That’s the question that Matthew Kahn poses in The Christian Science Monitor:
There are 39 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.
Kahn then goes on to say “this differential looks statistically significant to me,” so obviously my first inclination was to do a little math. At a basic level, if the true rate of “bloggership” among elite academic economists is 7%, we would expect to see 2.73 females in this group. Furthermore, if each individual has a 7% chance of blogging, the chance that we would see zero female bloggers is (1-0.07)^39, or about 6%. Economists usually use 5 percent as the cutoff for statistical significance, but I’ll give Prof. Kahn a free pass here. 🙂
There are, however, a number of explanations for this discrepancy that are not specifically gender related. The most straightforward of these stems from the fact that Prof. Kahn is trying to compare apples to oranges- the 7 percent figure is the rate of bloggership for the top 200 economists, but the 0 for 39 number is for the top 1000 economists. If the rate of bloggership decreases for lower-ranked economists and women are more concentrated toward the back end of the 1000, then we would see a lower rate of bloggership for women than for men even if there were no inherent gender-driven differences.
That’s not really a satisfying explanation, so people like to make the “women blog less because they are too busy cooking” sort of argument. (No really, that is essentially what Kahn hypothesizes. I would be more offended if I hadn’t just made a lovely cauliflower and pasta dish.) I would like to pose another, in my view more reasonable, explanation. Do you remember this?
For better or for worse, a decent amount of economics blogging is rather…well, argumentative. This argumentative nature can be seen both among bloggers themselves (one need only check out Brad DeLong’s blog for an example) or between bloggers and their commenters. (I think it’s telling that the reviews of top econ blogs usually point out that one of Marginal Revolution’s best features is that its commenters are civilized. Is this not the norm?) I can only speak for myself, but I don’t like shouting matches, virtual or otherwise. And I’m a female economist who has dared dip a toe into these shark-infested waters. (Dear civil male econ bloggers: I know you’re there, it’s just that the other guys are louder.)
If you want to check out another female econ blog, go to economistmom.com. Even the name works to dispel the hypothesis that female economists are too busy cooking and changing diapers.
Update: My friend Krista reminds me of another potential explanation- in my experience, females tend to exhibit more perfectionist tendencies, which do not really make someone comfortable with an at best lightly-edited medium such as a blog. I don’t know about others, but I certainly resemble that remark.