On Thursday, Janet Yellen gave a speech at the Fed about how more diversity among economists might have helped them figure out some of history’s most recent economic crises.
That’s obviously impossible to know. But we can be pretty sure that diversity matters.
After the speech, Ann Mari May, an economics professor at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln contacted Business Insider to let us know that she and a team of colleagues recently published a paper confirming that gender does matter in economics: women in the profession are likely to hold different beliefs than their male colleagues, even controlling for place of current employment and decade of Ph.D.
The sample size in the study is small but the key point is that, all (well, most) else being equal, female economists seem to have slightly different views on how the economy should work. They aren’t hugely different, but they clearly reflect the idea that these women, who are just as smart and just as well-trained and just as capable as their male colleagues, look at the world from a slightly different angle. And that’s worth digging into.
Summing it up, May told us, “Generally speaking, women in our study were less likely to favour limiting government-backed redistribution than men and were far more likely to view gender inequality as a problem in the labour market, and were more likely to favour government intervention over market solutions.”
How different were the women’s views? The paper notes that, “the mean views of women economists on government spending, taxing, and redistribution and on gender inequality are both approximately one standard deviation away from the mean opinion of male economists.”
This isn’t a well-studied phenomenon, so there isn’t a lot of other data to back this up. But May did do a follow up study of European economists that hasn’t yet been published.
Here’s the full paper: