Women in Economics

Tyler and I are very pleased to announce a new series at MRU, Women in Economics.

Women in Economics highlights the groundbreaking and inspiring work of female economists – not only to recognize the important work they’ve done but to also share their inspirational journeys.

Our first major video on Elinor Ostrom will be released on February 12 followed by videos on Janet Yellen (featuring Christina Romer and Ben Bernanke), Anna Schwartz (featuring Claudia Goldin), Joan Robinson and more. We also have some more informal “mini-testimonials” discussing the work of some major contemporary economists who have been inspirational. In the video below I discuss the work of Petra Moser. (I should have cleaned my office.)

Tyler and I also want to take a moment to thank the fantastic team at MRU for a huge amount of creativity, inspiration and hard work in putting this series together. Lots of thanks and appreciation to Roman Hardgrave, Alexandra Tooley, Mary Clare Peate, Brandon Davis, Justin Dile, Lindsay Moss and William Nava. You too can join the team!

More here.


The Univ. of Chicago awarded its first Ph.D. to a woman (Edith Abbott) in 1905. The first woman admitted to Harvard Medical School (Fe del Mundo) was in 1936, but it was by mistake: she was a Filipino and the medical school mistook the name on the application as that of a male and didn't discover the mistake until she showed up at the college. Females weren't officially (i.e., purposely) admitted to Harvard Medical School until over ten years later. My point is that economics may have lagged in accepting women into the profession, but economics wasn't alone. Europe accepted women earlier. Mary Paley Marshall was one of the first five women permitted to study at Cambridge University, and became the first female lecturer in economics at the university, in the year 1875. Closer to home, my grandmother (and my inspiration) graduated from medical school in 1898 (she was born in 1868), from Women's Medical College of Philadelphia, where women could study medicine, and then had to go to Europe (Berlin, Vienna, and London) to train in her specialty because no medical center in the U.S. would accept women. In the meantime, three of her brothers graduated from Harvard (not in medicine) and her brother who also was a physician was trained at Johns Hopkins. One can imagine the family discussions among these five overachievers on the role of and opportunities for women. Cowen and Tabarrok deserve much credit for their work in recognizing the achievements of women in economics. Here is a list of 13 stars: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/11/13-women-who-transformed-the-world-of-economics/

Rayward; that was a nice response. A pleasant relief from the usual carping, sniping, off base and off topic responses that are unfortunately typical here. Thanks for sharing.

@Corvus - backhand compliment (i.e., insult) noted.

From the post image, it looks like "Who Are Your Ring # Women Nine Con"-- nine gold-diggers?

no way. is this true?

Note that Corvus did not say carping responses were typical of Rayward...thus it might have been an insult, but it wasn't an insult to anybody specific. I'd classify that more as a complaint about the atmosphere in general (not that I'd agree, this place is far kinder than a lot of places!)

Someday, women will simply be recognized for their contributions just like men are.... without men adding "and wow -- can you believe a female did this? We need to throw a special party for her!"

Looks like it will be a very long time before that day arrives at MR, or GMU, or any other Dem outpost.

"... long time before that day arrives ..."

Not until the Dems find another victim group. So long as they can position themselves as saviours of approximately half the population their power is secure.

I find it odd they spend so much time trying to improve the status if women in Western liberal democracies. That's like setting up a soup kitchen in a gated community.

Well, the conservatiives in the GOP decided white men are the victims and succeeded in electing more white men to the Senate, eliminating 2 uppity persons identified as women.

Or framed in identity politics, the GOP gave unjustified power to white men who are a merely a majority of a minority identity group.

If you're a feminist, this does seem a bit patronizing, doesn't it? How often does anyone refer to published works as 'inspiring?' Not that often, I would wager. Invoking that word in this context almost has the vibe of "wow, she was able to accomplish all this stuff despite being a woman. That's really inspiring!"


Another sign that economics is devolving into sociology. Another step forward, thanks MR!

Can't wait for the second half of the series, "Men in Economics"....

In all my undergraduate lectures I can only once remember a lecturer going out of his way to excoriate a member of his trade: the object of his contempt, even hatred, was Joan Robinson. I take it that she was not a Nice Person? Or was it her work he despised?

In Harry Johnson's essay "Cambridge in the 1950s" (in his book On Economics and Society), Johnson writes extensively about Robinson as both hugely talented and extraordinarily vicious, especially towards Denis Robertson

Thank you: that's probably the explanation then.

(Is this what you meant?

/\ Now that's entertainment!

Apparently Joe Stiglitz was less than fond of Robinson.

Who was elected to establish quotas for women in economics?

I want a recount!

Great initiative.

Would be great if the production team lowered the volume of the background music in the mini-testimonial.

I don't mind the music being there, but the volume is so high compared to the voices that it distracts from the main message.

Ostrom! Ostrom! Ostrom! Give me an E! Give me an L! Give me an I! Give me another N! Give me an O! Give me an R! What's that spell! ELINOR OSTROM!

Either you lower your standards, or go recruiting. Good choice by GMU.

Economics should 'inspire'? This is the dismal science for a reason, my dude.

Gender wars may be a thing in academia, but gender wars at the stadium are far more important to far more people. And, guess what, it's a war being won by . . . . women. Building codes now require teams to provide at least a 2-to-1 female-to-male toilet ratio. My question: were economists consulted in coming up with this precise ratio as the solution to the potty problem at stadiums, and if so, was the solution the result of more female than male economists being consulted? I'm not criticizing the women economists who were consulted and helped come up with the female-favored ratio, but isn't there a perverse incentive here: women take almost twice as much time in the loo than men, so the two-to-one ratio is rewarding women for their slow-moving pace. http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/25894368/inside-taboo-bizarre-revealing-world-stadium-bathrooms-super-bowl-liii-nfl-2018

The reason for the 2-to-1 ratio is pure customer service and efficiency.
Women can't use urinals. If you have the same number of toilets, you end up with lines out the door of the ladies room and/or unused stalls in the men's room. It simply makes economic sense to have more toilets or women. It's not that women are slower. And even if it was, it wouldn't matter. Stadiums need to cater to the needs of their customers.

Also, your own link points out that women have to deal with more issues like pregnancy (make you pee more frequently), menstration (changing tampons and pads), and changing diapers and taking small children to the potty. Thus more time spent in stall. They're not hanging out in there fixing their makeup.

Besides, women don't like sports as much as men and are less likely to be dragged along if they dread standing in line for the bathroom. So you should be grateful for extra bathrooms if you want to bring your wife/girlfriend to a game.

"Stadiums need to cater to the needs of their customers."

So without building codes requiring this ratio, profit-maximizing owners wouldn't install an optimal ratio of male/female toilets? That government, with its one size fits all solution, has more information and incentive to get the ratio right than the stadium builders who pay the price for not properly serving their customers? Have you not learned anything about basic economics after all these years reading MR?

"The reason for the 2-to-1 ratio is pure customer service and efficiency."

+1 to this point


"Building codes now require teams to provide at least a 2-to-1 female-to-male toilet ratio"

This part makes me think that it's not entirely based upon customer service, but to some degree a government mandate.

Well, it probably shouldn't be in building codes, but it still makes economic sense.

Easy fix to all bathroom problems: unisex bathrooms

I hope Deirdre McCloskey makes the cut.

There's a lot going on in your little sentence.

Holy shit! this is the best comment I've read in long time.

That's kinda mean but it's really funny. Which is often true of funny.

congrats on building up your liberal street cred with this!

Per her Wikipedia bio AOC "graduated cum laude from Boston University's College of Arts and Sciences in 2011, majoring in international relations and economics."

Does AOC count as a "woman in economics" or no? Too soon to say?

The BU undergrad program cannot be Harvard's, certo, and if her undergrad career only confirmed her in her socialist idealism, the qualities of the BU program (or her supervision within it) could merit questioning. (Has anyone bothered to quiz her yet on the specific intellectual genealogy of her socialism? [Lots of variety there! Might be nice to know just who her socialist heroes are, especially whether any hail from either the French or the Russian revolutions.])

(Or: if AOC's actual specialty is "international relations", why have we heard next to nothing about her informed foreign policy perspective? Perhaps it is her foreign policy perspective rather than her take on economics that inspired her constituents to send her to DC.)

Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?

Was it Lenin who confessed to someone, "You have to break a few butterflies to butter the toast"? Stalin? One of those other socialist culinary types?

Who knew that mentioning Karen Vaughn, a former chair of the GMU Econ dept, was beyond the pale here?

'Friedrich Hayek’s genius is so broad and deep—and his accent so thick, and his English so interwar-academic—that the video may be hard to watch in one sitting. That’s fine. Here I want to point out something else: the woman who introduces him.

Her name is Karen Vaughn. I had the pleasure of hearing her as a guest lecturer for four classes in Pete Boettke’s History of Economic Thought class. Among her many impressive accomplishments, she was the chair of the economics department at George Mason University from 1982–1989. In this capacity she brought James M. Buchanan’s Center for the Study of Public Choice to George Mason University in 1983 after its difficulties at Virginia Tech. She had previously initiated a deal to locate the Center for the Study of Market Processes, later to be renamed the Mercatus Center, to GMU in 1980.' https://rfmcelroyiii.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/the-woman-who-made-mason-econ-what-it-is/

LOL, you're weird obsession continue's to manifest in these bizarre complaints.

Not sure how to put this to you, but believe it or not, once upon a time, the GMU Econ dept. was run by a woman. One I knew, actually. And though you may have missed it, apparently pointing out her role in creating the GMU Econ dept as it exists today was worth deleting.

Much like how Prof. Tabarrok used to delete all mention of the fact that he is the Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at the Mercatus Center, even though normally, such a position would be considered an honor, and not something to be ashamed of to the pointing of trying to hide any mention of it.

Prof. Vaughn played a major role in creating the department that both Prof. Cowen and Prof. Tabarrok are members of. There is no reason to be embarrassed, one would have thought, that their success, particularly in regards to public choice theory and the broader acclaim that the dept was able to win, is based to a significant extent on her work.

Bravo. Good post. No idea what departmental feuding and politicking lies behind this omission of Vaughn...

"apparently pointing out her role in creating the GMU Econ dept as it exists today was worth deleting. ...like how Prof. Tabarrok used to delete "

I suspect that it's not those specific facts that warrant deletion, but instead the creepy obsessive stalker vibe of the poster making them. Do you have pictures of GMU faculty members on your wall?

Now that women are doing so well - there are no careers legally or culturally closed to women in the west, like there were when I was being raised by my abandoned, single mom - can we start caring about male life expectancy now?

Sure - for example, restricting men from owning firearms would undoubtedly increase male life expectancy in the U.S. by a statistically significant amount.

That's small potatoes.

The gains from a government mandated, enforced and monitored exercise and diet program would be enormous.

Just look at the amazingly effective Venezuelan governmental diet program!

Aw, there you go again, just being silly! Stop that! I know you know guns are responsible for only 10.6 out 100,000 deaths in the US AND I know you know how to do simple division of powers of ten.

You are so funny!


A cause of fatality that involves more than 1 out of every 10,000 Americans, year after year? You did take into account average lifespan when making that simple division, because you seem to have forgotten a factor (even bigger than 10, if you can imagine) that actually matters when talking about life expectancy.

Homicide is overwhelmingly a young man's game, both in terms of killing and of being killed. Suicide is also pretty skewed toward men. So fewer firearms might very well increase male lifespan a bit. The argument against that isn't statistical, its based on some kind of principles about the right to be armed.

"...a bit. The argument against that isn't statistical, its based on some kind of principles about the right to be armed."

In other words, it is ideological. Same is true true for clock's singling out of this one cause of death.

My point is that life expectancy is the ultimate statistic, men fair worse than women, and yet the push for perfect equality of outcome by gender in all desirable careers is an issue that gets orders of magnitude more consideration.

That is not fair.

'or clock's singling out of this one cause of death'

Actually, I picked it out because firearm fatalities skew significantly male. But then, apparently some people just aren't all that concerned that we start caring about male life expectancy now.

Fatal car accidents also tend to skew male, but lots of work has been done in reducing fatality in general in that area. 'Many more men than women die each year in motor vehicle crashes. Men typically drive more miles than women and more often engage in risky driving practices including not using safety belts, driving while impaired by alcohol, and speeding. Crashes involving male drivers often are more severe than those involving female drivers.' https://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/general-statistics/fatalityfacts/gender/2013

Having men become safer drivers would also help, obviously, but fatalities from vehicle accidents in the U.S. continue to decline - unlike the rate of suicides caused by firearms.

(Yes, suicide is complex, single car accidents leading to death are often hard to determine as suicide compared to firearm use, and this subject has been discussed repeatedly here over the years.)

"...because you seem to have forgotten a factor (even bigger than 10, if you can imagine) that actually matters when talking about life expectancy."

Show me, please.

What, that life expectancy is based on how long you live? You are so funny!

Clockwork may be referring to workplace fatalities.
Men account for 93% of them, presumably because they take on riskier jobs. 93% vs. 7% is a ratio of 13 to 1.

You could increase male life expectancy at birth by insisting on proper fencing of back-garden swimming pools. It might work for little girls too.

If you want to extend life by banning things then guns seem small beer compared to cigarettes.

Not to forget that a major cause of death is doctors - maybe they should be banned too.

If someone is truly groundbreaking and inspiring why not just go ahead and feature them without framing an entire series in this manner?

I once worked in a female-heavy industry; I'm wondering what I would think if someone wanted to feature me in a series on "Inspiring Men in Industry X." Like it's not about me, I'm just a means to some ends? I'd still take the bait, I suppose, but it could seem belittling if handled wrong.

I also once wrote for a nearly all-female organization. It was fun to watch them admittedly scrape around in desperation looking for men to feature. And of the many women I profiled, very few wanted to focus on gender issues even if they were in male-heavy situations. (Of course a female writer might elicit different results).

If women en masse are somehow reshaping economics, address those trends. But treat individuals as individuals.

Because it is about signalling.

'If someone is truly groundbreaking and inspiring why not just go ahead and feature them without framing an entire series in this manner? '

Absolutely. Can you imagine a series along the lines of 'Great American Economists,' 'Great British Economists,' or 'Great German Economists.' Sounds not only condescending, but ignores the contributions of great economists by putting them into such seemingly demeaning groupings.

Those would be very short series unless you use "great" in the same sense as sports commentators.

If you cannot name 5 great economists from each of those nations (or in the case of Germany, more like the German speaking world), well, there is a book contract waiting to be had, quite possibly.

Admittedly, I decided not to add France, especially as someone like John Law would be hard to accurately place, considering that it was mainly France directly blessed with his insights.

You should invite Larry Summers to discuss why there are few Economic Scientists.

Love it - particularly as there are no Economic Scientists at all.

I meant to say Women Economic Scientists.

True, but there seems to be a shortage of Scientific Scientists too. "And that too shall pass away" as my father used to say, quoting I know not whom.

WKPD says the old boy was quoting Persian Sufi poets. I should have guessed.

Pears Before Swine explained it nicely on their 1969 album:

There was a Persian king
Who wanted to know
What he could say on
Every occasion
That always would be so ...

The wise men thought so hard
For a night and day
Found these words to say on
Every occasion
"These things too shall pass away"

Pearls Before Swine, I should say for the record

I thought "Pears Before Swine" was pretty good. You should copyright it.

People are a mixture of hormones and neurons. Hormones direct actions in a direction which may not be directed by neurons. Because female hormones direct in a different way to male hormones, females in any discipline can provide constructive input that is different from males, and I would have thought that economics is no different.

Ha! Ha! Ha!
I mis-read your opening line as,
"People are a mixture of hormones and neuroses . . ."

More seriously, I'm currently reading Kahneman's "Thinking Fast and Slow." I can't help but wonder if hormones aren't a significant nudge-factor shaping system I responses.

I tried to post a comment with a quote from a female scientist about women in science and academia and it can't get past Tyler's censor, even after modifying the f-word in the quote. It is a perfectly credible quote from a credible scientist, highly relevant to the issue of women in science, and it can't be posted here.

That is sad.

The filters are what they are - but it may be possible to post the actual link, not that most loyal MR commenters ever bother to read any links.

I did have to look up Deirdre McCloskey

You're joking, I presume.

Let's highlight the journey and contributions for every non white male subgroup.

Some real triggered snowflakes in the comments here. Sad!

beware of your incoming GPA "gap"!

When is Stephanie Kelton up?

This is cool I guess... It just feels somewhat contrived in light of the hoo-ha about female economists lately. Where was this a year ago?

As a woman, I appreciate your efforts to introduce readers to women obscured by history. MR could also address subjects that were once considered unserious or low brow because they were introduced by minorities. Ideas relegated to other disciplines such as sociology, psychology, or philosophy to dignify economic “intellectuals”. Issues that were less important when women worked primarily in the house (e.g. menstruation, breastfeeding, child care, housework). Invite female economists to guest blog. I would also urge that MR continue this project with other marginalized communities.

Well said.
Economics benefits if significant work previously out-of-sight gets high-lighted.

A contributor might be out-of-sight either because those contributors were unseen for lack of high-profile publication outlets (I'm thinking of imagined insightful writers in S.E. Asia, Africa, or Latin America) or unseen because biased viewers did not expect to see them and so did not look (women fitting especially into this second category).

May I nominate Mary Parker Follett? She is primarily thought of as a very early management & organization theorist. But her work is so long ago (mostly pre-WW-One) that it arguably had an influence on subsequent 20th century economic thought. She *was* one of the first women ever invited to address the London School of Economics,

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