Best Practices for Economists

This site presents best practices for economists in four areas of professional conduct. Click on the buttons to find practical suggestions for implementation and supporting research and resources. Please cite this resource as: Bayer, Amanda, Şebnem Kalemli-Özcan, Rohini Pande, Cecilia Elena Rouse, Anthony A. Smith Jr., Juan Carlos Suárez Serrato, and David W. Wilcox. 2019. Best Practices for Economists: Building a More Diverse, Inclusive, and Productive Profession. American Economic Association.

The Econ Seminar Diversity project, fueled by undergraduate students, graduate students, and predoctoral research assistants, is gathering data from department websites on how often economics research seminars feature women and URM economists. Currently, 2 percent of the more than 3,000 speakers in their data are URM, compared with 8 percent of economics faculty (Doleac and Pancotti 2019).

The Diversifying Economics Seminars Speakers List, developed by CSMGEP in cooperation with CSQIEP and CSWEP, provides a growing database of URM, LGBTQ+, and women speakers by field. For additional assistance in finding diverse speakers, contact senior women and underrepresented minority economists and circulate invitations to members of the American Society for Hispanic Economists and the National Economic Association. You can reach junior economists from diverse backgrounds through the AEA Summer and Scholarship Programs, the CSMGEP Mentoring Program, the Summer Economic Fellows Program, the CeMENT Mentoring Program, and the Diversity Initiative for Tenure in Economics. Listening to the perspectives of women and URM economists helps strengthen your understanding and your research.

Building a diverse network of researchers works best when done in advance of an event. Conference organizers may attempt to redress a lack of diversity by inviting women and URM economists at the last minute. These last-minute invitations are usually not a good fit for the invitees and can end up being a burden. A better practice to ensure diverse research activities is to be intentional about building a diverse network of contacts. Oftentimes this will involve reading more broadly and reaching out personally, on an ongoing basis, to women and URM economists.

David Romer and Justin Wolfers at the Brookings Institution (Romer and Wolfers 2018) report that “being disorganized or rushed had negative consequences for gender equity.” More specifically, “in cases when our procrastination meant that we had to scramble to find a last-minute discussant, or our failure to notice that an author was not going to produce an acceptable paper in time meant we had to try to solicit a paper very late in the process, we tended to go with the first names that came to mind or to turn to people with whom we had personal connections. Unfortunately, those people were generally men. A behavioral economist might link this to ‘availability bias,’ and we suspect the greater availability of men’s names reflects both a personal element—we are both men—and a systemic one—we are in a male-dominated profession.

Another way conferences can expand inclusivity is to offer childcare, especially when they are held on weekends. Alternatively, organizers can publicize a list of babysitters used by local faculty or recruit undergraduate students as babysitters. Conferences should offer a clean, private area for nursing mothers to pump breast milk. If possible, they should also provide space for older children. Organizers should budget to make attendance affordable and practicable for all potential participants.