Erin Hengel

Publishing while female

I use readability scores to test if women's writing is held to higher standards in academic peer review. I find: (i) female-authored papers are 1–6 percent better written than equivalent papers by men; (ii) the gap is almost two times higher in published articles than in their pre-print drafts; (iii) women improve their writing as they publish more papers but men do not. Within a subjective expected utility framework, I show that tougher standards are uniquely consistent with authors' observed choices. A conservative estimate derived from the model suggests higher standards cause senior female economists to write at least 7 percent more clearly than they otherwise would. I then document evidence suggesting higher standards affect behaviour and lower productivity. First, I find that women gradually adapt to tougher standards in peer review by writing more readably before it. Second, using data from Econometrica and the Review of Economic Studies, I show that female-authored papers spend 3–6 months longer in review. The latter response reduces women's output; the former disguises biased treatment as voluntary choice. Both whitewash discrimination. More generally, tougher standards impose a quantity/quality trade-off that helps explain academia's "Publishing Paradox" and "Leaky Pipeline". Evidence of this trade-off beyond academia suggests they may also contribute to women's lower productivity in many occupations.

Download the paper or browse the data. Partial or full dataset available on request.

Summary. VoxEU column.

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.

Online commentary. Daily chart (comments section). 4chan (Warning: NSFW). Reddit (this thread is actually pretty thoughtful; a post by carmyk even motivated a small revision in the paper). EJMR 1. EJMR 2 (Warning: NSFW). Inside Higher Ed (comments section). Informatíon (comments section).

Earlier versions. August 2018. December 2017. October 2016. September 2015.

Gender differences in citations at top economics journals

This paper examines gender differences in citations for articles published in top-five economics journals. On average, male-authored papers are cited more than female-authored papers. Yet this finding is driven by a small number of highly cited papers, most of which were written by men—many of whom are Nobel prize winners—over 30 years ago. After controlling for time, author prominence and including either fixed effects for 91 superstar economists or all Nobel prize winners, I find female-authored papers are actually cited more. Moreover, when skewness in the distribution of citations is adjusted using the inverse hyperbolic sine function, female-authored papers are always cited more. I additionally estimate the marginal impact of co-authoring with more women for male authors, only. Using a fixed effects framework, I find that men earn 13 log points more citations when they increase the share of female co-authors on a paper by 50 percent. I conclude by roughly applying a theoretical framework developed in Hengel (2018) to identify the cause behind higher citations in female-authored papers. The results demonstrate suggestive evidence that women’s higher citations are driven by factors outside their control.

Paper available on request.

One strike and you’re out! The Master Lever's effect on senatorial policy-making

with Olga Gorelkina and Ioanna 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--5 percent rightward shift in senators' policy positions. The effect is largely driven by the Republican party. To interpret our results, we analyse the trade-offs candidates face with the Master Lever present. 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.

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Rescue Culture

In 1986 the U.K. introduced administration: bankruptcy procedures aimed at rehabilitating insolvent debtors.⁠ Called reorganisation elsewhere and analogous to U.S. Chapter 11, administration answered political concern that too many financially distressed firms were unnecessarily liquidated—or left to fail—despite a reasonable chance of survival (Cork Report, 1982). The “rescue culture” it fostered was thought to maximise profits, prevent job loss and uphold creditors’ long-term interests.

In a comprehensive debt financing model, I show Rescue Culture neither maximises profits nor prevents job loss. Instead, it obstructs firm creation in the first place or supplants otherwise certain survival with upfront investment choices that make premature liquidation not just highly likely in financial distress but virtually guaranteed should the firm remain solvent. The only goal Rescue Culture does serve is creditors’ long-term interests—by introducing a profitable niche lending market in an otherwise zero-profit 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.