Economics, Literature and Scepticism

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I am a PhD student in Economics. I am originally from South Africa and plan to return there after my PhD. I completed my M. Comm in Economics and my MA In Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Cape Town, where I worked as a lecturer before starting my PhD.

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Gender in the Press

Posted by Simon Halliday | Sunday, February 07, 2010 | Category: , |

Last week I started something I'd like to try and make semi-regular: comments in the popular and academic press about gender.
  • A new NBER paper (one of the authors of which is Rachel Croson, one of my favourite economists) describes the results from a randomized controlled trial that some economists ran on themselves, well sort of.  The committee for the Status of Women in the Economic Profession started an RCT on a mentoring program for women in the profession.  Women who were mentored published substantially more articles and got more grant money than the control group.  Trust economists to run RCTs on themselves. HT: Chris Blattman.
  • Duncan Green takes a look at some poverty statistics wanting to know Are women really 70% of the world's poor? How do we know? He jokes about how he has seen the factoid of '70% of the poor are women' regularly used, but he tried to verify the source of the data.  He then found out that the original source included girls and women, but the executive summary of the report just spoke of women.  He then went on to try and find the result elsewhere, and struggled.  He admits that he finds the gender imbalance in asset ownership, power, and many other factors relating to poverty are devastating, but he also says that he wishes that more research would be done and better statistics found to verify stories such as this one about women in poverty. 
  • The BPS research digest reports on different male-female preferences for partners who conspicuously consume.  Women are attracted to men who drive expensive cars, but men aren't similarly attracted to women who drive expensive cars.  I'd argue that there are strong evolutionary reasons for this: women historically needed men who could provide for them, men didn't have such needs.
  • Alison Booth and Andrew Leigh present evidence from a new paper of theirs at Vox EU examining whether employers discriminate by gender in female-dominated firms. They undertook a field experiment in Australia focusing on female-dominated (65%-85% female) industries. Their hypothesis centred around the empirically observed pro-male bias in many industries, so they wanted to see whether the same would hold for female-dominated industries.  Consistent with previous research, they submitted identical CVs with different names on them to see whether the gender of the name might affect the callback rate.  A female applicant received callbacks 32% of the time, while a male applicant received callbacks 25% of the time.  The difference was largest in industries where females comprise 80% or more of the workforce, for industries with less gender dominance, the effect decreased. 
  • An entertaining article in the NYTimes, 'The New Math on Campus', documents how the gender imbalance in many US universities has altered how people interact and, according to their interviews, seems to perpetuate a system where men are invested with power in relationships and can freely cheat on their partners because men of 'high' quality are so rare on campus.  Think 40% men and 60% women, of the 40% of men, the women say they'd date half half to three quarters (others too geeky, nerdy, or ugly? we weren't told).  Then assume that a further half of those men are 'taken' relatively quickly, and there's a substantial minority of single men invested with a lot of dating and sexual power.  Interesting, and slightly funny in a warped way.
  • Jonah Lehrer at The Frontal Cortex comments on Ross Douthat's NYT column, bringing in evidence from an Ariely and Rubinstein paper I love about decision-making in different contexts - sexually aroused and not.  Male decisions seem substantially less controlled, and much less rational, than when the same questions are asked of them in a situation when they are not sexually stimulated. I put it in this week's 'gender' notes because of how it relates specifically to male behavior and had a male sample.  If I understand correctly, Ariely is trying to do something similar with females at the moment to see whether or not they respond similarly to males.

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