Economics is a dismal science for women..

Noah Smith has this piece which says “forget anecdotes, there is quantitative evidence showing that economics is uniquely biased against women”. So as per Prof Smith, the dismal science is harder on women.

He points to some examples of how male econs are not criticised much despite making some sexist comments. Then he talks about some research which shows how the profession is biased against women:

According to a new paper by economists and and psychologists and Wendy Williams, sexism in econ is much more severe than in the sciences.
The authors investigate many kinds of gender bias. One thing they do is compare academic productivity (publications) to outcomes (promotion and tenure), and examine whether gender makes a difference. They find that once you control for productivity, men and women have the same outcomes in most academic fields – other than economics.

Does that mean that there is no sexism in those fields? Of course, not! Gender may decide who gets published in the first place. In fact, there is some evidence for this.
But the analysis allows the researchers to compare relative sexism in promotion and tenure across different fields. And what they find is that economics is much more sexist. They write: Economics is an outlier, with a persistent sex gap in promotion that cannot be readily explained by productivity differences.

In fact, a number of other studies by Ginther and Kahn have found similar results. What this means is that the average female economist – unlike the average female physicist or mathematician – is likely to have a better publication record than her male peers. Now, maybe the sexism in the econ profession simply happens at a different stage – maybe economics journals are more willing than physics or math journals to publish female-authored papers, but then less willing to give female researchers credit for those publications. But that seems highly unlikely, especially given the corroborating evidence. The authors also find evidence of in economists’ salaries – the only field in which the gap was statistically significant after controlling for productivity.

So the quantitative evidence is solid.

Why does it prevail? No easy answers:

Why? Frankly, I don’t know the reason. It could be because of economics’ historical identification with conservative politics. Some economists still explicitly believe that when it comes to economics, the “facts have a well-known conservative bias” – as my old macroeconomics teacher once wrote on his blog. This widespread notion has attracted many smart young conservatives to the profession, and they may have brought their social conservatism with them. That general attitude of social conservatism may have acted as a kind of barrier, which no longer exists in other parts of academia, limiting opportunities for women in economics.

Alternatively, it could be because econ has always prided itself on bravely accepting truths that an emotional public doesn’t want to believe. One of the first stories you usually hear in an introductory economics course is how rent control – a policy designed to help the poor – actually hurts the people it was intended to aid. One public image of economists has always been of Milton Friedman telling some hippie kid why communism just doesn’t work. Economists with outdated sexist ideas may simply tell themselves that sexism is another one of those cases – that only bold, rational, hard-nosed economists are willing to embrace the hard “truth” that women just don’t make very good professors.

Of course, as the research by Ginther et al shows, the data say otherwise. Female economists are out-publishing their more numerous male peers, and not getting the credit they deserve. But to a certain type of economist, data has never carried as much weight as theory. And in this case, “theory” may simply be a euphemism for outmoded sexist prejudice.

In any case, whatever the reason, it’s time for economics to acknowledge that it has a sexism problem and to fix it.

One more thing is how economics has become as a  subject – just brashy and full of itself. The kind of qualities which many women keep themselves away from (hopefully; just a hypothesis). So after a point neither care.




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