…because I’m an economist and a mom–that’s why!

Why Are There No “Excellent Women” Among Economist Bloggers?

March 30th, 2011 . by economistmom

A friend of mine sent me a link to Matthew Kahn’s latest guest blog post on the Christian Science Monitor website; she sent it along with an “I believe in you” sort of note, because as Matthew was implicitly pointing out, I am not on the list of top economists to which he refers–while he is (as he explicitly points out).  He ponders (emphasis added):

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.

Not being a female economist himself, Matthew then theorizes–as men love to do–about why we women aren’t as able to be both “excellent” economists and blogging economists.

I find it ironic that Matthew’s blog post would appear on the Christian Science Monitor site in the same area that my guest blog posts do, and that the photo that goes with the CSM post is of…an Asian woman!  (Ok, a much younger Asian woman, but Asian nonetheless.)  Huh!  There’s a female economist blogger blogging right “next” to Matthew, right under his nose!

Oh, but I’m not an “excellent” female economist.

I think we female economists have our own empirical (not just theoretical) reasons why those of us who blog aren’t the same people as those of us who are at the top of the REPEC list.  In my case, it’s also closely related to why those of us (even non-excellent female economists) who blog don’t typically blog at the same frequency as the (even most excellent) male economists who blog.  It’s called we have and care about other things and people in our lives, not just our own individual, introspective views about how the supposed world around us supposedly works (in our own opinion)!  And that’s even things and people other than what Matthew counts so endearingly as the “home production” sort of things–you know, “cooking and rearing children.”

But yes, we female economists who happen to have families do typically end up doing most of the home production, as our typical husbands who are typically other economists typically are oblivious to what needs to get done.  You know, because the guys are so busy thinking their own deep, important thoughts about how the world swirling around them works, while in theory the guys are convincing themselves that they are the better, more successful, more “excellent” economists (or whatever they are professionally which they confuse with what defines them personally).

Which is why it should not be too hugely shocking that this particular non-excellent female economist who used to be married to an “excellent” male economist (top 5%, like Matthew!), is no longer married to that economist.

Objective, standardized statistics don’t always very accurately or comprehensively measure the quality (or “human capital”) of an economist–or a college applicant, or an economy as a whole, for that matter.  (I am working on a new column on this point for the Christian Science Monitor right now, actually.)  It’s actually part of a broader question and answer about why there aren’t more women in economics more generally (leaving aside whether they blog or not), or in other very quantitative fields for that matter.  It’s not just because we’re worse at math, by the way, because we’re not.  (Let me mention that my oldest daughter, now at Princeton, got a perfect math SAT score.)  It could be because we women often find disciplines that assume everything can be objectively, precisely, formulaically valued, very limiting at best and maybe downright wrong at worst.

And as to why this particular non-excellent female economist blogs, I’ve written about that before in a newsletter of the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession (CSWEP).  But perhaps this very blog post might make for more entertaining reading for CSWEP members than that column did.  ;)

To all you other “non-excellent” female economist bloggers, let me hear from you here!  Are we really not as “excellent” as our male counterparts?  Really?!

10 Responses to “Why Are There No “Excellent Women” Among Economist Bloggers?”

  1. comment number 1 by: Jim Glass

    “Excellent” is a subjective rating term one may argue about. If you deem yourself “non-excellent” that is an opinion call you can argue with yourself about.

    However as a matter of objetive ranking, you are the best woman economist blogger in the entire world. That should be worth something.

    After all, how many people really are objectively “the best in the world” at anything?

    Especially at anything worthwhile, valuable and productive?

  2. comment number 2 by: Jim Vernon

    I hope you don’t consider this disrespectful, because I think it indicates a serious intellectual curiosity, which I also trust you can satisfy:

    If your perspective is accurate, would not a post from your husband be a more convinciing argument?

    Best regards,

    P.S. I have relied on my wife, a non-economist, for the vast majority of the “production function” for the entirety of our marriage, with the possible exception of a brief few years when we were both students. During our conjoint student days, I still relied on her for the majority, but not the “vast” majority. I’m not sure you could count me as “an economist”, but I do teach the subject. (Neither I nor my wife blogs the subject, if that helps you categorize this response.)

  3. comment number 3 by: Will Sawin

    You’re right. Your chosen leisure activities are morally superior to my chosen leisure time activity. I’ll remember to stop thinking ultimately useless but enjoyable and fulfilling thoughts and start having more ultimately useless but enjoyable and fulfilling relationships with other people.

  4. comment number 4 by: rjs

    Maxine Udall (girl economist)

  5. comment number 5 by: Julie

    Diane, I love you.

    Will “ultimately useless … relationships” Sawin: didn’t we date?

  6. comment number 6 by: economistmom

    Thanks to those who have commented on this–both publicly and via email to me. Julie: wow, thanks!–and LOL (re. Will S.). Jim V.: well, you won’t hear from the ex-husband here (although his big sister once posted a comment here calling me far worse than “non-excellent,” which I promptly censored); he thinks blogs (including mine) are “stupid.” Jim G.: thanks for your (continued) support and superlatives; you are like my blog-side therapist. (And I don’t deem myself “non-excellent”–don’t worry…although I am not inclined to declare myself “excellent” either.) ;)

  7. comment number 7 by: AMTbuff

    Megan McArdle is an excellent writer who blogs about economics among other subjects. She is as anti-deficit as our economistmom, right up there with Len Burman.

    FWIW if this site became extremely popular the comments section would no longer be enjoyable to read.

  8. comment number 8 by: Sarah

    Yes, I think the reasons why so few women economists blog correspond pretty well to the reasons why there are so few women economists in general. My own economist mom was pretty disgusted when she discovered at the start of her economics studies that her 20 years at home with 4 children were considered ‘leisure’ by the definitions of her chosen profession. And that was in the ’60’s. Since then, I think the attitudes of many male economists have, if anything, become yet more benighted, as egos have burgeoned along with fat financial rewards offered by corporations and ‘think tanks’ looking for ‘economic’ justifications for predatory behavior.

    I would add that, in line with having and caring about other things and people in their lives, women economists are often interested in quite different areas of economics than men- and those are- by shear coincidence I’m SURE- happen also not be areas that count much in determining who is an ‘excellent’ economist.

    Finally, just on a personal note, I recommend staying far away from fellow-economists as mates. My own geneticist dad has been an unfailing support to my mother, both in her career and at home. Outside of economics and other finance-related fields Ph.D.s have become used to having to piece together careers, teaching courses for a variety of colleges in non-tenure track positions, getting the occasional grant, and perhaps tutoring on the side. Most are delighted and grateful to have a spouse who can supplement what is often a barely living wage and provide health insurance. Having no real career to speak of they are often happy to spend a few years at home looking after children, and if they don’t always manage to reach a perfectly egalitarian division of labor they will at least see the unfairness of trying to avoid it by claiming superior earnings and academic ‘excellence’.

  9. comment number 9 by: economistmom

    Sarah: Thanks for your supportive and insightful comment, and I also saw your very nice comment on Matt Yglesias blog which shows how well you “get” me and “got” the point of this particular blog of mine. But of course, you are a woman! Fortunately, I don’t seem to have turned all male economists against me. (See John Whitehead’s blog, for example. Full disclosure: John’s a long-time friend of mine although we haven’t shared a beach house in 20 years or so, and I haven’t even seen him in nearly as long!)

  10. comment number 10 by: Brooks

    I can’t speak to anyone’s criteria or application thereof for ranking economists, but needless to say (but I will anyway), I’m among EconomistMom’s fans. I’m much appreciative of this blog and of Diane’s voice on fiscal policy in other venues as well.

    The fact that she’s witty and exceptionally nice is completely irrelevant to her valuable contribution to fiscal policy discourse, so I won’t mention it ;-)