Economists Do It With Models

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Because I Haven’t Gotten Around To It Yet, Okay?

March 26th, 2009 · 11 Comments

I usually try to not parrot what is in other economics blogs (especially since you can now easily find it yourself on the Econ Around The Web page), but this particular post was just too appropriate:

Why Didn’t a Woman Write Freakonomics?
“Alison Flood, writing on The Guardian’s Books Blog, asks why Freakonomics and most other books that make “serious non-fiction subjects accessible and popular” weren’t written by women. She theorizes that either women are better at storytelling (think Factory Girls and The Big Necessity) than “sell[ing] our hypothesis about the world” — or it’s just a “numbers game,” as male economists far outnumber female economists. Theories? Protests? Outraged recollections of Larry Summers? (FWIW: even though Freakonomics was written by two men, it did take a woman to name it.)”
(see the actual post for the hyperlinks and such)

I clearly found this somewhat amusing…and give me some time, okay? It’s not like I’m not working on it…though I do have a bit of a bone to pick with Steve Levitt and Stephen Dubner over their choice of subject matter, since you’d be shocked at how many people now think that economists’ main purpose is now to study cheating sumo wrestlers and baby names. (For those of you not familiar with Freakonomics, you can see a description here…also, I am not quite sure what rock you have been living under, no offense.) I find it more amusing still that when I tried to comment on the post about how there actually are women (read, myself) that are working on counterexamples to this point, the comment was rejected in moderation. Nice.

I am guessing that people in general don’t realize how overwhelmingly male the economics world is- even my graduate school class was only about 20 percent female, and the numbers only get lower as you go up the ranks of academia. It’s unclear why this is, but once you consider that fact, along with the fact that there is really only one Freakonomics, at least in terms of its popularity, it’s not at all shocking that it was written by a couple of dudes.

To be clear, there are women out there writing about Freakonomics-esque subject matter, and some of them even did so before Freakonomics even existed. I point you to Diane Coyle‘s Sex, Drugs and Economics: An Unconventional Intro to Economics– I came upon this when doing some research for a tutorial I was teaching (titled “Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll”, in fact), and it’s quite interesting. However, given it’s sales rank (#294026 in Books), I would say it could use a little help with its marketing.

P.S. Anyone know a good literary agent? xoxo, Econgirl

Tags: Gender

11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 econgirl // Mar 26, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Apparently the only times I bitch about ripping off other people’s blogs is when I talk about gender. If you want more discussion of gender differences in science and academia, see here:

  • 2 fenz // Mar 27, 2009 at 11:23 am

    I would speculate that, more important than the genders of the actual writers, are the compositions of their networks of personal friends and their willingness of female intellectuals to run in the social circles that provide the grist for proverbial pseudointellectual mill.

    Most of the ideas in these books are not original, they’re just taken from somebody else, usually out of heresay or casual conversation. If your friends are not primarily economists and businesspeople who think and talk about these sorts of ideas all the time, even if you can analyze them and write about them, you’re not going to get the material together for as many books as the people who have the social connections.

    My guess is that in this case, a lot of it is about making the jump the next level up from networking, which is especially hard for female economists.

    Also, it might be worthwhile to consider the composition of the audience. The publisher’s primary duty is to please the people who buy the books. Those people’s prejudices affect which books sell. You can push out books that the audience doesn’t want in the name of fairness, but that isn’t a very sustainable solution to the problem, which you can see on pretty much every shelf in the bookstore. Men who write romance novels often have to do it under pseudonyms.

    If you want to change that, change the audience and the books they’re willing to buy.

    But without data on the audience, that’s just speculation.

  • 3 leftymarine // Apr 10, 2009 at 11:48 am

    As a former math teacher (and econ elective teacher) at an all-girls high school, I know my students can triple-integrate and chain-rule with any XY guy. But there’s definitely something else going on, and I think it’s more cultural (nurture) than anything else…but I’m definitely open to any ideas.

    Did read the previous link about gender and academia…I think I’ll get LEGOs for all my friends’ kids, girls and boys alike!

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