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?!
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