Gender differences in the propensity to negotiate are often used to explain the gender wage gap, popularizing the push for women to “lean-in.” We use a laboratory experiment to examine the effect of leaning-in. Despite men and women achieving similar and positive returns when they must negotiate, we find that women avoid negotiations more often than men. While this suggests that women would benefit from leaning-in, a direct test of the counterfactual proves otherwise. Women appear to positively select into negotiations and to know when to ask. By contrast, we find no significant evidence of a positive selection for men.

We conduct a laboratory experiment on the determinants of beliefs about own and others’ ability across different domains. A preliminary look at the data points to two distinct forces: miscalibration in estimating performance depending on the difficulty of tasks and gender stereotypes. We develop a theoretical model that separates these forces and apply it to analyze a large laboratory dataset in which participants estimate their own and a partner’s performance on questions across six subjects: arts and literature, emotion recognition, business, verbal reasoning, mathematics, and sports. We find that participants greatly overestimate not only their own ability but also that of others, suggesting that miscalibration is a substantial, first order factor in stated beliefs. Women are better calibrated than men, providing more accurate estimates of ability both for themselves and for others. Gender stereotypes also have strong predictive power for beliefs, particularly for men’s beliefs about themselves and others’ beliefs about the ability of men. Our findings help interpret evidence on gender gaps in self-confidence.



– The Spotlight series highlights the research of female economists, one at a time.

Muriel Niederle is a Professor of Economics at Stanford University. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard University and is a Research Associate of the NBER. Muriel is an Associate Editor of the Journal of European Economic Association, Quantitative Economics, and AEJ: Microeconomics. Her research concentrates on behavioral and experimental economics, with emphasis on gender and market design related topics. Muriel’s work has been published in top journals, including the American Economic Review, Econometrica, the Journal of Political Economy, and the Quarterly Journal of Economics.

I am particularly fond of Muriel’s experimental work on gender differences in competitive environments. Along with various co-authors, she finds that:

(1) As the competitiveness of the environment increases, men’s performance increases significantly, but not women’s.

(2) “This effect is stronger when women have to compete against men than in single-sex competitive environments: this suggests that women may be able to perform in competitive environments per se.”

(3) “Women shy away from competition and men embrace it.”

(4) Among secondary school students in the Netherlands, “although boys and girls display similar levels of academic ability, boys choose substantially more prestigious academic tracks, where more prestigious tracks are more math- and science-intensive…Boys are also substantially more competitive than girls…Competitiveness is strongly positively correlated with choosing more prestigious academic tracks even conditional on academic ability…The gender difference in competitiveness accounts for a substantial portion (about 20%) of the gender difference in track choice.”

For more information about Muriel and her research, check out her website. It has a lot of interesting stuff! She also blogs about experimental and behavioral economics here.


Conferences in Delhi


Every December, the Delhi School of Economics and the Indian Statistical Institute organize two separate conferences that I have been lucky enough to attend several times. These are excellent gatherings of Indian and non-Indian economists working in and outside India, and in all fields. The weather in Delhi is excellent at this time of the year (the photos, however, are from this past summer!) and the food is better than all other conferences that I have been to.

I am also happy to see a lot more gender-related papers being presented this year. The ISI conference has 4 sessions on gender and a plenary session by Rohini Pande on women and work in India.

The programs for this year are here:

11th Annual Winter School, Delhi School of Economics

12th Annual Conference on Economic Growth and Development, ISI Delhi





Job Market Paper: Working Mothers and EITC

The Job Market Paper series highlights Ph.D. students in economics working on gender-related topics and currently on the job market. Email me if you are on the junior job market and would like me to link to your paper. I will try to post as many as I can.

Jacob Bastian, University of Michigan

Paper: The Rise of Working Mothers and the 1975 Earned Income Tax Credit

The rise of working mothers radically changed the U.S. economy and the role of women in society. Time-series data show a rapid increase in the employment of mothers—relative to women without children—beginning in the mid-1970s. In one of the first systematic studies of the 1975 introduction of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), I find that this program led to a 4-percentage-point (or 7 percent) rise in maternal employment—representing about one million mothers—and conclude that the EITC can help explain why the U.S. has such a high fraction of working mothers despite few childcare subsidies or parental-leave policies. I then test whether the EITC affected attitudes towards working women. I find that states with larger EITC responses—and larger predicted responses based on pre-1975 demographic and occupational traits—had larger post-1975 increases in attitudes approving of women working. Results are largest among lower-education men—who were most exposed to these newly working women—and do not appear to be driven by pre-1975 attitudes, demographic changes, or general trends in social norms. I also use racial attitudes as a placebo outcome. As a check on whether large increases of female workers can affect social attitudes, I also find attitude changes from increased female employment during World War II.



– The Spotlight series highlights the research of female economists, one at a time.

Michele Tertilt is a Professor of Economics at the University of Mannheim in Germany. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and worked as an Assistant Professor at Stanford University before joining Mannheim. Michele is a Managing Editor at the Review of Economic Studies and an Associate Editor of the Journal of Development Economics. She is also a Research Affiliate at BREAD and the European Development Research Network (EUDN) and a Research Fellow at CEPR.

Michele’s research concentrates on macroeconomics with a special focus on development and intra-family interactions. Her work has been published in top journals, including the American Economic Review, Econometrica, the Journal of Political Economy, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, and the Review of Economic Studies.

One of her papers, jointly written with Matthias Doepke, that I really like is “Women’s Liberation: What’s in it for men?” “The nineteenth century witnessed dramatic improvements in the legal rights of married women. Given that they took place long before women gained the right to vote, these changes amounted to a voluntary renouncement of power by men.” In this paper, they “investigate men’s incentives for sharing power with women.” They “show that men face a tradeoff between the rights they want for their own wives (namely none) and the rights of other women in the economy. Men prefer other men’s wives to have rights because men care about their own daughters and because an expansion of women’s rights increases educational investments in children.” They “show that men may agree to relinquish some of their power once technological change increases the importance of human capital.” They corroborate this “argument with historical evidence on the expansion of women’s rights in England and the United States.”

For more information about Michele and her research, check out her website.

Diversity in the Economics Profession

From a paper by Amanda Bayer and Cecilia Rouse in the latest issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives:

The economics profession includes disproportionately few women and members of historically underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups, relative both to the overall population and to other academic disciplines. This underrepresentation within the field of economics is present at the undergraduate level, continues into the ranks of the academy, and is barely improving over time. It likely hampers the discipline, constraining the range of issues addressed and limiting our collective ability to understand familiar issues from new and innovative perspectives. In this paper, we first present data on the numbers of women and underrepresented minority groups in the profession. We then offer an overview of current research on the reasons for the underrepresentation, highlighting evidence that may be less familiar to economists. We argue that implicit attitudes and institutional practices may be contributing to the underrepresentation of women and minorities at all stages of the pipeline, calling for new types of research and initiatives to attack the problem. We then review evidence on how diversity affects productivity and propose remedial interventions as well as findings on effectiveness. We identify several promising practices, programs, and areas for future research.




– The Spotlight series highlights the research of female economists, one at a time.

Eliana La Ferrara is a Professor of Economics at Bocconi University, Italy. She received a Ph.D. degree from Harvard University and is currently the Vice President of the European Economic Association, a Fellow at BREAD and CEPR, and is affiliated with several other organizations. She serves on the editorial boards of Italian Economic Journal, Journal of African Economies, The World Bank Economic Review, and World Development.

Eliana’s research interests lie in the fields of development economics, political economics, and public economics. Her work has been published in top journals, including the American Economic Review and the Quarterly Journal of Economics.

I find almost all of Eliana’s research super interesting, but here I want to highlight just one of her papers that shows how media influences even very private decisions such as how many children people have. With co-authors Alberto Chong and Suzanne Duryea, Eliana estimates the impact of Brazilian soap operas—telenovelas—on fertility outcomes. These soap operas portray families that are much smaller than in reality. Their “content analysis of 115 novelas aired…in the two time slots with highest audience between 1965 and 1999 reveals that 72 percent of the main female characters (age 50 and lower) had no children at all, and 21 percent had only one child. This is in marked contrast with the prevalent fertility rates in Brazilian society over the same period.” They exploit “differences in the timing of entry into different markets of Rede Globo, the main novela producer, and find that women living in areas covered by Globo have significantly lower fertility.” They also find that “parents living in areas that are reached by Globo are significantly more likely to name their children after the main characters of novelas aired in the year in which the children are born,” suggesting that the effects are driven by novelas and not just television.

For more information about Eliana and her research, check out her website.



– The Spotlight series highlights the research of female economists, one at a time.

Oriana Bandiera is a Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics. She received a Ph.D. degree from Boston College and BSc/ MSc degrees from Bocconi University. Oriana is also the Director of STICERD and a co-director at IGC and CEPR. She is a co-editor of JOLE and Economica and serves on the editorial boards of EJ, JDE, JEEA, and JEL.

Oriana’s research analyses organizations and labor markets in different settings. Her work has been published in top journals, including the American Economic Review, Econometrica, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, and the Review of Economic Studies.

One of her papers that I really like is “Social Incentives in the Workplace,”(joint work with Iwan Barankay and Imran Rasul) where she tests if workers’ behavior is affected by the presence of those they are socially tied to. They find that “compared to when she has no social ties with her co-workers, a given worker’s productivity is significantly higher when she works alongside friends who are more able than her, and significantly lower when she works with friends who are less able than her. The distribution of worker ability is such that the net effect of social incentives on the firm’s aggregate performance is positive. The results suggest that firms can exploit social incentives as an alternative to monetary incentives to motivate workers.”

For more information about Oriana and her research, check out her website. Oriana will be one of the speakers at the Human and Economic Development Seminar at BC this semester.




– The Spotlight series highlights the research of female economists, one at a time.

I was born in the Eighties; so audio cassettes, VHS tapes, and floppy disks were a big part of my life at some point. And now, these receptacles kill time in dusty boxes with their songs, movies, and data, well-aware that the world has moved on. Luckily, these sort of technical changes/ innovations offer empirical industrial organization researchers, like Julie Mortimer, excellent opportunities to learn about firm behavior, pricing strategies, and so on.

Julie Mortimer is a tenured Associate Professor in the Economics department at Boston College. She received a Ph.D. degree from UCLA and B.A. from Carleton College. Before joining Boston College in 2011, she worked at the Harvard Economics Department for several years. Julie is also a Research Associate of the NBER. Julie has served on the editorial board of the International Journal of Industrial Organization and is currently a member of the Journal of Economic Literature’s editorial board.

Julie’s research interests lie in the field of empirical industrial organization. Among other things, she has examined the introduction of DVDs, the video rental industry, copyright infringement and enforcement in the market for digital images, and vertical rebates in the chocolate industry in her papers. Her work has been published in top journals, including the American Economic Review, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, and the Review of Economic Studies.

Her paper, “Supply Responses to Digital Distribution: Recorded Music and Live Performances,”(co-authored with Chris Nosko and Alan Sorensen) examines “the negative impact of file-sharing on recorded music sales and offsetting implications for live concert performances.” While their “study focuses on the music industry, the economic phenomena [they] analyze are clearly relevant in many other markets. For example, digital copies of movies may cut into home video sales, but may also lead to higher demand for movie-related merchandise. An author’s royalties from book sales may be reduced if the book is digitally shared, but the increased readership may lead to profits on the lecture circuit. Mass sharing of a pirated software program may displace paid licenses for that program, but may also generate increased sales of complementary physical products or technical support services.” They “find that file-sharing reduces album sales but increases live performance revenues for small artists, perhaps through increased awareness. The impact on live performance revenues for large, well-known artists is negligible.”

For more information about Julie and her research, check out her website.



– The Spotlight series highlights the research of female economists, one at a time.-

Rema Hanna, besides being one of the nicest economists, is the Jeffrey Cheah Professor of South East Asia Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School. She is a development economist with a “special interest in understanding how to make government services “work” for the poor in developing countries. She has worked on large-scale field projects with governments and non-profits to understand how to improve safety net systems, reduce bureaucratic absenteeism, and reduce corruption.”

Rema also has several papers on environmental issues. One of my favorites is her 2014 AER paper with Michael Greenstone. “Using the most comprehensive developing country dataset ever compiled on air and water pollution and environmental regulations, the paper assesses India’s environmental regulations.” They find a large impact of the air pollution regulations, but no effect of the water pollution regulations. They “cautiously conclude that the striking difference in the effectiveness of the air and water pollution regulations reflects a greater demand for improvements in air quality by India’s citizens.”

Rema is also a Co-Director of the Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) research program at Harvard’s Center for International Development, the Scientific Director for South East Asia at J-PAL, a Research Associate at the NBER, an affiliate of BREAD, and a faculty affiliate at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. She is currently on the editorial boards of the Review of Economic Studies, the Review of Economics and Statistics, and the Journal of Human Resources. Rema received a Ph.D. degree from MIT and B.S. in Public Policy from Cornell University.

For more details on her research, check out Rema’s website.