Scholar Finds a Hidden Bias Against Women Authors of Economics Papers

Erin Hengel, a lecturer at the University of Liverpool Management School in England, has completed a new study that finds that economics papers authored by women are more “readable” than those authored by men. However, despite being better written, articles authored by women take an average of six months longer to go through the peer-review process.

Dr. Hengel analyzed every article published since 1950 in four leading economics journals – American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, Econometricia, and the Quarterly Journal of Economics. Using five commonly used formulas, Dr. Hengel determined that economics articles written by women are 1 to 6 percent more readable than articles written by men. Furthermore, the readability gap widens as articles go through the peer review process and is most apparent in the final published article.

But despite the fact that articles authored by women were better written, it took these articles longer to go through the peer review process. Dr. Hengel concludes that “referees apply higher standards to women writing, subjecting them to an added time tax” before their articles are published. This time tax averaged six months, according to Dr. Hengel’s research, and serves to reduce the research output of women economists.

Dr. Hengel is a native of Arkansas and a graduate of Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, where she majored in international relations. She holds a master’s degree in local economic development from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She earned a second master’s degree and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Cambridge.

The full study “Publishing While Female: Gender Differences in Peer Review Scrutiny,” can be downloaded here.

Filed Under: DiscriminationResearch/Study


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