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    Women in Economics Face Hostility When Presenting Research

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyWomen in Economics Face Hostility When Presenting ResearchStudies have found that the field is plagued by a singular problem of gender bias. The latest evidence comes from the types of questions posed at seminars.The American Economic Association conference in San Diego early last year. New research details how men and women are treated differently when they make economic presentations.Credit…Sandy Huffaker for The New York TimesFeb. 23, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETA few years ago, the economists Alicia Sasser Modestino and Justin Wolfers sat at the back of a professional conference and watched Rebecca Diamond, a rising star in their field, present her latest research on inequality. Or at least she was meant to present it — moments after she began her talk, the audience began peppering her with questions.“She must have gotten 15 questions in the first five minutes, including, ‘Are you going to show us the data?’” Dr. Modestino recalled. It was an odd, even demeaning question — the session was in the data-heavy field of applied microeconomics. Of course she was going to show her data.Later that morning, Dr. Modestino and Dr. Wolfers watched as another prominent economist, Arindrajit Dube, presented a paper on the minimum wage. But while that was one of the most hotly debated topics in the field, the audience allowed Dr. Dube to lay out his findings for several minutes with few interruptions.Over a drink later, Dr. Modestino and Dr. Wolfers wondered: Had the audiences treated the two presenters differently because of their genders?They couldn’t be sure. Maybe the audience treated Dr. Dube differently because he was more senior. Maybe they had simply found his paper more convincing, or less interesting. Maybe the observations of Dr. Modestino and Dr. Wolfers were a result of their own biases — Dr. Dube, in an email, recalled getting lots of questions, some of them quite skeptical. (He added that he didn’t know how his reception compared with Dr. Diamond’s, and he said didn’t challenge Dr. Modestino’s recollection over all.)So Dr. Modestino and Dr. Wolfers, who has written on economics in The New York Times, did what economists often do: They gathered data. Along with two other economists, they recruited dozens of graduate students across the country to attend hundreds of economics presentations to record what happened. Their findings, according to a working paper that is expected to be published next week by the National Bureau of Economic Research: Women received 12 percent more questions than men, and they were more likely to get questions that were patronizing or hostile.“It measures something that we thought couldn’t be measured,” Dr. Modestino said. “It links it to a potential reason that women are underrepresented in the profession.”The paper is the latest addition to a mounting body of evidence of gender discrimination in economics. Other researchers in recent years have found that women are less likely than men to be hired and promoted, and face greater barriers to getting their work published in economic journals. Those problems aren’t unique to economics, but there is evidence that the field has a particular problem: Gender and racial gaps in economics are wider, and have narrowed less over time, than in many other fields.In response to those concerns, the American Economic Association commissioned a survey of more than 9,000 current and former members that asked about their experiences in the field. The results, released in 2019, revealed a disturbing number of cases of harassment and outright sexual assault. And it found that subtler forms of bias were rampant: Only one woman in five reported being “satisfied with the overall climate” in the field. Nearly one in three said they believed they had been discriminated against. And nearly half of women said they had avoided speaking at a conference or seminar because they feared harassment or disrespectful treatment.“Half of women are saying they don’t even want to present in a seminar,” Dr. Modestino said. “We’re losing a lot of ideas that way.”The harsh reception faced by women is particularly striking because they are also less likely to be invited to present their research in the first place. Women accounted for fewer than a quarter of the economic talks given over recent years, according to another paper. Racial minorities were even more underrepresented: Barely 1 percent of the speakers were Black or Hispanic.“It’s just embarrassingly bad,” said Jennifer Doleac, an economist at Texas A&M University who is one of the study’s authors. Only about 30 talks have been delivered by Black or Latina women since the authors began tracking the data, she noted. “These scholars are just not being invited, ever.”The lack of representation is so significant that Dr. Modestino and her colleagues could not study whether Black and Latino economists were treated differently in seminars than their white counterparts — there were too few examples in their data to analyze.The lack of opportunities has potentially significant career consequences. Research presentations, known as seminars, are an important way that academics, particularly those early in their careers, disseminate their research, build their reputations and get feedback on their work.Seminars play a particular role in economics. In other fields, they tend to be collegial affairs, with mostly respectful questions and few interruptions. In economics, however, they often resemble gladiatorial battles, with audience members vying to poke holes in the presenter’s argument. Seemingly every economist, regardless of gender, has at least one horror story of losing control of a presentation. Many say they have been brought to tears.Most economists acknowledge that there are bad actors who are more interested in scoring debating points than raising legitimate questions. But many defend the field’s culture of aggressiveness, saying it is helpful to get feedback — even critical feedback — from colleagues.“I expect a room full of economists to speak up and have their own opinions and ideas,” said Ioana Marinescu, a University of Pennsylvania economist. “To me, if they’re not asking questions, they might be a little bit zoned out.”Dr. Marinescu recalled a talk she gave at a prestigious conference several years ago, where she, too, faced frequent interruptions. It was terrifying, she said — but also stimulating.“The questions were incessant, but they were awesome questions from the top people in the profession,” she said. “From my perspective, it was one of the best experiences I ever had.”Still, Dr. Marinescu said, reforms are needed. And in recent years, some economists have begun to question the field’s culture of aggressiveness, arguing that it discourages people from entering the field. Several universities have instituted rules meant to cut down on bad behavior, such as banning questions for the first 10 or 15 minutes of a talk so that speakers can get through at least the beginning of their presentations uninterrupted.But Judith Chevalier, a Yale economist who chairs the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, said rules intended to improve seminars wouldn’t address the underlying problems that Dr. Modestino’s research revealed.“Seminars are a public setting — seminars are when they are on their good behavior,” Dr. Chevalier said. “We can’t declare victory even if we fix seminars. We need to re-examine everything. Are we biased when we hire? Are we biased when we mentor? Are we biased in seminars? Are we biased when we promote?”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Dip in Unemployment Claims Offers Hope as New Virus Cases Ease

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesSee Your Local RiskNew Variants TrackerVaccine RolloutAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyDip in Unemployment Claims Offers Hope as New Virus Cases EaseWith restrictions lifting, workers in industries hard hit by the pandemic are getting a respite from layoffs, and job postings are increasing.A closed restaurant at Grand Central Market in Los Angeles. Workers in leisure and hospitality industries have been hit especially hard by job losses during the pandemic.Credit…Philip Cheung for The New York TimesFeb. 11, 2021Updated 5:59 p.m. ETAfter a pandemic-induced spike in layoffs amid new restrictions in many states, unemployment claims are falling, helped by a drop in new coronavirus cases.Initial claims for unemployment benefits declined last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, and were significantly below the level in most of December and early January.New coronavirus cases have fallen by a third from the level of two weeks ago, prompting states like California and New York to relax curbs on indoor dining and other activities. That, in turn, has provided something of a respite for workers in the hardest-hit industries.Last week brought 813,000 new claims for state benefits, compared with 850,000 the previous week. Adjusted for seasonal variations, last week’s figure was 793,000, a decrease of 19,000.There were 335,000 new claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federally funded program for part-time workers, the self-employed and others ordinarily ineligible for jobless benefits. That total, which was not seasonally adjusted, was down from 369,000 the week before.While claims remain extraordinarily high by historical standards, the improvement has raised hopes that layoffs will continue to slow as vaccinations spread and employers shift from shedding workers to adding them.“We’re stuck at this very high level of claims, but activity is picking up,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist with ZipRecruiter, an online employment marketplace. Indeed, job postings at ZipRecruiter stand at 11.3 million, close to the 11.4 million level before the pandemic hit.The improving pandemic situation has eased the strain on restaurants and bars, Ms. Pollak added. But with a deficit of almost 10 million jobs since the pandemic struck, and employers still cautious about hiring, the economy faces broad challenges.Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, told the Economic Club of New York on Wednesday that policymakers should stay focused on restoring full employment, “given the number of people who have lost their jobs and the likelihood that some will struggle to find work in the postpandemic economy.”He noted that employment had dropped just 4 percent for workers earning high wages but “a staggering 17 percent” for the bottom quartile of earners.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    Toll Worker Job Losses Highlight Long-Term Fallout of Pandemic

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesSee Your Local RiskVaccine InformationWuhan, One Year LaterAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyToll Worker Job Losses Highlight Long-Term Fallout of PandemicThe Pennsylvania Turnpike laid off workers to switch to labor-saving technology, in what might be a broader trend.John Mahalis lost his job when the Pennsylvania Turnpike shifted to machine toll collection during the pandemic. Policymakers worry that many workers may face a similar technology-driven fate.Credit…Kriston Jae Bethel for The New York TimesFeb. 4, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETJohn Mahalis of Philadelphia was two and a half months from his pension’s vesting when he learned that he would be permanently laid off from his job as a toll collector on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The news was a gut punch; Mr. Mahalis said it would leave him less able to financially weather retirement.“It came out of the blue,” said Mr. Mahalis, 65. He had worked for the turnpike for five years after 20 years of unemployment due to an injury he sustained as a dockworker. He had loved the work, especially interacting with customers, and earned good money: By taking as much overtime as he could get, he made about $53,000 a year, along with benefits.“It was the best thing I ever did,” he said. “I felt like a man again.”The job evaporated overnight when the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, decided in June to move up its plan to lay off nearly 500 toll workers and replace them with electronic tolling. Dismissals planned for early 2022 instead went into effect immediately, a move that the commission said would help the system financially accommodate weaker traffic during the economic downturn.The United States may be witnessing the bleeding edge of a labor force shuffle that often occurs during recessions: Employers who have been forced to cut workers turn to existing or new technology to carry on with less labor. But this time the shift could be magnified by a wave of forced layoffs at the start of the pandemic and by the fact that demand in some cases came back before employees safely could.That has created a big incentive for employers to figure out how to produce more with fewer workers, powered by new technologies that allow for more automation.Layoffs have shifted from temporary to permanent as the pandemic has dragged on, and many workers have moved to the sidelines of the labor market as service jobs in particular — everything from conference centers and hotels to tollbooths — are downsized or streamlined. It is unclear how quickly workers facing firings will find new jobs that are good substitutes in terms of skills and salaries.“We’re learning that technology can replace people even more than we thought, and some of that is happening,” Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, said at a news conference last week. “We’re still going to need to keep people in mind whose lives have been disrupted because they’ve lost the work that they did.”Technology adoption can lead to faster productivity growth — or at least a one-time bounce — that might improve the economy’s potential. But it can be difficult for laid-off workers to move into new jobs that pay as well and fit their qualifications.“This story isn’t new,” said Nela Richardson, the chief economist at ADP, the payroll-processing company. “There was always a question about what to do about those left behind by technology and globalization that was never answered.”The Pennsylvania Turnpike offers a stark example. Its workers knew that machines would eventually make them obsolete, but they thought they would have time to prepare.Faye Townsend, 50, was on a trial period at the turnpike’s administrative building, working a job that she hoped would lead to an even more secure one before the switch to cashless tolls. When the coronavirus crisis began, she was sent back to the road system but not allowed into the tollbooth. Instead, she and her colleagues spent worried days clocking in, sanitizing the building and waiting to learn whether and when they could return to collecting.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    Why Are There So Few Black Economists at the Fed?

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Jobs CrisisCurrent Unemployment RateWhen the Checks Run OutThe Economy in 9 ChartsThe First 6 MonthsJ. Monroe Gamble IV pushed for changes to the hiring process at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.Credit…Christopher Smith for The New York TimesSkip to contentSkip to site indexWhy Are There So Few Black Economists at the Fed?Monroe Gamble became the San Francisco Fed’s first Black research assistant in 2018. His path shows why fixing a striking diversity shortfall will take commitment.J. Monroe Gamble IV pushed for changes to the hiring process at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.Credit…Christopher Smith for The New York TimesSupported byContinue reading the main storyFeb. 2, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETWASHINGTON — J. Monroe Gamble IV was the first Black research assistant to work at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. He started in 2018.That one data point speaks to a broader reality: Even as America’s central bank dedicates research and attention to racial economic outcomes and publicly champions inclusion, it has had a poor record of building a work force that looks like the population it is meant to serve.Many parts of the Fed system, which includes the Federal Reserve Board in Washington and 12 regional banks, began to concentrate more intently on diversifying their heavily white economics staffs only within the last decade, prompted in part by the 2010 Dodd Frank Act, which pushed the board to hire more broadly. When it comes to employing Black economists in particular, the central bank still falls short.Officials have often blamed the pipeline — Ph.D. economists are heavily white and Asian — but a New York Times analysis suggests the issue goes even beyond that. Black people are less represented within the Fed than in the field as a whole. Only two of the 417 economists, or 0.5 percent, on staff at the Fed’s board in Washington were Black, as of data the Fed provided last month. Black people make up 13 percent of America’s population and 3 to 4 percent of the U.S. citizens and permanent residents who graduate as Ph.D. economists each year.Practices that favor job candidates with similar life experiences and those from elite economics programs, which are often heavily white, have sometimes prevented diverse hiring, current and former employees said. A brash culture can make some parts of the central bank unwelcoming, which can lower retention. More

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    Up to 30 Million in U.S. Have the Skills to Earn 70% More, Researchers Say

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyUp to 30 Million in U.S. Have the Skills to Earn 70% More, Researchers SayThe findings point to the potential of upward mobility for people without a college degree.Microsoft is one of the major companies that have pledged to adopt skills-based hiring for many jobs, often dropping a college degree requirement.Credit…Stuart Isett for The New York TimesBy More