Bryan Caplan  

Gender in EJW

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The latest issue of Dan Klein's Econ Journal Watch is out, featuring a brainy symposium on gender balance in the economics profession. (For my general view, see this). I particularly liked psychologist John Johnson's contribution. Highlights:

The dominant model of vocational preferences today is John Holland’s (1959, 1997) RIASEC model. Fifty years of research on Holland’s model has supported the utility of conceptualizing human personalities and work environments in terms of their resemblance to six prototypical categories: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. Researchers who employ the Holland model typically refer to each vocational-personality type by the first letter of the type label; hence the acronym RIASEC. Of particular interest to the question of women in economics is the RIASEC classification for an economist and research on gender differences in RIASEC preferences. Economists, like research psychologists and other scientists, are considered to be primarily Investigative. Investigative individuals like working with ideas more than dealing with people. They do not mind laboring long hours in relative isolation. They also exemplify a cognitive style that Welsh (1975) termed high Intellectence. High-Intellectent Investigative persons disengage and distance themselves from the sensate world, preferring to relate to the environment indirectly through abstract symbols...

Psychological research has consistently demonstrated that males, as a group, score higher than females on measures of Investigative, Realistic, and Enterprising vocational preferences, while the reverse is true for Social and Artistic preferences.

And if you like understated ridicule:
If there is hostility in the sciences toward accepting women, Browne (2006) notes that it takes an odd, selective form by subfield. Women earn relatively few doctorates in mining/mineral engineering, but considerably more in bioengineering. Biology is apparently welcoming to women, as women earn 45% of all doctorates in biology. So is medicine, as over 40% of new doctors are women. But biophysics must be hostile, because relatively few women earn a doctorate in this area. Women earn 67% of all doctorates in psychology, but mostly in developmental and child psychology. Few women earn doctorates in psychometrics and quantitative psychology.
Personally, though, I think that gender balance in academia is already over-studied. I'd rather see some work on gender balance in the blogosphere. Does anyone want to channel Larry Summers?


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COMMENTS (3 to date)
Matt writes:

OK, Brian you got me reading up on the Holland model.

James A. Donald writes:

The problem is that there is a threat of legislative action to remedy “sex discrimination” in academia, to be modeled on legislation that remedied “sex discrimination” in university sports. The sports legislation had the effect of curtailing male sports, and the analogous legislation would radically curtail male fields such as mathematics, and, of course, economics. The mere threat of such legislation is likely to have similar effect.

In 1969 a campaign was launched to make the word “gay” mean homosexual (probably earlier than 1969, but 1969 was when it got into everyone's face) This campaign had limited effectiveness until it was backed by state compulsion in 1991.

A series of increasingly destructive and coercive social engineering programs have followed. Since any field where men are better than women hurts the self esteem of all women, all such fields must be deprecated. If persuasion fails to result in sufficient deprecation, the state must impose and enforce sufficient deprecation. You may think such a policy absurd, but it is politically far easier to get rid of tenured mathematicians and economists, than to get rid of a football team.

meep writes:

I like Hakim's take on the issue, where she gets at preferences not from a subject point-of-view, but from an importance-of-career-vs-family point-of-view.

Her conclusion is similar to Johnson's in that many of remedies being recommended will be useless (and in some cases, self-defeating) in trying to alter sex ratios. If anything, it seems work policies should be less family-friendly if you want more women in "top" positions.

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