Joshua Gans is an economist at the University of Toronto. He has appeared on this blog before and, as the author of Parentonomics: An Economist Dad Looks at Parenting, was featured in our podcast “The Economist’s Guide to Parenting.” He has a long-standing interest in the economics of science as well as studies of the economics profession. He is also a long-standing member of the American Economic Association. On that last note, he has written a thoughtful essay that wonders if the candidates standing for AEA elections should be required, or at least encouraged, to be more forthcoming about what they’d stand for if elected.
Should We Learn More About AEA Candidates?
By Joshua Gans
It is that time of year when the 18,000 members of the American Economic Association (AEA) receive their ballots to vote for the society’s leadership. I have been voting in AEA elections for 25 years and the information provided is always the same. There is a voting sheet and then a pamphlet listing the bios of each candidate (e.g., significant publications, awards and administrative positions held) and a photo of each (see here). This is not a lot of information to go on. In my younger days, when I had little personal information on the candidates I would choose on their basis of their work, whether they are close to my field of interest (macro vs. micro, theory vs. empirical), and perhaps whether their politics matched my own.
These days I know many of the candidates both professionally and personally, and so now I factor into the equation whether I think they will be good leaders of the AEA. This may be correlated with the information in their bios but it is not a given. Very often I have found those who are less widely known in the public to have thoughtful ideas about the AEA and economics profession. That gives rise to a natural question: should we know more about AEA candidates than is presented to us formally? Read More »
All nine nominees for office in the American Economic Association are from private universities, all from states on an ocean. (All but one member of the Nominating Committee was also on a coast.) Two are friends of mine, and all are good people, but: isn’t this evidence of reverse discrimination? Surely there are scholars from public universities, or from the several top-ten non-coastal private schools, who are at least as qualified.
Like others, we economists favor those like us. That’s the bad news—and it’s been shown in conferring other honorifics (Hamermesh and Schmidt, 2003). The good news is that, where it really matters—in judging scholarly papers for publication—economists are remarkably fair (Blank, 1991; Abrevaya and Hamermesh, 2012), ignoring an author’s affiliation, gender or prior reputation.
Given human nature of helping one’s friends, perhaps we should be congratulated for indulging ourselves only where it’s not important.