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Differential Treatment: The Role of Gender, Race, Ideology, and Affirmative Action

Paper Session

Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM (PST)

Marriott Marquis, Newport Beach
Hosted By: American Economic Association
  • Chair: Gary Hoover, University of Oklahoma

How to Increase Racial/Ethnic Diversity in Economics

Amanda Bayer
,
Swarthmore College
Gary Hoover
,
University of Oklahoma
Ebonya Washington
,
Yale University

Abstract

The goal of the article is twofold: 1) To give readers a sense of the minority experience in the economics profession and 2) To give readers action steps that they can take to improve racial/ethnic diversity in the economics profession. The black percentage of Economics PhD recipients has hovered around 4 percent since the 1980s, while the fraction of blacks receiving PhDs and, particularly, PhDs in math or science has grown over this time period. Blacks make up about 12 percent of the US population. Similarly, Hispanics have seen increases in Economics PhDs as other STEM PhDs and PhDs in general. However, the Hispanic fraction of degrees remains below the Hispanic fraction of the population. We will describe the experience of being a minority in economics with the goal of identifying difficulties for which we will provide approaches to remedy. We finally offer advice to profession-shareholders including: Help to correct misconceptions about economics starting even before minority students arrive on campus. When hiring (beyond the rookie market) start with a census of those in field. Mentor a minority student.

Who Said or What Said? Estimating Ideological Bias in Views among Economists

Mohsen Javdani
,
University of British Columbia
Ha-Joon Chang
,
Cambridge University

Abstract

There exists a long-standing debate about the influence of ideology in economics. Surprisingly, however, there is no concrete empirical evidence to examine this critical issue. Using an online randomized controlled experiment involving economists in 19 countries, we examine the effect of ideological bias on views among economists. Participants were asked to evaluate statements from prominent economists on different topics, while source attribution for each statement was randomized without participants’ knowledge. For each statement, participants either received a mainstream source, an ideologically different less-/non-mainstream source, or no source. We find that changing source attributions from mainstream to less-/non-mainstream, or removing them, significantly reduces economists’ reported agreement with statements. Using a model of Bayesian updating we examine two competing hypotheses as potential explanations for these results: unbiased Bayesian updating versus ideologically-biased Bayesian updating. While we find no evidence in support of unbiased updating, our results are consistent with biased Bayesian updating. More specifically, we find that changing/removing sources (1) has no impact on economists’ reported confidence with their evaluations; (2) similarly affects experts/non-experts in relevant areas; and (3) affects those at the far right of the political spectrum much more significantly than those at the far left. Finally, we find significant heterogeneity in our results by gender, country, PhD completion country, research area, and undergraduate major, with patterns consistent with the existence of ideological bias.

Losers Weepers? The Impact of Local Labor Demand Shocks on Gender Attitudes

Shalise Ayromloo
,
University of Illinois-Chicago

Abstract

I examine the effects of labor market conditions on gender attitudes in the U.S. between 1977 and 2016. Existing research indicates that attitudes on gender roles can influence women and families in myriad ways. Therefore, a clear understanding of the factors that shape attitudes on gender roles is valuable. I estimate the effects of labor market conditions using Bartik shocks to obtain a measure of predicted labor demand. I document that a better labor market demand lowers adherence to traditional views on working of women outside of home. I find no evidence that a better labor demand affects views toward emotional suitability of women for politics. I also find suggestive evidence that the responsiveness of gender attitudes to the overall labor demand vary by gender and education. Furthermore, I estimate the sensitivity of the effects of labor demand on gender attitudes by measuring changes in attitudes of gender and education subgroups to changes to own group specific Bartik shocks. Notably, I find that the least educated men are more likely than other groups to adopt egalitarian gender views as their own labor market conditions improve.

An Economic Theory of Differential Treatment

Emil Temnyalov
,
University of Technology Sydney

Abstract

When does efficiency justify affirmative action and gender equity policies in education and labor markets? Or, more generally, when does efficiency require differential treatment based on observable and surplus-irrelevant characteristics, such as race, gender, or socioeconomic status?
This paper proposes an assignment model of differential treatment, where a policymaker assigns agents to different treatments or positions in order to maximize total surplus, based on the agents’ characteristics and on noisy information about their types (i.e. abilities or productivities). I provide necessary and sufficient conditions on the agents’ signaling structures which characterize whether surplus maximization requires differential treatment or not, in a general non-parametric information economics framework. I show that under certain reasonable conditions the optimal assignment policy is characterized by an index which measures the agents’ expected marginal benefits from different treatments, and also examine further conditions on the bias and informativeness of signaling structures that determine the efficiency implications of differential treatment. The model also provides novel questions and predictions for empirical research on the economics of discrimination.
Discussant(s)
Gary Hoover
,
University of Oklahoma
Mohsen Javdani
,
University of British Columbia
Shalise Ayromloo
,
University of Illinois-Chicago
Emil Temnyalov
,
University of Technology Sydney
JEL Classifications
  • J1 - Demographic Economics
  • A1 - General Economics