Economists on the Pipeline Problem in Economics
May 17, 2017 11:54 AM   Subscribe

In 1971, the American Economics Association established a standing Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession (CSWEP) They've just released their annual report, which documents the continuing underrepresentation of women in Economics departments in the United States [pdf, the details start around page 14]: "At every level of the academic hierarchy, from entering PhD student to full professor, women have been and remain a minority. [...] Our reliance on this leaky pipeline for gradual progress in women’s representation in the profession depends on continued growth in entry, which no longer appears to be forthcoming."

According to the CSWEP report: [...] within the tenure track, from new PhD to full professor, the higher the rank, the lower the representation of women. In 2016 new doctorates were 31.0% female, falling to 28.3% for assistant professors, to 25.6% for tenured associate professors and to 13.1% for full professors.

At least as of 2009, economics had the lowest proportion of women earning doctorates among the social sciences [pdf] via Sociological Images.

Differences among labor market outcomes by gender is a subject of extensive study in economics (and a recent symposium on recent research was discussed in the AEA's Journal of Economic Perspectives) [scroll down a little]. The particular case of the market for economists has also been the subject of research by economists in the past few years. A sample of some of that research:

A San Francisco Fed working paper by Galina Hale and Tali Regev [pdf] shows that the gender composition of economics departments affects the gender composition of cohorts at top PhD programs; more women involved in admissions leads to more women joining those programs as graduate students .

Heather Sarsons, a PhD candidate at Harvard, recently presented a paper at the AEA conference that women in economics tend to receive less credit for coauthored work than men. The conference paper is paywalled but the link is to an working paper that is more extensive, which is a revise and resubmit at the Journal of Political Economy (a top-5 general interest journal in econ).

A recent Journal of Economic Perspectives article on the underrepresentation of women and minorities [pdf, not paywalled] documents the extent of the problem at all levels (college onward), summarizes and reviews the evidence on "supply" and "demand" factors in driving the economics gender gap, and suggests changes in pedagogy and within institutions and professional organizations to ameliorate those factors.

(The market for newly-minted PhDs in economics is somewhat idiosyncratic relative to the rest of academia: It's discussed on a recent Planet Money episode).
posted by dismas (3 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps advertising the profession as 'The Dismal Science' is not the best way to attract any talent...

But, given that this has been extensively modeled by economists, they'll also be the first that the model is probably broken and was designed to fit - not to predict.
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:39 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

given that this has been extensively modeled by economists

Not really. You'll see that all the links in the FPP are largely empirical--not theoretical. This isn't really a decision- or game theoretic problem, so formal modelling won't really be of use.

Economists tend to do really good and careful empirical work (mostly on narrow or boring issues), so its a good thing this issue is getting attention. These works aren't simply 'being a women is correlated with lower pay/status/prestige/publications'.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:57 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

Perhaps advertising the profession as 'The Dismal Science' is not the best way to attract any talent...

Slight derail here, but I always meant to make a post on this and never got around to it. Economists -- at least those who know about this -- are proud of the term "The Dismal Science", and for good reason:

Thomas Carlyle coined the term because the classical political economist JS Mill thought that former slaves living their own lives and growing pumpkins was a pretty good thing. Carlyle thought opposing the reintroduction of slavery in the West Indies was dismal, that viewing "the negro" as people and their lives as morally important rather than simply fit to be slaves was dismal.
posted by hawthorne at 3:35 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]

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