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Underrep Identities

From the announcement:

We are excited to announce our plans for the Promoting Inclusion in Economic Research (PIER) 2020 conference! This conference will bring together undergraduate students at Williams College to share their research and engage in networking and mentoring activities.

This conference will be held at Williams College on Sunday, April 18, 2020.

The conference aims to promote economic research by and professional development of undergraduate students whose identities or life experiences are under-represented in the field of economics.

1) Kudos to the organizers — Williams Professors Sara LaLumia, Sarah Jacobson and Tara Watson — for putting this together! The more that Williams students/faculty engage with the wider intellectual world, the better. One weird thing about academia is that so much of the work is, strictly speaking, optional. These professors won’t be paid anything extra for all the additional work they are putting in to make this happen. Many (most?) of their colleagues in the department don’t contribute as much as these three to the quality of undergraduate education at Williams.

2) Is it fair to say that Sarah Jacobson is the most woke economist at Williams? Nothing wrong with being woke, of course! Some of my best friends . . .

3) Thoughts on the evolution of this conference from being something focused on women in economics to its current incarnation as concerned with “underrep identities?” Why do this? Is it a good thing? Honestly curious! There are only so many spots, so much funding to go around. Every male who now attends, regardless of the extent to which his identity is underrepresented, is one less female.

4) Who, precisely, counts as someone whose “identities or life experiences are under-represented in the field of economics?” Honestly curious! Evangelical Christians are, relative to their share of the population, dramatically underrepresented in economics. However, I bet that Sarah Jacobson won’t look too positively on such claims. What about military veterans? Maybe. Trump voter? Hah!

5) Note that two of the invited speakers are of recent African descent, presumably either immigrants themselves are the children of immigrants from places like Ghana and Nigeria. Nothing wrong with immigrants, of course! But am I the only one reminded of the ADOS movement:

A spirited debate is playing out in black communities across America over the degree to which identity ought to be defined by African heritage — or whether ancestral links to slavery are what should count most of all.

Tensions between black Americans who descended from slavery and black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean are not new, but a group of online agitators is trying to turn those disagreements into a political movement.

They want colleges, employers and the federal government to prioritize black Americans whose ancestors toiled in bondage, and they argue that affirmative action policies originally designed to help the descendants of slavery in America have largely been used to benefit other groups, including immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean.

Sarah Jacobson couldn’t find any African-Americans whose ancestors were enslaved to speak at the conference?

6) What will this conference look like in 10 years? Again, honestly curious! Perhaps we could have predicted a few years ago that the ineluctable logic of the Diversity Regime would put pressure on an event which only preferenced women. (Alas, I did not predict this.) But then where will this logic lead us in the future?

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4 Comments To "Underrep Identities"

#1 Comment By abl On January 13, 2020 @ 2:38 pm

whose identities or life experiences are under-represented in the field of economics

Is this defined anywhere? Or do the organizers leave this up to individual applicants to determine? And is “under-represented” defined on a regional, national, or international scale?

My instinct is that the organizers here don’t only care about the proportional representation, but are trying to get at something deeper regarding why certain populations are underrepresented. So evangelical christians may well be underrepresented (relative to their national population) in econ departments, but if that’s not because of oppressive and discriminatory societal practices, my bet is that the organizers might not care.

#2 Comment By ’11 On January 13, 2020 @ 5:54 pm

i struggle to think of a group that is less welcome in new england than southern baptists (largest protestant denomination in US). you basically can’t talk about your beliefs.

#3 Comment By abl On January 13, 2020 @ 6:50 pm

’11 — sure, so if the relevant community is New England (I’m not sure it should be for a national conference), you have to ask yourself:

*are southern baptists underrepresented in New England econ departments relative to their New England or national population? (Maybe!)

*is that underrepresentation a result of discrimination or oppression? (That seems unlikely to me.)

If the answer to both questions is yes, and my assumptions about the conference organizers’ goals are correct, then I would hope that southern baptist econ participants would be welcome.

#4 Comment By anon On January 14, 2020 @ 4:45 pm

The Southern Baptist comment was an odd one. First, there is very large overlap between Southern Baptists and Evangelicals, so the point had already been made. But more importantly, it’s strange you choose a regionally delineated religious organization and then point out it’s underrepresented in another region! Southern Baptists were Baptists who were in the Southern US during the split over slavery. It would be odd to find them overrepresented way up here. By the same token Congregationalists and Unitarians are extremely overrepresented in New England relative to the rest of the country. That has nothing to do with prejudice against them in the rest of the country and everything to do with their New England origins.