7 percent of all economic publications since 1990. Comparing this statistic to an overall average of 27.2 percent across 21 academic disciplines shows clear evidence of underrepresentation in economics (West, Jacquet, King, Correll, and Bergstrom 2013). These facts present the state of the field as not only disparate in absolute but as having regressed over time and relative to peer academic fields.
Bayer and Rouse acknowledge that many academics participate in efforts to address diversity, and that the persistence of the issue is not for lack of intentional effort. However, studies of academia show that implicit biases and institutional discrimination form barriers to women and underrepresented minorities in many academic fields and at all stages of the academic pipeline. In their 2015 study, Milkman, Akinola, and Chugh measure that after receiving an email from fictional prospective doctoral students asking for a ten-minute meeting about research opportunities, social science faculty (which included economists) responded to 75 percent of Caucasian males' emails and only 68 percent of emails from women or minority students. Business school faculty responded to 87 percent of emails from Caucasian males and only 62 percent of emails from women or minorities. Similar studies reveal bias in the hiring of academic researchers in the sciences (Moss-Racusin et al. 2012), and in the language used in recommendation letters for academics in Psychology (Trix and Psenka 2003). Though these studies are not specific to economics, they suggest evidence of bias in academia and present opportunities for research into how economics may suffer from similar discriminatory practices.
Perhaps the strongest contribution of Bayer and Rouse's article is the in-depth evaluation of supply- and demand-side barriers to diversity in economics specifically. In addition to reviewing research on other academic fields, the authors discuss unique challenges faced by economics and debunk popular understandings of these disparities. For example, math preparation and aptitude cannot explain the gender gap in economics (Emerson, McGoldrick, and Mumford 2012). Additionally, the authors cite that women are more responsive than men to their grades in economics relative to their grades in other courses. This behavior has not been observed in other quantitative disciplines, demanding the questions of whether there are characteristics specific to economics that inhibit female students from feeling competent in the coursework (Rask and Tiefenthaler 2008). Bayer and Rouse assert that if economics alone faces this behavioral pattern, then it may be a result of advising practices or culture. Finally, a recent working paper by Heather Sarsons focuses on tenure evaluations in economics and reveals that women receive a penalty for co-authoring relative to their male peers.
Finally, Bayer and Rouse defend the importance of diversity in economics as not only an extension of equal opportunity but a means for better and more robust research production. The authors cite studies addressing the scope, quality and efficiency of producing ideas with a diverse group of academics. One key study showed that "male and female economists have different views about economic outcomes and policies, even after controlling for vintage of PhD and type of employment" (May, McGarvey and Whaples 2014). This study demonstrates the need to evaluate how the demographic composition of economists affects policy and economic outcomes for the whole of society. Bayer and Rouse call for a continuation of this work and laud the current steps being taken by the discipline already.
Author: Emily Eisner