A thread on virtual seminars, econ terminology, and inclusivity in the profession.

I recently had the fortune to attend a fantastic virtual seminar. The paper was excellent and the speaker was a wonderful economist and person. But, as it often does in applied micro, 1/7
the discussion turned to the issue of selection--in this particular context, whether immigrants from various countries are "low-skill" and "negatively selected". This is standard econ talk and many of us are so used to it that we don't think twice about it. 2/7
But then I thought about how this discussion--which was loudly transpiring on zoom on my computer--must have sounded to our immigrant nanny who cares for our 6-month-old a few feet away from me while I work from home. This language is awkward at best and offensive at worst. 3/7
I know it's just terminology and we do not assign normative judgments with these terms. But, as we think about how to make this profession more inclusive, we must acknowledge that the "bread & butter" terms in our jargon are not equally neutral to all 4/7
and can be off-putting and unwelcoming to precisely the groups that are historically under-represented in this profession. I know that changing terminology will not solve all of the many problems in econ, but it's a small step we can take if we want to welcome students 5/7
from diverse backgrounds into our classes and make them feel like they are valued and included. On a personal note, as an immigrant myself, I have always found the "negative"/"positive" selection of immigrants discussion a bit uncomfortable. 6/7
But I've gotten used to it as standard econ talk. But when I asked our nanny about her reaction, she said "maybe you should say something about this". So this is me following her advice and urging us in econ to think more about our jargon and how it affects others. 7/7

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