Sunday, January 14, 2018

Social Justice Warriors Attack Top Harvard Economist Greg Mankiw

Perhaps the greatest economics textbook salesman ever, Harvard professor Greg Mankiw took to his blog page to defend the fact that he mostly references men in his best selling textbooks:

The above graphic, from today's NY Times, is intended to show bias in economics textbooks. I am not so sure that is the right interpretation.

In the world, only 4 percent of CEOs (of Fortune 500 companies) are women, so does the figure of 6 percent shown above demonstrate underrepresentation of women in textbooks or an accurate reflection of reality? Similarly, policymakers mentioned in texts are most often Presidents or Fed chairs. Historically, only one woman has been a member of this group. Economists mentioned in texts are most often important historical figures (Smith, Ricardo, Keynes) or prominent modern economists, such as Nobel laureates. Once again, 8 percent is higher than for the population being sampled.

To be sure, the role of women in society is changing, and in some circles there is some bias. But measuring the amount of bias is hard. The graphic above is not a useful gauge.

Mankiw then added this snide remark:
Or maybe in my next edition, I should add a discussion of Paulina Volcker's disinflation.
This sent the social justice warriors into heat and caused Mankiw to make this addition to his post:

Update: Some twitter commentators seemed to misinterpret my cheeky last line. At the risk of being pedantic, let me explain: Textbooks reflect reality, which includes a history in which men played a larger role than women in some spheres of life. If a history professor were to write a text on the history of presidential politics, and you were to find that there were more mentions of men than women in the book, would that be evidence that the historian is biased? I don't think so. The writer has to reflect what occurred and is not free to change the gender of historical protagonists.

Of course, Mankiw is correct. He can't reference female historical economists that don't exist. He does, indeed, seem to go out of his way in his texts to mention lesser female economists to add some kind of "balance." In his macro text, he includes Carol Graham, Emily Oster, and Nancy Qian.

In his micro text, he references Rebecca Blank, Elizabeth Kolbert and Jennifer Roback.

No offense to any of these ladies, who are probably very sound mainstream regressionists but they really aren't in the same category as Adam Smith, David Ricardo or, for that matter, John Maynard Keynes.

About the only female economist that he doesn't mention is Robin Wells.

What is more of a serious outrage is that Mankiw fails to mention in either his macro or micro texts the great Austrian school economists Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, Israel Kirzner or Murray Rothbard.

Austrian school economist and Nobel prize winner Friedrich Hayek is mentioned in his micro text twice. Once in a reprinted New York Times article by Tyler Cowen and once in a feature written by Mankiw. Cowen correctly spells Hayek's first name in the article. Mankiw in his feature in the text on Hayek vs John Kenneth Galbraith writes Hayek's first name incorrectly.

They are indexed in the text as though they are two different individuals:

Hayek, Frederic [incorrect]
Hayek, Friedrich [correct]



  1. I think this should always be pointed out along with his above points, that people who make these sorts of claims are proposing favoritism of a certain group (gender, race, etc.) without regard to their accomplishments, etc. This is the definition of sexism, racism, etc. As an example, if I said that there are too many black basketball players, because their relative percentage does not represent the population so I, a white man, proposed hiring more white basketball players for the sole reason that I am white and this is unfair to white people, this is the same thing that is being done by many of these "racism protestors".

    There is definitely prejudice in the world, but many people who claim to be fighting it are the worst offenders. Ie Antifa, Trump, many modern feminists, etc.

    1. Ya stole my thunder. I was going to point out that among all the NFL teams who played in the playoffs this weekend, there were ZERO female players! Such gender bias!
      Funny thing, though. It's pretty certain that at some stage, a female place kicker will make the grade. And that would actually be pretty cool. (if she's really good enough)