Erin Hengel

Publishing while female

Revise and resubmit, Economic Journal.

Conditional on the quality of a paper, are women held to higher writing standards in academic peer review? Using readability scores to investigate, I find: (i) female-authored papers are 1–6 percent better written than equivalent papers by men; (ii) the gap widens during peer review; (iii) women improve their writing as they publish more papers (but men do not); (iv) men do not appear to compensate by raising quality along another dimension. Using a subjective expected utility framework, I show that tougher editorial standards are most obviously consistent with authors' observed choices. A conservative estimate derived from the model suggests higher writing standards may cause senior female economists to write at least 5–7 percent more clearly than they otherwise would.

Download the paper, read a summary ( or browse the data.

Press. Libération (in French). Daily chart (The Economist). Money talks (The Economist). Times Higher Education. Inside Higher Ed (reprint from THE). Informatíon (in Danish). Also mentioned in The Economist, The New York Times (here and here), Huffington Post, Financial Times, Bloomberg View, BBC, and PolicyViz.

Gender and quality at top economics journals

with E. Moon.

We show articles published in "top-five" economics journals authored by men are cited less than articles those same journals publish by women. Additionally, men’s citations rise when they co-author with women whereas women’s citations fall while they co-author with men, conditional on acceptance. Under strong—but we believe reasonable—assumptions, our findings suggest top economics journals hold female-authored papers to higher standards and, as a result, do not publish the highest quality research. Moreover, authors of both sexes may be incentivised to forgo higher quality co-authoring opportunities with women in order to pursue lower quality collaborations with men.

Download the paper, read it online or read summaries in and the Royal Economic Society.

One strike and you’re out!

with O. Gorelkina and I. Grypari.

We investigate the impact a straight-ticket voting option—a.k.a. the Master Lever—has on U.S. senators' roll-call voting records in Congress. Using a difference-in-differences framework, we find the Master Lever leads to a 3–6 percent rightward shift in senators' policy positions. The effect is largely driven by the Republican party. To interpret our results, we analyse the Master Lever's impact on electoral incentives and outcomes. Our findings suggest that ballot design has a non-negligible impact on policy-making. They also imply that electoral outcomes in moderate to right-leaning Master Lever states may be especially vulnerable to right-wing, non-partisan voters.

Download the paper or read it online.

The theory of straight ticket voting

with O. Gorelkina and I. Grypari; revise and resubmit, Social Choice and Welfare.

This paper explores the effects of the straight-ticket voting option (STVO) on the positions of politicians. STVO, present in some U.S. states, allows voters to select one party for all partisan elections listed on the ballot, as opposed to filling out each office individually. We analyze the effects of STVO on policy-making by building a model of pre-election competition. STVO results in greater party loyalty of candidates, while increasing the weight of non-partisan voters' positions in candidate selection. This induces an asymmetric effect on winning probabilities and implemented policies in the two-party system.

Revised paper coming soon!

Rescue Culture

In a comprehensive debt-financing model, I show rescue-centric corporate bankruptcy anticipates motives creditors do not have. Although out-of-court settlements dominate and formal procedures are rarely used, insolvent borrowers nevertheless extract concessions from creditors unless supervised reorganisation is 100 percent free. They pay for it, unfortunately, with inefficient continuation and liquidation, expensive debt and credit-rationing. Ironically, rescue culture hits hardest the firms is meant to save yet benefits creditors, whom it claims to check. Firms with long expected lifespans are either the first denied credit or the first to make investment choices that guarantee premature liquidation. Creditors, meanwhile, enjoy a profitable niche lending market in an otherwise highly competitive industry.

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Accuracy and efficiency in bankruptcy

Using data from a broad, cross-country, firm-level survey conducted over several years, I empirically test two predictions from the theoretical model in “Rescue Culture”—that reorganisation’s cost contributes to perceived financing constraints while judicial accuracy has an ambiguous effect. Indeed, cheaper reorganisation is significantly and consistently correlated with lower self-reported obstacles to finance. Accuracy, on the other hand, appears to have the anticipated ambiguous effect, although data limitations prevent definitively attributing it to the predictions of the model.

Paper available on request.

Gender issues in fundamental physics

with P. Ball, B. Britton, P. Moriarty, R. Oliver, G. Rippon, A. Saini and J. Wade; forthcoming, Quantitative Science Studies.