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Random Link: Where Are The Female Economics Bloggers?

March 27th, 2011 · 20 Comments
Fun With Math · Gender · Random Links

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.

Tags: Fun With Math · Gender · Random Links

20 responses so far ↓

  • 1 David // Mar 27, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    That was my immediate thought — that women do not often processes the disposition to argue on the Internet, which invariably becomes a shouting match in a field like economics. As to whether this combativeness is a negative male trait, I don’t think I go too far out on the branch to hypothesize that the necessary disposition to host and catalyze Internet arguments is a more male one.

  • 2 Russell Nelson // Mar 27, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    My wife is a dear, but at the very end of Quaker Meeting, when I was starting to rail against the idea of central planners (which is very un-egalitarian and un-Quakerly) deciding how much water our toilets should flush with and whether our bulbs should be incandescent or not, she had to leave and in the car upbraided me saying “Why can’t you be out of the house for two hours without starting to rant?” She REALLY dislikes disagreement.

  • 3 George Scoville // Mar 27, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Check out Spousonomics as well: http://www.spousonomics.com/

  • 4 Sarah // Mar 27, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    The backlash against women bloggers can be harsher than against men- and when it is it is often overtly sexual and threatening. The Kathy Sierra story (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathy_Sierra) is the best known, but there are others. After some ugly experiences myself- not with blogging, but merely with comments, I try to be careful of where and on what subject I use my own name.

    Then there’s the sad fact that two of the very best bloggers on economics – both women- died recently. Tanta (Doris Dungey), of course, was not an economist by training, but her intimate knowledge of banking and the exact workings of the overnight trades, the Fed, CDO packaging, etc. made her a priceless and irreplaceable voice in the discussion. Maxine Udall (Alison Snow Jones), on the other hand, WAS an economist, however her family background in small business gave her a much broader view of the world than the narrowly ‘economic’.

    One final point- the top 1000 referred to are really the top 1000 in terms of paper production in professional journals. Many of the women economists I know focus on relatively unpopular topics in these journals (and in the economics profession in general). By creating a standard (publications in journals) that many women economists who blog don’t fit, and then asking ‘where are the women economist bloggers’ he is setting up a tautology which he neatly resolves with a stereotype.

    This is probably one reason I read very few of economist bloggers in that top 1000 regularly. I prefer people like Mark Thoma (also not in that august bunch) whose thinking is a bit less confined- and whose reactions to others do not exhibit such strongly autistic symptoms.

  • 5 Eat The Babies! // Mar 28, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Woah, if there’s only 39 women in the top 1000 that suggests they all feel like they have to be realllly careful to retain their rank in the academic pecking order, no?
    Blogging is not a space for people who want to carefully manage their image.
    With only 39 out of 1000, I’m not surprised by this one bit.
    I bet, though, if you looked at the top 200 female economists, though, you’d find a lot of bloggers, especially at the back of the pack (because they are trying alternative means to get noticed).

  • 6 Allison // Mar 28, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Thanks for the links. I’d never really taken notice before that you were the only female economics blogger that I follow. I know I’m just a student blogging, but I’m glad to see there’s some more of us out there!

  • 7 Punditus Maximus // Mar 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Yes, yes, shrinking violets and all that.

    The Marginal Revolution comments section is polite because conservatives/libertarians don’t brook disagreement well, so they troll other folks’ blog but are just barely capable of treating one another with respect. People capable of interacting with the real world generally don’t bother with the libertarian section of the intarwebs, because fantasy is boring when it doesn’t have orcs in it.

  • 8 Sarah // Mar 29, 2011 at 5:39 am

    Allison- Somehow I forgot to mention one of the most prominent economist women bloggers: Yves Smith at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com

    There are also several women economists on group blogs, among them Rebecca Wilder at Angry Bear and Nancy Folbre at Economix.

  • 9 Linda // Mar 29, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Following up on Sarah’s comment, there is also Frances Woolley, at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative.

  • 10 EconomistMom (Diane Lim Rogers) // Mar 30, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Hey, Jodi — thanks so much for the plug! I wrote my own rant before I found your post about this:
    http://www.economistsdoitwithmodels.com/2011/03/27/random-link-where-are-the-female-economics-bloggers/

  • 11 EconomistMom (Diane Lim Rogers) // Mar 30, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    whoops — wrong link — here’s the right one:
    http://economistmom.com/2011/03/why-are-there-no-excellent-women-among-economist-bloggers/

  • 12 John Whitehead // Mar 30, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    Some of my favorite bloggers are Jodi Beggs, Diane and Lynne Kiesling: http://knowledgeproblem.com/. Some (all?) of my least favorite are those in the RePEc rankings (but I like Matt’s blog). I’m not sure why there should be any correlation between RePEc rankings, gender (other than the point made by Jodi above) and good economics blog posts. As evidence, see the Taylor, Mankiw, Thoma and Krugman interaction from today. Jeez.

  • 13 Hasdrubal // Apr 2, 2011 at 10:29 am

    I wonder if there are some of the same underlying causes for low numbers of female economics bloggers and female wiki editors?

    And is this a bad phenomenon, or just an interesting one? Just a reminder that women and men really are different.

  • 14 Dee // May 8, 2011 at 10:05 am

    Econgirl, I just discovered your website and its fantastic! As a female “economist” I too share your objectives – and I thought I was all alone! I recently started my own blog that (attempts to) make economic stats more useful and interesting to the everyday person. If you or your followers ever have the chance to check it out I would love your feedback! http://smartmeetsinteresting.blogspot.com/
    Thanks for sharing your econ humor!

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    HAHAHAHAHAHA! @AmandaYJS @liyinglings HIT HER TWITTER API LIMIT! SHE CANNOT SPAM YOU UNTIL ONE HOUR LATER! XD

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