next steps, these won’t be easy

Whew! this macromom has been busy and not writing here recently. Never fear, the survey is out (do watch the video, and use the data) and my research is humming along  (eight coauthors really can span sets) and I’ve got a few hours before my kids get back home today.

#icymi I want to share some recent developments on diversity in economics. AND to talk about the (tough) next steps ahead of us.

“The AEA Executive Committee recently adopted the AEA Code of Professional Conduct as revised by the Ad Hoc Committee to Consider a Code based on more than 200 comments received from the AEA membership. “

The American Economics Association now has a professional code of conduct. If you are an economist, read it and LIVE IT:

The American Economic Association holds that principles of professional conduct should guide economists in academia, government, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector.

The AEA’s founding purpose of “the encouragement of economic research” requires intellectual and professional integrity. Integrity demands honesty, care, and transparency in conducting and presenting research; disinterested assessment of ideas; acknowledgement of limits of expertise; and disclosure of real and perceived conflicts of interest.

The AEA encourages the “perfect freedom of economic discussion.” This goal requires an environment where all can freely participate and where each idea is considered on its own merits. Economists have a professional obligation to conduct civil and respectful discourse in all forums, including those that allow confidential or anonymous participation.

The AEA seeks to create a professional environment with equal opportunity and fair treatment for all economists, regardless of age, sex, gender identity and expression, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, health condition, marital status, parental status, genetic information, political affiliation, professional status, or personal connections.

Economists have both an individual responsibility for their own conduct, and a collective responsibility to promote professional conduct. These responsibilities include developing institutional arrangements and a professional environment that promote free expression concerning economics. These responsibilities also include supporting participation and advancement in the economics profession by individuals from all backgrounds, including particularly those that have been historically underrepresented.

The AEA strives to promote these principles through its activities.

See my earlier blog posts (here and here) on the proposed code of conduct. Happy to see a few of my suggestion made it into the final draft, though it is largely in the original (very good) form. Kudos to the 200 economists out of 20,000 AEA members who sent in suggestions. (Seriously, to the rest of you, I love you but come on … public goods don’t create themselves.) See the final report in April from this ad hoc committee (#5 made me smile, “fair treatment” is essential, and “equal” is not always “fair”). Thank you to the committee: John Campbell, Marianne Bertrand, Pascaline Dupas, Benjamin Edelman, and Matthew D. Shapiro.

From this effort, the AEA has formed two new ad hoc committees: 1) on Professional Climate in Economics see their report in April and  2) on Economists’ Career Concerns …and a new standing committee on Equity, Diversity, and Professional Conduct. Thanks to everyone involved. I am doing my small part (and you can too). I spoke at the Women in Economics conference in St. Louis, noted in the report. I am happy to add my two cents on these topics but it makes me a bit uneasy … I have not unlocked the secret to success. I worry A LOT that I am giving bad advice. I want to believe that economics is getting better, more inclusive and welcoming to diverse viewpoints but reality smacks me in the face from time to time.

So next steps. I am in favor of surveys of economists, since I know how much economists LOVE data … but these are not going to be the objective data that we want. He said / she said accounts do not fit well in the representative agent framework and I have seen subjective data criticized more than once. plus HOW MUCH EVIDENCE DO WE NEED TO DETERMINE A PROBLEM? The end of this latest CSWEP newsletter account from Jennifer Bennett Shinall, broke my heart:

“But to my knowledge, the one party who did not get punished was my harasser. He remains out there, unscathed due to the loopholes in our current system, free to harass other victims.”

Remind me again, why I am encouraging young women to enter the economics profession? How much “data” do you all need? And then read the anonymous accounts in that newsletter. AAARGH. You all know how hard economics is. The data, the identification, the communication. And then you’ve got jerks who think of you as boobs or as competition to knock off the platform. Ah, yes, but I should keep an open mind.

I want to close this post with an excellent point from Abigail Wozniak. She nailed the next steps, in my opinion. As a profession we have some very difficult conversations ahead of us. No amount of data can spare us. Read this discussion (with the Arrested Development cast) and find yourself.

“TAMBOR And I have, and am continuing to do. And I profusely have apologized. Ms. Walter is indeed a walking acting lesson. And on “Transparent,” you know, I had a temper and I yelled at people and I hurt people’s feelings. And that’s unconscionable, and I’m working on it and I’m going to put that behind me, and I love acting.

BATEMAN Again, not to belittle it or excuse it or anything, but in the entertainment industry it is incredibly common to have people who are, in quotes, “difficult.” And when you’re in a privileged position to hire people, or have an influence in who does get hired, you make phone calls. And you say, “Hey, so I’ve heard X about person Y, tell me about that.” And what you learn is context. And you learn about character and you learn about work habits, work ethics, and you start to understand. Because it’s a very amorphous process, this sort of [expletive] that we do, you know, making up fake life. It’s a weird thing, and it is a breeding ground for atypical behavior and certain people have certain processes.

SHAWKAT But that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. And the point is that things are changing, and people need to respect each other differently.

WALTER [THROUGH TEARS] Let me just say one thing that I just realized in this conversation. I have to let go of being angry at him. He never crossed the line on our show, with any, you know, sexual whatever. Verbally, yes, he harassed me, but he did apologize. I have to let it go. [Turns to Tambor.] And I have to give you a chance to, you know, for us to be friends again.”

Personally, I alternate between Walter (still dealing with the anger in my earlier post) and Shawkat (trying to convince macro men they are hurting others, regardless their intentions). I have also been Bateman on occasion, making excuses for others and the profession. And I cannot tell you HOW MANY Batemans I have spoken to. It’s me, being too sensitive. Me, not understanding how our field works. Me. needing to cut some jerk slack. Me, not appreciating how rough it was thirty years ago. Okay. But what about them? I would MUCH rather be doing economics. I do not like personal conflict, and frankly there are much bigger problems out in the world. And it hurts to see my ‘economics heroes’ being so callous. Even so, we have to have these discussions, or else the code of conduct will be a hollow victory. And nothing will change.

PS. Let’s not make this too hard. We all have had the experience of going all in on a conclusion to then realize its not the right one. Thanks for Beatrice Cherrier for this Paul Samuelson revelation. Look “Ruefully, yours” is not the optimal outcome but it’s way better than digging your heels and being an idiot. Don’t be stupid.



Author: Claudia Sahm

economist - my views here are my own