Econ, Too


Last weekend, we flew to Atlanta for the year’s biggest event in economics, the annual gathering of the American Economic Association. There were thousands of economists there. It’s a must-attend event for econ nerds, and we try to go every year. (If you haven’t heard our show about Robert Smith and Adrian Ma’s visit two years ago, it’s here.)

Reforming economics
The AEA, Bernanke said, has begun taking steps to make the field more inclusive, such as sponsoring a moderated website for job discussions, creating a diversity committee and surveying AEA members to figure out what to fix. The sessions at the Atlanta conference, Bernanke highlighted, were selected by a committee made up mostly of women.

At 8 a.m. on Saturday (ouch), we dropped in on a session called “How Can Economics Solve Its Gender Problem?” It turned out to be well worth the sleep deprivation. The women on the panel — and they were all women — shared stories of navigating a maze of sexism. The panelists included Janet Yellen, the first and only woman to head the U.S. Federal Reserve. Yellen, who left that job in early 2018, will take over as president of the AEA in 2020.

“I entered graduate school in 1967, … the heyday of women’s lib,” said Yellen, who got her Ph.D. in economics at Yale. Yellen recalled her classmates protesting a men’s only club on campus, where a lot of business and networking was done. Women had some success, but Yellen said she feels the movement lost steam by the 1980s. “What’s hopeful is I see another wave of feminism here that’s been aroused by the #MeToo movement.”


Can economics explain the problem?
This was a group of economists at an economic conference, but their analysis of the field’s gender problem drew a lot of ideas from outside economics. The panelists kept coming back to implicit bias, which is how psychologists talk about unrecognized feelings and attitudes that affect our judgement and actions. They cited studies that suggest this bias lurks behind unequal treatment of female economists, and they described a toxic professional culture that disadvantages women. “The bullying culture of economics is one of our biggest problems,” said Stanford economist Susan Athey after the panel, adding that culture is understudied in the field.

Much of the story of modern economics has been economists moving past this cartoon model and toward models that are more reflective of the real world. Yet Athey says she’s been shocked by how many economists seem to have a blind spot when it comes to gender. “It’s like they fall back from modern economics and onto a very stylized version of economics when it comes to this particular issue,” she said.

Unlike the other sessions we attended, the audience was mostly female. Sitting in the audience, it felt like a reckoning was taking place.

Most Americans Call Shutdown ‘Embarrassing’ As It’s Set To Become Longest In History

Most Americans

Three-quarters of Americans say the government shutdown, now tied for the longest in U.S. history, is “embarrassing for the country,” including a majority of Republicans, a new NPR/Ipsos Poll finds.

If no deal is struck by midnight Friday, this partial shutdown will be the longest ever. From late 1995 to early 1996, the government was shut down for 21 days. Friday is the 21st day of this current shutdown. Neither side appears ready to budge, and this poll and others make Democrats feel they have the upper hand.

And they have reason to feel that way — about 7 in 10 in the NPR/Ipsos Poll also say the government shutdown is going to hurt the country, that it will hurt the economy and that Congress should pass a bill to reopen the government now while budget talks continue. Just 3 in 10 believe the government should remain closed until there is funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
A Reuters/Ipsos Poll out Tuesday found that 51 percent of Americans said President Trump “deserves most of the blame,” up 4 points from late December 2018 around when the shutdown began. A YouGov Poll out this week found 50 percent also blamed Trump, also up 4 points from late December.

The NPR/Ipsos Poll also found that Trump’s Oval Office address Tuesday had little effect. Just 10 percent of Americans said the president’s speech brought the country closer to ending the government shutdown. (Nearly 4 in 10 said they did not watch or even follow the address.)

And not many, if anyone, beyond his base say his speech convinced them that there is a “crisis” at the Southern U.S. border. Just 38 percent of Americans overall said his speech convinced them of a crisis at the border, and only about a third said his speech convinced them there is a need for a wall along the border.

Most Americans1

Independents are not with the president on either of those critical points. By a 23-point margin, 50 percent to 27 percent, independents said they disagreed that the president’s speech convinced them of a need for a wall, and by 45 percent to 32 percent, independents said the president’s speech did not convince them of a crisis at the border. Fifty-three percent of independents said it’s never OK to shut down the government, as did 50 percent of Democrats. Just 25 percent of Republicans, though, said the same.

Not helping matters for either side is that the leaders in this showdown are not viewed favorably:

  • President Trump: 42 percent favorable, 52 percent unfavorable
  • Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.: 39 percent favorable, 41 percent unfavorable (20 percent don’t know)
  • Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.: 27 percent favorable, 40 percent unfavorable (33 percent don’t know)