Edit: ParagonProtege has provided a link to the original study. Thank you! (^_^)
A new study shows a large gender gap on economic policy among the nation's professional economists, a divide similar -- and in some cases bigger -- than the gender divide found in the general public.
What does an economist think of that?
A lot depends on whether the economist is a man or a woman. A new study shows a large gender gap on economic policy among the nation's professional economists, a divide similar -- and in some cases bigger -- than the gender divide found in the general public.
Differences extend to core professional beliefs -- such as the effect of minimum wage laws -- not just matters of political opinion.
Female economists tend to favor a bigger role for government while male economists have greater faith in business and the marketplace. Is the U.S. economy excessively regulated? Sixty-five percent of female economists said "no" -- 24 percentage points higher than male economists.
Can this be reasonably explained by self-interest? Female and male economists' views are probably coloured by gender solidarity. Government jobs may be more likeable to women than men because of their recorded greater risk aversion. Regardless of the reason government jobs are more important for women than for men. Also in the US where the study was done middle class white women benefit quit a bit from affirmative action in government hiring.
"As a group, we are pro-market," says Ann Mari May, co-author of the study and a University of Nebraska economist. "But women are more likely to accept government regulation and involvement in economic activity than our male colleagues."
Opinion differences between men and women are well-documented in the general public. President Obama leads Mitt Romney by 10 percentage points among women. Romney leads Obama by 3 percentage points among men, according to the latest Gallup Poll.
Politics is the mind-killer probably does play a role in explaining the difference.
The survey of 400 economists is one of the first to examine whether gender differences matter within a profession. The answer for economists: Yes.
How economists think:
- Health insurance. Female economists thought employers should be required to provide health insurance for full-time workers: 40% in favor to 37% against, with the rest offering no opinion. By contrast, men were strongly against the idea: 21% in favor and 52% against.
- Education. Females narrowly opposed taxpayer-funded vouchers that parents could use for tuition at a public or private school of their choice. Male economists love the idea: 61% to 14%.
- Labor standards. Females believe 48% to 33% that trade policy should be linked to labor standards in foreign counties. Males disagreed: 60% to 23%.
First two points are somewhat congruent with stereotypes. Anyone who has run into the frequent iSteve commenter "Whiskey" will probably note that the third point indicates women may not hate hate HATE lower and middle class beta males in this case.
"It's very puzzling," says free-market economist Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. "Not a day goes by that I don't ask myself why there are so few women economists on the free-market side."
A native of France, de Rugy supported government intervention early in her life but changed her mind after studying economics. "We want many of the same things as liberals -- less poverty, more health care -- but have radically different ideas on how to achieve it."
This seems plausible since politics is about applause lights after all, the tribes are what matters not the particular shape of their attire. But might value differences still be behind the gender difference? Maybe some failed utopias I recall reading aren't really failed.
Liberal economist Dean Baker, co-founder of the Center for Economic Policy and Research, says male economists have been on the inside of the profession, confirming each other's anti-regulation views. Women, as outsiders, "are more likely to think independently or at least see people outside of the economics profession as forming their peer group," he says.
The gender balance in economics is changing. One-third of economics doctorates now go to women. The chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers has been a woman three of 27 times since 1946 -- one advising Obama and two advising Bill Clinton. The Federal Reserve Board of Governors has three women, bringing the total to eight of 90 members since 1914.
"More diversity is needed at the table when public policy is discussed," May says.
Somehow I think this does not include ideological diversity.
Economists do agree on some things. Female economists agree with men that Europe has too much regulation and that Walmart is good for society. Male economists agree with their female colleagues that military spending is too high.
The genders are most divorced from each other on the question of equality for women. Male economists overwhelmingly think the wage gap between men and women is largely the result of individuals' skills, experience and voluntary choices. Female economists overwhelmingly disagree by a margin of 4-to-1.
The biggest disagreement: 76% of women say faculty opportunities in economics favor men. Male economists point the opposite way: 80% say women are favored or the process is neutral.
No mystery here. (^_^)
One sex knows something the other sex doesn't:Perhaps since men are treated as the default gender, women understand what it's like to be a man better than men understand what it's like to be a woman.
How to test: Turing test. Create an anonymous panel of 4 male and 1 female economists, and then let a group of males ask them questions. Afterwards, the males vote on which panelist was female. Reverse the test. Whichever sex knows something the other sex doesn't will do a better job at passing the turning test and a spotting one of their own.
Signalling Women and men are expected to have feminine and masculine traits respectively, and one of the ways they can signal having these traits is by supporting certain politics. For example, a woman might endorse social welfare programs to signal that she has compassion (a feminine trait).
How to test: Not sure.
Brain differences: Women and men have slightly different brains. Perhaps the presence of testosterone in men causes them to support riskier free market policies.
How to test Look at intra-sex differences in brains and see if you find any correlations. If, for example, men with lower levels of testosterone are more likely to support liberal policies, and women with higher testosterone support more libertarian policies, that would be evidence that the intersex differences in testosterone could be responsible for the gap.
Self-interest Bias Perhaps women are better off under liberal policies, while men are better under libertarian. Each group is rationalizing reasons support policies that protect their sex.
How to test: See how each sex reacts to a pair of questions, one specifying a female, and one specifying a male. For example "Should waiters be covered by minimum wage laws" verses "Should waitresses be covered by minimum wage laws." If one sex gives the same answer for both these questions, and the other sex gives different answers, that is evidence that the second sex is biased.
Differences between libertarian/liberal movements Perhaps the libertarian subculture isn't welcoming for women. Women become liberals because libertarians creep them out.
How to test Recruit politically inactive women at a local university. Send one group to a libertarian convention, the other to a liberal convention. Ask each about their experiences.
Other factors that could explain:
The difference is not as large, either because of the file drawer effect, or because someone selected / massaged the data to make the difference look bigger (the researcher or the journalist).
Selection effects: men and women may go into economics for different reasons; for example (as a bit of a caricature); men who want to get obscenely rich study economics to get into business, and women who want to get obscenely rich try to marry into money, and money-grabiness is correlated with pro-free market views.
Differences in peer groups: there seem to be more men than women majoring in economics, so assuming one's views are influenced by peers of the same sex, it seems likely female students will have more non-economist peers.
Differences in conformity: women may conform a bit more to widespread social views (at least, to views of "their social class") and/or compartimentalize more between what they learn about a specific topic and their general views. This would mean female scientists would be slightly less likely to be atheists in religious countries, female theology students would be slightly less likely to be fanatics in not-that-fanatical societies, etc.
Changes in major: I don't know how frequent changes of major are, but if they are frequent it seems likely you'd see more women than men coming from social sciences in economics (and more men coming from mathematics).
Different subfields in economics: Maybe "economics" shouldn't be considered one big blob - there may be some subfields that have more in common with other social sciences (and thus have a more female student body, and a more "liberal" outlook), and some more in common with maths and business.
Another version of this idea that I was going to post: is that conservative women are more likely to become stay-at-home moms and thus liberal women will be overrepresented in all jobs.
That's a much better example than mine and I'm annoyed I didn't think of it first. If that's true, than we should expect proportionally less conservative women in higher education, regardless of major (and the effect should remain once you control for intelligence and/or social class).
To the effect those aren't correlated with being conservative.
We need to look at differences between men and women conditional on the fact that they've become economists, not just differences between men and women. Becoming a professional economist requires more nonconformity for a woman than for a man -- deciding to pursue a gender-atypical job, having peers and mentors that are mostly male, and delaying having children or putting a lot of time into family life until you're 30, at least.
There are more women in fields you might expect to be more liberal, and fewer in fields like theory. http://www.cepr.org/meets/wkcn/3/3530/papers/Dolado.pdf Women seem to be more concentrated in public economics (taxes) and economic development. They are less concentrated in theory... and in the large field of "other". When you define the fields differently women are especially well represented (compared to the mean) in "health, education, and welfare" and "labour and demographic economics".
It would be interesting to see how, say, health economists view employer-provided health insurance rules.
A weak test of the signaling hypothesis would be to poll economists' colleagues and see what they think about them. Presumably if the hypothesis were true, endorsement of compassion-signaling economic and social policies would be correlated with your colleagues thinking that you are generally a compassionate person.
If women know something men don't, men could just ask. That seems much more relevant than testing people's play-acting skills, and we'd actually learn what it was. As in this case women could just publish it and get a paper out of it, I doubt it.
For some knowable things. For others (a) women's self-reported knowledge might be unreliable, (b) women might already be telling men, but this does not get through because men have elaborate justifications for why women's self-reports are unreliable, or (c) the knowledge may be tacit and not easily communicable.
Obviously this applies to any two groups. My guess is that, abstracting from this particular example, most differences between individuals' beliefs is due to a large component of (c.)
Women have tacit and not easily communicable knowledge about the price-elasticity of labour?
Most knowledge gained through life experience is tacit and not easily communicable.
Interesting, but I'm skeptical. Can someone give the citation of the actual study? The linked news story doesn't give the name/authors of the research.
EDIT: According to this source, it is forthcoming in the journal Contemporary Economic Policy and authored by May, McGarvey, and Whaples.
EDIT: According to Tyler Cowen, the name of the paper is "Are Disagreements Among Male and Female Economists Marginal at Best? A Survey of AEA Members and Their Views on Economics and Economic Policy” but he cannot find a pre-print copy online. The paper hasn't been published in the latest edition of Contemporary Economic Policy.
EDIT: A copy of the paper. Enjoy!
Yay! Thank you so very much, I edited the link into the opening post.
You're quite welcome! Thank you for taking the time to say "thank you." :)
It's great to see GLaDOS's interpretation of USA Today's interpretation of Prof. May's interpretation of her data, but I'd prefer a link to the original study. Does anyone have one?
I'm currently tracking it down.
If true, this is fairly strong evidence that the effort to turn the study of economics into a science has failed. If the beliefs of professional economists about their field of study are substantially affected by their gender, they obviously aren't arriving at those beliefs by a reliable objective process.
Here's a stupid question:
Do economists' views differ by hair color?
A less stupid question:
What's the "false positive" rate on this kind of thing?
The differences you must admit are rather large. And would you expect such differences in opinion in say a Physics or Computer Science department by gender or hair colour? I'm willing to bet 20 dollars that differences when breaking down economists by hair colour would be much smaller. I would also expect differences due to age to be comparable order of magnitude but also smaller. I would expect breaking down economists by income or ethnicity would produce similar differences can't say whether greater or smaller.
I'm making these predictions based on my model of this being politics driven.
I would ask "Do rationalists views' differ by gender?" but that would lead to reliable failure mode.
Then I'd ask "Does the failure mode differ by gender?"
An interesting question and one that should be easy to answer empirically. The observation attached to it isn't incorrect, but I do think you should remember there is such a thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy. (~_^)
Now I'm really curious if there are topics where this is true. I'd be most interested in rationality related, and not very directly gender related topics (since those are tricky to discuss productively).
Another possibility is that this is essentially tribalism (essentially a variant of politics as the mind killer). Women are more likely to have viewpoints favoring what is called the liberal end of politics. In that context, general perception of what ideas one is supposed to be loyal to may result in more males being pulled in one direction and more females being pulled in the other direction.