+12 votes
asked ago by (320 points)
edited ago by
Read the letter to AEA members from Ben Bernanke, Janet Yellen, and Olivier Blanchard:
https://www.aeaweb.org/news/member-announcements-mar-18-2019

View the results of the AEA member survey about the professional climate in economics:
Summary Report: https://www.aeaweb.org/resources/member-docs/climate-survey-results-mar-18-2019
Final Report: https://www.aeaweb.org/resources/member-docs/final-climate-survey-results-sept-2019

Read the AEA's new policy on harassment and discrimination:
https://www.aeaweb.org/about-aea/aea-policy-harassment-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.
commented ago by (110 points)
Thank you, Mr. Bernanke, Ms Yellen and all members who worked on this. I am delighted to see these actions by the AEA.
commented ago by (160 points)
edited ago by
Changing the diversity in the profession can only be done by directing attention to the pipeline for new economists.  
1) Every college economics program should post written curricular advice for all 1st to 4th yr college students to read. It is critically important that *advanced* curriculum advice (preparing for graduate economics programs) should be available even to the college FRESHMEN. Otherwise, currently underrepresented groups (women, first-generation college attendees, etc), get good advice TOO LATE to invest in accompanying courses in probability theory, mathematics, statistics, computer science, and sister social sciences (...and so on...)
2) Many female students defend their high Grade Point Averages by minimizing their *quantitative* course exposure. (Parents, are you listening?) The pioneering women who dealt with the glass ceilings of the world have been inadvertently handicapping their daughters by telling them they have to outperform "the boys"...It's all in the potential for MISINTERPRETATION of their well-meaning advice. Revise that advice:  say rather, "Study hard and get good grades but NOT at the expense of NUMERACY." This is a profession that does indeed sneer at people with insufficient mathematics and statistics training. I have seen economists dish out rude comments those  lacking such skills, in all fairness, in an even-handed way to all those lacking the tools they expect and missing insights those tools provide. The mechanism for changing DIVERSITY in the future? While it would be an interesting exercise to remove all  rude economists, more realistically, giving young students of  economics TIMELY advice to acquire the quantitative and analytic skills and the motivation to do so is more likely to have a direct effect.  (If interested, further notes on training may be found here:  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00220485.2017.1353467)
commented ago by (2.3k points)
Actually, EJMR  could be very helpful in dealing with improper behavior, sexual or any kind. It can be reported there,  to embarass perpetrators, make it difficult for their colleagues to pretend they don't know about it, and to impose social stigma.  The site would also be useful for reporting whether there's been any follow-up by the department.  EconSpark is potentially useful for that too, but its tone is so proper that it might be hard to use it for that purpose.
commented ago by (110 points)
Thank you so much for raising the awareness of the issues regarding imbalances in our own environment.

8 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.
+2 votes
answered ago by (240 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 (3.4k 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.
+5 votes
answered ago by (250 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!
+1 vote
answered ago by (160 points)
There is  a post on Minds that had an interesting take on the changes:

https://www.minds.com/squishyhunter/blog/diversity-harassment-and-the-aea-955255329962979328
+1 vote
answered ago by (160 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":
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jJ3MIIbp2rIsJt9M54pQcPYsLjMwfRZ0/view
+1 vote
answered ago by (240 points)
Discrimination based off of place of employment (e.g., institutional rank)  and the Mafia of the elites is still generally ignored.

Until this gets sufficient attention, the AEA won't get a dime from me.
+1 vote
answered ago by (160 points)
Changing the diversity in the profession can only be done by directing attention to the pipeline for new economists.  
1) Every college economics program should post written curricular advice for all 1st to 4th yr college students to read. It is critically important that *advanced* curriculum advice (preparing for graduate economics programs) should be available even to the college FRESHMEN. Otherwise, currently underrepresented groups (women, first-generation college attendees, etc), get good advice TOO LATE to invest in accompanying courses in probability theory, mathematics, statistics, computer science, and sister social sciences (...and so on...)
2) Many female students defend their high Grade Point Averages by minimizing their *quantitative* course exposure. (Parents, are you listening?) The pioneering women who dealt with the glass ceilings of the world have been inadvertently handicapping their daughters by telling them they have to outperform "the boys"...It's all in the potential for MISINTERPRETATION of their well-meaning advice. Revise that advice:  say rather, "Study hard and get good grades but NOT at the expense of NUMERACY." This is a profession that does indeed sneer at people with insufficient mathematics and statistics training. I have seen economists dish out rude comments those  lacking such skills, in all fairness, in an even-handed way to all those lacking the tools they expect and missing insights those tools provide. The mechanism for changing DIVERSITY in the future? While it would be an interesting exercise to remove all  rude economists, more realistically, giving young students of  economics TIMELY advice to acquire the quantitative and analytic skills and the motivation to do so is more likely to have a direct effect.  (If interested, further notes on training may be found here:  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00220485.2017.1353467)
3) I agree with answer posted by Julie_A_Nelson: the profession does not adequately reward attention to economic questions facing women. This also affects the number of women students in the academic pipeline.  For half of the population, one would expect 50% attention in labor economics instruction, but most labor textbooks spends at most 20% of its content on what is arguably a MORE INTERESTING problem of female labor supply given competing interest for her productive time. (And I shouldn't have to mention that married female entry into the labor force accounts for a huge effect in market-valued GDP growth over the last century.) Do female economics students care?  When I offered a labor economics class entitled "Women, Work, & Property Rights"* enrollment by gender was 2:1 Female:Male, which was unprecedented over multiple decades at our economics program. (*"Property Rights" because I also asked the students to consider the historical determinants of  in women's participation in capital  as well as labor markets.
commented ago by (100 points)
That is great initiative taken, those mentioned problems seem to be displayed as a major impediment  to the economic carriers for the minorities . Taking the real actions to address them and even to mitigate them will be a excellent step in the good direction for the advancement of the economic field
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