+8 votes
asked ago by (320 points)
Read the letter to AEA members from Ben Bernanke, Janet Yellen, and Olivier Blanchard:

View the results of the AEA member survey about the professional climate in economics:

Read the AEA's new policy on harassment and discrimination:
commented ago by (110 points)
I have never observed the behaviors addressed by this policy, yet I have wondered.  I applaud the leaders of our association for taking a strong stand, and for the initiatives they have undertaken to address harassment and discrimination.
commented ago by (260 points)
I'm also glad to see these questions raised, even if the answers are slightly stereotypical (white men fitting in better when the majority of respondents are white men). It's good to start a dialogue.

In terms of actions, (1) I call attention to the "tone" of sites like https://www.econjobrumors.com, which is famously snarky about individuals -- and often guilty of harassment. I'm not calling for EJR to be taken down, as that may not accomplish much, but it might be good to ask "the community" there if harassment is helpful to the profession.

More: https://www.econjobrumors.com/topic/female-ap-here

(2) It might be good to set up some best practices on double-blind reviewing and hiring decisions, as publication and promotion are areas needing more work. The recent JEP symposium on women in econ (https://www.aeaweb.org/issues/538?to=12059) has a good update on the issues...
commented ago by (100 points)
It strikes me as curious about the juxtaposition of this opinion piece by the NYT (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/18/opinion/race-america-trump.html?ribbon-ad-idx=4&src=trending&module=Ribbon&version=context&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Trending&pgtype=article) and the results of the AEA survey both coming out close in time. Cause for reflection.

6 Answers

+2 votes
answered ago by (2k points)
I am very happy to see the AEA take multiple concrete steps on these issues.  The survey documents both explicit and implicit biases and we all need to work to improve the environment in economics.  Other suggestions I have would be (1) investigation of possible bias in referee work; (2) moving all interviews at the AEA meetings out of hotel rooms, even suites.
Good luck and know that there are many supporters out there.
+1 vote
answered ago by (160 points)
Good in some dimensions bad in others . I can't speak for others but I've seen discrimination based on gender and religion (but surprisingly that seems to be a lesser issue). So it is good to see the continued discussion of gender.

That said, it is regrettable to see that reported discrimination based off of place of employment is ignored. Reported discrimination based on place of employment is nearly as high as discrimination based on sex. Yet the report doesn't broach the topic.  Further, I'd be willing to bet that  membership is correlated with university rank (e.g., faculty at higher ranked universities are more likely to be AEA members) .  So these counts are probably on the low end.

The AEA doesn't do anything for me so I don't think I will be renewing my membership. Therefore the next time a survey like this comes around I probably won't complete it. I can't imagine I'm unique either.
+2 votes
answered ago by (3.2k points)
The immediate, strong response from the AEA leadership deserves praise. I am sure we all (no, just most of us) look forward to seeing what actions follow.

Along these lines, I wish to point out that the three institutions the signatories have spent most of their careers at were all hiring this year. UC Berkeley posted in EconTrack. Neither MIT nor Princeton posted.

(Nor did my institution, despite repeated requests on my part.)

There are two separate points here.

(1) There is a failure of leadership on the part of the most prestigious departments. If the leading departments contributed, most other departments would fall into line.

(2) It would be easy for the AEA to setup an opt-out default for JOE ads to be posted to EconTrack with a commitment from the advertiser to update EconTrack and a contact point for the AEA to request updates that are not volunteered.
+4 votes
answered ago by (230 points)
Thanks to the AEA leadership for conducting the survey and taking concrete measures to address the issues it highlighted.

It would be great to see some concrete steps for eliminating barriers for persons with disabilities as well. I was struck by the differences in responses of those with and without disabilities. As a person with a hearing disability, I use the services of a captioner during conferences. Sometimes the captioner is on site and sometimes they are listening in via a telephone/internet link. It is always struggle to get economists  to use mikes in conferences, including at AEA where the rooms are large and mikes are provided (and without them my captioners are not able to hear). The captioner that AEA arranged for me at the Jan 2019 meetings said that economists are the only group of people who refuse to consistently use mikes!
0 votes
answered ago by (140 points)
There is  a post on Minds that had an interesting take on the changes:

0 votes
answered ago by (140 points)
I think these initiatives are great, and long overdue!  
However, I also feel they don't go far enough. Sexual harassment is what gets the news headlines, but it's really only the tip of the iceberg.  Women's ideas, topics especially relevant to women, and methodologies that aren't sufficiently "macho" are also routinely disrespected within our discipline. The result is that economics is far less accurate and objective than we may tend to think, and what is more, is blind to its own biases.
For examples, see the paper I presented at an AEA session in Atlanta, "Gender and Failures of Rationality in Economic Analysis":