Friday, March 25, 2011

A Puzzle? Why Do No Top Female Economists Blog?

REPEC provides an objective measure of who is "Royalty" in the economics profession.  The current list of the top 5% is here.   I am ranked #681 out of 27,365 economists so that's not bad (and my 3 books aren't counted here).  But, here is the interesting part.  There are 52 women who rank in the top 1000 and 0 of them blog.  Contrast that with the men.  Consider the top 100 men. In this elite subset; at least 8 of them blog.  Consider the men ranked between 101 and 200. At least, six of them blog.  So, this isn't very scientific but we see a 7% participation rate for excellent male economists and a 0% participation rate for excellent women.    This differential looks statistically significant to me.   I have searched for Nancy Folbre among the top 1369 economists (the 5% cutoff) and she is not counted in the elite subset.

How do you resolve this puzzle?  A Household Production Theory of leisure would posit that men have more leisure time than working women and that nerdy guys spend more time reading and writing blog posts (such as this one).    If women who work are also providing more time in "home production" in cooking and rearing children then the time budget constraint will bind.  UPDATE: One blogger responded to this post by arguing that economics bloggers are posting combative nasty stuff and that most women don't want to participate in such professional wrestling.  While, there is some truth to this --- I use this blog to promote my own work rather than to drag others down.  Leading economists such as Gary Becker use their blogs to talk about the real world rather than to score some cheap debating points.

Is the dearth of top women bloggers a problem?  It actually is in the following sense.  The shrewd academic uses his blog to market his ideas and to "amplify" his new academic results. This is a type of branding. I am a like a mediocre washing powder that advertises on TV using jingles and this is good!  You don't have to be as big a star as Tyler Cowen to leverage your blog into new opportunities. If women are not participating in this sector, then excellent women are losing certain opportunities that the blogger class takes for granted.  In a linear algebra sense, we may also be losing out on important ideas that women would offer if they did blog. Perhaps, men do not know everything?

Solutions to this problem?  That's your problem --- my job was to pose the riddle and answer the question.


pwndecaf said...

What about Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism? I read it through most every day. The comments are very good, too. She wrote the book ECONNED.

Diane said...

The solution is to fix obstacles to women rising in the academic world - 39 out of 1000 top economists ranked by journal articles is just too low to give you an adequate sample. Tenure track and publication pressures all fall in prime childbearing years so women have to choose family or academic career. Many of us opt out of academia. There are several prominent female economist bloggers, but non-academic

Latinamericanist said...

It's actually barely statistically significant:
If the chance of an economist blogging is 7/100, the chance that no one of a randomly selected group of 39 economists blog is (93/100)^39 =~.059 i.e. slightly above conventional significance levels.

I still think it's worth asking the question, but I don't quite get why an economist would write that something "looks" statistically significant when probabilities take 1min to calculate...

Economists Do It With Models said...

I would comment on this, but I am too busy preparing dinner and vacuuming. =P

Seriously though, see here for an actual response:

David D said...

I think it might be in part due to a 'diversity tax' on the top female academics: if a board or a commission needs some of the top economists and wants a third of them to be women, that 4% is going to be rather busy.

Same with mentoring grad students, writing editorials for a newspaper, representing the econ department to potential donors, and so on and so on - to the point where saying yes to each invitations would leave these women no time for research, teaching, or even lunch. In such an environment blogging might be a rather low-value option.

Of course, I'm not part of academia and I really don't know anything about the topic.

Panda said...

Actually this is probably not significant at all. It is an equality of means test (is the female blogging mean lower than the male) with unequal sample size and probably unequal variance not a test on whether no woman blogging is a coincidence as latinameracinist puts it.

Simply put if 7 % of women (as we suppose this is the male mean) would blog that would mean we would expect 2-3 out of the 39 to blog. Without runnning the test every ounce of statistical intution in my body tells me that observing 0 instead of 2-3 is not gonna be significant. Maybe women dont blog to avoid such erroneous statements on their blogs :)

Mike said...

It is not statistically significant. Standard deviation of expected count N is ~ sqrt{N}, which is comparable to N for N ~ 2-3 as expected here.

On top of this I expect women in such an evidently gender-unbalanced field face much stronger pressure to conform to traditional professional standards, which I would guess don't include spending lots of time blogging.

Diane Lim said...

And I would comment, too, but I am too busy counting my blessings for having divorced my "excellent" economist husband.

Julia said...

- Men are overconfident
- Men want to dominate
- Men think the world deserves to hear their opinions - especially men who have written oh, let's say, three books, so an anxious world can find out what's going on in their heads

But these are just generalizations. :)

hipparchia said...

sample size, for sure. even with the change to 52 top women economists, 7% is only 3.64 who "should" be blogging.

and yeah, add to that that women in male-dominated fields aren't allowed to do "frivolous" things like blogging and still be taken seriously, "tokens" are always needed for "diversity" on committees and such, etcetcetc.

John S. Cline said...

While the question of why there aren't more top female economist bloggers out there is eye-catching and certainly food for thought, for me the bigger question to be answered is why there are, out of 1,369 "top" economists, only 52 are female?

As at least one person commented, tenure track and other issues fall in prime child-bearing years, which is significant I would think. But is the academic side of the economics profession itself somewhat to blame here? With some wonderful exceptions, most of the economists I know are male, and there seems to be a fairly "clubby" atmosphere to the academic side of economics. One of the female economists I know is a professor; all the rest work in private or government jobs. While hardly statistically valid, my gut says there's something fishy here.

Perhaps it's time to run some studies on female participation in academic economics and find out if there is any significant indication of bias against women?

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