Oh, the wiki

When I went on the job market for the first time two years ago, I was advised not to consult the economics job market rumors forum. Given that I had no idea what it was, I immediately went and consulted it, only to have my spirit broken by the rank misogyny, stress, and trolling that dominated the forum. EJMR is still full of a lot of that crap, but it’s growing up in a way that I think has the potential to be beneficial to economists and the economics profession.

In particular, EJMR this year redid “the wiki”, or the crowd-sourced table of calls made to applicants on the job market each November and December. The redesign, and incorporation into the EJMR framework, has actually been incredibly user-friendly and informative. Yes, it sucks to hear that Dream University XYZ called someone and didn’t call you, but it’s really nice not to be waiting for them to call anymore. It’s anonymous, but usually updated incredibly rapidly. I’ve received emails or phone calls and went to check the wiki within minutes and seen it updated already.

More proof that EJMR has grown up a bit comes in the form of the recently added journal wiki, which I think is absolutely brilliant. Economics, from what I know, suffers from one of the longest (and most excruciating) publishing cycles in academia. My astrophysicist friends complain that their papers take eight months to get out and my eyes pop of my head. Try two years. Or three. The wiki itself is still kind of a jumble of information and lacks a good way to aggregate data. For instance, it would be useful to be able to find mean and median response times and see the number of entries for a given journal. The data is easily copied and pasted into Excel, so one could feasibly take all the information for a given journal and perform those quick data summaries oneself. Though it would strip away some of the anonymity, it would also be nice to know where those papers were eventually published. But perhaps I’m asking too much.

The journal wiki is similar to the jobs wiki in that it’s anonymous, crowd-sourced, and voluntary. The big difference is that while one school made 20-30 phone calls and only one person had to post the outcome, each journal submission and rejection is separate. You can’t rely on another person’s entering your rejection. The journal wiki poses a larger free-rider problem because each of piece of information is only controlled by a single individual (or author group). I imagine that despite the collective action problem, it will still gets high levels of participation. In fact, it’s already quite filled out and has only been up a few days.

I’m all for more information. I’m all for making publishers and referees more accountable. I also wonder if it won’t push some better papers to lesser known journals. With a clear time-to-publication advantage, lower-ranked journals could attract better papers and upset the hegemonic closed circle that tends to dominate the highly ranked, very slow to publish journals. It could also damn those papers to obscurity, but it will be interesting to see if it has any effect on overall response times and time-to-publication.

Chapter 2

I’m going a little out of order here because I’m trying to deal with something random on my first chapter that arose this week.

The second chapter of my dissertation has to do with expectations, incidentally the unifying theme of this year’s Nobel Prize in Economics.

Believe me, I’m not there.

In this chapter, (chapter2_health) I show that a mother’s expectations of financial support from her child’s father influence how she invests in her child’s health. In the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing survey, women are asked a the birth of their child whether the father promised financial support. Around the child’s first birthday, they are asked when the child last went to the doctor and for long they breastfed. Interestingly, the promise of financial support is a significant predictor of whether the last doctor’s visit was in the last three months, but the effect is much more pronounced for black women. For white women, the promise of financial support is a significant predictor of how long a woman breastfed.

When I started this paper, I imagined I would be addressing a simple problem of financial (doctor’s visits) versus non-financial (breastfeeding) investments. The promise of support would make you feel richer and thus more likely to invest where you might feel constrained financially.

It turns out, however, that the effect is much more complicated that. The differences by race, which are largely differences of SES and class given the sampling strategy, indicate that a promise of support likely means very different things to people in different circumstances. The lack of distinction in terms of affecting financial versus non-financial investments also indicates that the question likely has a psychological or cultural angle that is not captured by the question itself.

In short, be careful with questions about expectations.

Dissertation

There is a large debate in the economics community about the value of putting out working papers. When a working paper creates significant buzz, whether in the media, on twitter, or even just among economists, the conclusions in the paper take hold. That first impression is shown to be very persistent, even when a later version of the paper comes up with opposite results.

At least as long as I’ve had this blog, I’ve had a note on my research page saying that links to working papers are forthcoming. I’ve completed my dissertation and am working on revising the chapters to submit to journals. I’m fairly certain that the big picture of these papers isn’t going to change and my advisors were insistent that each of my chapters was very close to that point. Consequently, revisions are small at this point, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t benefit from a little help from the internets.

Over the next few weeks, I will post each of the chapters of my dissertation here. Comments, suggestions, typos, criticism, etc. are welcome.