21 Dec 21 | News

New paper examines gender differences in the economics profession and the impact PhD students have with their selection

The early career choices of PhD students have implications for gender differences in subsequent career growth and development

A new LISER working paper “Gender Differences in Economics PhD Field Specializations with Correlated Choices” by researchers Eva Sierminska (LISER) and Ronald L. Oaxaca (University of Arizona) models the process of field specialisation choice among beginning economists. In the study the authors find that if women and men had more similar characteristics they would be less likely to select fields of specialisation where they dominate (e.g. more in top schools, more equal salaries). Among beginning economists, women and men tend to specialize in different subfields of economics with women tending to focus on health and labour market issues and men focusing on financial/monetary subjects.

In an attempt to shed light on the causes for this, the authors look to answer these central questions: what role does the Phd Programme process play in choosing a field specialisation in PhD economics?
Are women and men drawn to certain fields due to environmental or economic factors? These early career choices will have implications for gender differences in subsequent career growth and development.

Using the latest data from the American Economic Association and Academic Analytics, as well as web scraping, the authors use an innovative decision-making model in order to explicitly take into account that  economists  have more than one field of specialization and that field choices are correlated. They also provide a better understanding of why relatively more women are labour economists and relatively more men are macro-economists.

This work has been generously funded by the Alfred Sloan Foundation. We plan to continue this research to study the impact of field choice on career trajectories and promotion gaps, as well as to include the ethnicity component in this work. We also plan to extend this research to the European case.
- Eva Sierminska

We model the process of field specialization choice among beginning economists within a multivariate logit framework that accommodates single and dual primary field specializations and incorporates correlations among field specialization choices. Conditioning on personal, economic, and institutional variables reveals that women graduate students are less likely to specialize in Labor/Health, Macro/Finance, Industrial Organization, Public Economics, and Development/Growth/International and are more likely to specialize in Agricultural/Resource/Environmental Economics. Field-specific gender faculty ratios and expected relative salaries as well as economics department rankings are significant factors for gender doctoral specialization dissimilarity. Preferences and characteristics contribute about equally to field specialization dissimilarity.

Discover the paper here