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.

Job lising of the month

I’m wrapping up my job-applying, at least for the big pre-December 1 deadline push, and am now mostly in the process of looking back at jobs I didn’t apply for in places I’d really like to live. Unsurprisingly, Denver is one of the places, and despite an apparent hiring spree by Colorado schools this year, I’m not a particularly good fit for the faculty positions that are open.

I’m curious, though, if there’s actually anyone who fits this University of Denver opening for an assistant professor of Economics: “Must show promise of distinction in research and publications in the fields of the Chinese economy, environmental economics, and feminist economics.” (emphasis mine.)

Not just heterodox, but feminist, examining questions of environment, and concentrated in an area where those that run the economy are largely indifferent to both feminist and environmental concerns. It kind of boggles the mind. I’m really curious to see who they end up hiring. In fact, I’d like to meet her; she sounds like a rockstar.

Job listing of the month

I’m late to this as the website was down yesterday and the first two weeks of school have taken up tons of my time, but today’s telling job posting comes from Facebook.

Facebook is seeking exceptional PhD-level graduates in the quantitative social sciences for analytical roles in support of its advertising business and products. Analysts develop expertise in Big Data analysis and of Facebook’s advertising operations and products to provide recommendations fueled by detailed analysis and thoughtful modeling of future scenarios. They work cross-functionally with Product, Engineering and Business teams and help shape the future of Facebook. Ideal candidates combine intellectual curiosity and analytical abilities with strong time management and communication skills and a passion for Facebook.

See! They are trying to make money. And they think that an economist should tell them how to do it.

Menlo Park wouldn’t be so bad, right?

An abstract

Tuesday was Equal Pay Day, and appropriately, I met with the Vice-Provost to negotiate my contract for next year. He only wanted to give me a one-year contract the first time around, despite knowing that the Economics department needed me and wanted me for two years, so clearly, I was going negotiate again.

Through the course of our discussion, I began to get a little nervous about upcoming calls for papers, conference deadlines and the looming market. As I have told a few of you, I will be on the market again in the Fall, attending the American Economic Association meetings in San Diego in January, and filling out ridiculous numbers of applications as the year comes to a close. There’s lots to be done, but also lots to finish up–getting my dissertation out–and lots to start–new papers!

So, I’m trying to get some papers out and I think I’m close to getting this one done. It’s so hard sometimes, because it’s really so easy just to keep editing, keep running regressions and keep looking for other things to do. But I like this paper. I hope some editor does, too. Hopefully, next week I can share the whole things with you.

Abstract for “Match Quality and Maternal Investments in Children”, Working Paper, April 2012, Erin K Fletcher.

Marriage advocates suggest that the unstable environment caused by divorce can have adverse effects on children’s educational and behavioral outcomes. However, the causal assignment of poor outcomes to the divorce itself fails to take into account relationship quality and heterogeneity in place before or in the absence of divorce. I explore the link between heterogeneity of relationship quality and investments in children. I show that women who report less satisfaction in their relationships spend less time reading with their children. I test various theoretical mechanisms by which we would expect women to decrease their investments in a child using additional information about the match including argument frequency and whether the union dissolves in the future. The anticipation of a union’s dissolution is associated with a decrease in investments in children while the relationship is intact, but argument frequency and mother’s estimation of the father’s character do not have a significant correlation. The results suggest that subjective measures tell a more complete story about investments in children than indicated by future union status, argument frequency or parental quality.

Have a great weekend!

Fads and RCTs and the job market

I spoke with a colleague last week whose university is hiring in Development this year. I was surprised, though perhaps I shouldn’t have been, that of six candidates they are flying out, five have job market papers using Randomized Control Trials. Maybe that’s an area that their department is trying to fill and thus that’s the kind of faculty they are interviewing, but it seemed odd along with a comment from another job market candidate.

A friend on the market, in development, told me that she felt she was having a hard time selling herself as a development economist. Without an RCT (and the requisite cash that accompanies these very-expensive projects), she didn’t feel like she was getting even enough attention to get a job. Her plan is to find a new line of research using US data in the next year to go on as a Labor economist.

I realize these are two very specific examples and might not be indicative of the market as a whole, but I do think that fads in economics are both fascinating and problematic. No single theoretical or empirical response to data issues is a panacea, and I wonder if we are putting too much stock in RCTs–and thus in those who were lucky enough or prescient enough–to get into them early. There’s still a lot of value in survey data, I think, and I hope we don’t lose those important results because of a love affair with RCTs.