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There’s been much discussion in recent days about Economics’ race problem. Some of what has come out is quite disturbing. I have not said much, but I have listened and thought. Here are a few reflections I want to add. +
It doesn’t surprise me that the field, as a whole, reflects the ingrained attitudes and practices of the society of which it is part. But there are some features of the discipline that magnify and aggravate the problem. +
First, Economics is clubby. While good research does get recognized, the ability to produce it depends on networks. If you don’t start with the networks in place–a PhD from a top dept, a well-recognized advisor--you start with a significant handicap difficult to overcome.
Second, the field is hierarchical. Even if you are in the right networks, you feel you are constantly being ranked. As a result even top economists are a weirdly insecure bunch. This self-absorption reduces the generosity & mentoring that junior members of the profession receive.
Third, there are too many jerks in the discipline. Reputation hangs on your publications, and if you are doing well there relative to your peer group – which could be the profession as a whole or simply your own department–you get away with a lot of awful personal behavior. +
Given the clubbiness, hierarchy, and jerk quotient it's not surprising so many people, especially people of color and women, feel slighted & discriminated against. Only way things can change is by discussing these problems openly and instilling new norms of behavior +
which is why this discussion is so important. We all have responsibilities here--but change must start with senior scholars. I'm grateful to all who have spoken out – sometimes at some risk to their career – and made us all so much more conscious of the urgency of the task. END
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