AEA Job Market Portal

In a move that is widely considered (at least from my limited discussion with colleagues over the past few hours and extrapolating from years of conversation) a long time coming, the American Economic Association has decided to expand its share of the recent-Ph.D. employment space. The new JOE Network, as they’re calling it, will be a platform for uploading CVs and teaching statements for candidates as well as letters of reference for advisors, coauthors and other letter-writers. I assume this is meant to bypass the multiple websites in this space already. In the past, the JOE has been the first place to go for employers to advertise openings and thus for graduating PhDs (and mid-career professors looking to change jobs) looking for a job. Among my most popular blog posts are ones from the series called “Job listing of the month.” There’s some pretty good ones in there.

But I digress, from the AEA website:

The AEA is proud to announce the new enhanced JOE (Job Openings for Economists) targeted to the comprehensive needs of all participants in the annual economics job market cycle.

The new JOE Network automates the hiring process. Users share materials, communicate confidentially, and take advantage of new JOE features to easily manage their files and personal data. Everything is securely maintained and activated in one location. The JOE Network is accessible right from your desktop at the AEA website.

While in the process of applying for jobs, many of my colleagues and I have questioned why this didn’t exist before. Econjobmarket.org filled a lot of this space, but there are so many competing services in the market now, I’m not sure how useful it’s going to be. It’s either got to be demonstrably better for employers, so that they convince their department heads/HR to switch, or I don’t know if anyone will actually switch.

One colleague on twitter mentioned how big a deal moving to electronic was for many schools. I can’t imagine if they’ve already got their process down with Academicjobsonline.org or whatever other service they’re using, that they’ll be compelled to switch.

An even worse outcome, which is something I’ve observed employers doing already, is to require that you apply through multiple sites (perhaps local HR site and Econjobmarket.org, for instance). At any rate, hoping it’s useful to job seekers and that they’ve got all the kinks worked out before the first deadlines start coming.

Advertisements

On vocabulary and observation at the ASSA (a little late, but you know what they say…)

As a first-time job market candidate, the annual ASSA meetings every January are stressful and busy and kind of terrible, but as I’ve gone more and more, I’ve realized they’re kind of awesome. My two favorite events are the CSWEP mentoring breakfast and the CU reception, but everywhere you go, you’re running into people you want to have a conversation with, people you haven’t seen in a year or more, people who want to ask you something or share something exciting. I spent most of the weekend hearing about cool papers, having great conversations about economics, and seeing people I care about. I’m a big fan, turns out.

Even if it’s 0 degrees F and we’re all tromping around in the snow that the city won’t clear.

But I digress. One of the other events I was excited for this time around was the T. Schulz memorial lecture put on by the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association. I like ag economists.

The lecture was given by Michael Kremer of Harvard. It wasn’t a traditional lecture in the sense there wasn’t much talk of big ideas or themes. He really just presented a new paper, which was a bit disappointing, but, taken at face value, ultimately interesting.

The paper was trying to ascertain the extent to which asset-collateralized debt would be successful in an experimental setting in East Africa (yes, likely a community that has seen plenty of these interventions). Most of the debt we take on in the US is asset collateralized, if you don’t pay your car loan, they take your car, for instance, but it’s not like that in many other parts of the world. Collateral for loans, especially small loans, often comes in the form of guarantees from family or neighbors, or some cash reserve itself, or sometimes none at all. So, asking whether individuals saw these loan as different is an interesting question if someone is trying to institute them.

Perhaps the most important result is that people were paying back their loans, and not only paying them back, but paying them back early, which Kremer attributed to debt aversion.

As Kremer started in on his preliminary results, the first things I heard were not his interpretation, but rather whispers from all sides around me.

“Neighborhood effects.”

“Peer effects.”

“Why should we think debt aversion is driving this behavior?” There seemed to be a consensus, at least in my part of the audience, that individuals were paying back their debts not because they disliked having debt, per se, but that they thought it made them look bad in the eyes of their neighbors. Some of the first questions following the lecture pertained to the interpretation of the observations.

Two ideas immediately came to my mind during this exchange. The first has to do with quantum physics and how when we observe something, we change it. The second is that many of the whispers around me could be re-interpreted as a discussion of social norms. In the peer effects interpretation, borrowers could see their peers repaying and thus be more likely to repay. And in the social norms sense, borrowers could perceive that having debt is not seen well by the community and thus be more likely to repay. It seems that much of the debate could have been settled by a survey question or two regarding attitudes about debt, social norms around debt, and the perception of debt aversion on a community level. “What percentage of people in this community pay their debts on time?” or “How are people who don’t pay their debts treated in this community?” Or something like that.

It strikes me that the language economists and other social scientists use to explain similar phenomena are often very different. Also, it seems that Kremer could have fairly quickly disabused his critics of their notions had he conducted at least a little surveying on debt aversion and social norms.

2014 CSWEP Mentoring Breakfast

Calling all junior women faculty and job market candidates:

The 2014 CSWEP mentoring breakfast at the ASSA is back! This is a fantastic event, and I really encourage women on the job market to attend as well as junior faculty. There’s always a really interesting crop of big name and successful economists who are willing to discuss everything from publishing to tenure. Plus, breakfast!

Details below:

CSWEP is pleased to host two mentoring/networking breakfasts for junior economists at the AEA/ASSA Meetings from *8:00-10:00AM* *on* *Friday, January 3, 2014* *and Saturday, January 4, 2014 in the Philadelphia Marriott Grand Ballroom, Salon D.*

Senior economists (predominately senior women) will be on hand to provide mentoring and networking opportunities. Junior economists are invited to drop in with questions on topics such as publishing, teaching, grant writing, networking, job search, career paths, and the tenure process. Junior economists who have completed their PhD in the past 6 years or graduate students who are on the job market are particularly encouraged to attend. A light continental breakfast will be provided.

The event is an informal meet and greet affair in which junior participants are encouraged to drop in with questions on topics such as publishing, teaching, grant writing, networking, job search, career paths, and the tenure process. Senior economists who have committed to attend at least one hour of the breakfast are affiliated with institutions such as MIT, Duke, UCLA, NY Federal Reserve, UC-Santa Barbara, UC-Davis, UC-Santa Cruz, Maryland, Kansas, Agnes Scott College, University of Virginia, Yale, RAND, Princeton, Cornell, Georgia Tech, Rutgers, Tufts, Washington University in St. Louis, Iowa State, Tennessee, George Mason, Dartmouth, University of Warwick, UT-Austin, Brandeis, The Wharton School, Michigan, Stanford, Wesleyan, Colgate, Boston University, Marshall, Notre Dame, Missouri-St Louis, and Indiana.

Space is limited and pre-registration is required.  Send an email with the subject heading “CSWEP Mentoring Breakfast” tocswep@econ.duke.edu <mailto:cswep@econ.duke.edu>, containing your name, current institution and position title, research field interests, and your PHD year and institution. Also indicate your preference for Friday or Saturday’s breakfast, or your willingness to attend either morning. Priority will be given to junior faculty and graduate students on the job market.  Priority will also be given to registrations received byDecember 18, 2013.  CSWEP will confirm registrations on December 19, 2013.

Thank you for your assistance informing junior colleagues about this opportunity.

Best regards,

Marjorie McElroy, CSWEP Chair

Job Listing of the Month

Perhaps it’s because I’m a bit simple minded, but I never fail to be amazed by globalization. My favorite job listing from the November JOE is for openings, three to be precise, at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. The best part is that it’s so matter-of-fact. There’s no need for qualifiers, just “competitive pay” and an “annual research grant”. Wouldn’t it be so simple?

On the Wisdom of a Job Market Candidate Wiki

I wrote last year about EJMR’s foray into the world of journals and article publications and thought the idea was pretty neat. Having a repository for information on journal publishing times, response times, decisions and more, all crowd-sourced, could provide a useful set of information for would-be submitters to certain journals. In theory, if the information were correct, it could even prompt users to avoid journals with slow response times, which would in turn encourage those journals to step it up.

Transparency’s kind of cool.

I was less enthusiastic about EJMR’s Candidate wiki but EJMR keeps surprising me. One of the things that Economics prides itself on as a discipline is our centralized (read: “we’re so efficient”) job market. Ads come out in the JOE the first every month. In January, we hold our national conference and search committees hold interviews with candidate who made their shortlist. Flyouts happen in January, February and into March, hiring completed by early Spring.

In reality, it doesn’t happen this way for many candidates. There are other sources of job advertisements for one. But more than this, the last few years have seen a lot of bottlenecking at the top of the candidate pool. “Star” candidates get tens of flyouts and offers for jobs they don’t intend to take, but keep those schools waiting and thus the market clears very slowly. In addition, the uptake in web-based application systems has proliferated, making applying both relatively easy–once you’ve done the work of setting up an account and uploading–and extremely annoying–as you’re setting up your fifteen millionth account. It’s this really weird mix of efficient and entirely the opposite and likely skews the number of jobs people apply to.

Given our obsession with efficiency, I’m not surprised to see EJMR get into the job candidate wiki game. One poster took the entirely predictable economicky defense: “I’m pretty sure a reduction is search costs is welfare-enhancing in virtually all matching models, from micro theory to macro-labor,” but plenty of others were worried about the potential for sabotage. EJMR doesn’t have the greatest reputation, but I wonder if this is part of trying to make itself a little more legit. I can definitely see the appeal from the demand side of having a number of top candidates in place. Since it’s a wiki, it’s never going to capture anyone, but a lot of the top schools seem to have candidates posted and it will likely grow. I’m interested to see where it goes.

Oh, the wiki

When I went on the job market for the first time two years ago, I was advised not to consult the economics job market rumors forum. Given that I had no idea what it was, I immediately went and consulted it, only to have my spirit broken by the rank misogyny, stress, and trolling that dominated the forum. EJMR is still full of a lot of that crap, but it’s growing up in a way that I think has the potential to be beneficial to economists and the economics profession.

In particular, EJMR this year redid “the wiki”, or the crowd-sourced table of calls made to applicants on the job market each November and December. The redesign, and incorporation into the EJMR framework, has actually been incredibly user-friendly and informative. Yes, it sucks to hear that Dream University XYZ called someone and didn’t call you, but it’s really nice not to be waiting for them to call anymore. It’s anonymous, but usually updated incredibly rapidly. I’ve received emails or phone calls and went to check the wiki within minutes and seen it updated already.

More proof that EJMR has grown up a bit comes in the form of the recently added journal wiki, which I think is absolutely brilliant. Economics, from what I know, suffers from one of the longest (and most excruciating) publishing cycles in academia. My astrophysicist friends complain that their papers take eight months to get out and my eyes pop of my head. Try two years. Or three. The wiki itself is still kind of a jumble of information and lacks a good way to aggregate data. For instance, it would be useful to be able to find mean and median response times and see the number of entries for a given journal. The data is easily copied and pasted into Excel, so one could feasibly take all the information for a given journal and perform those quick data summaries oneself. Though it would strip away some of the anonymity, it would also be nice to know where those papers were eventually published. But perhaps I’m asking too much.

The journal wiki is similar to the jobs wiki in that it’s anonymous, crowd-sourced, and voluntary. The big difference is that while one school made 20-30 phone calls and only one person had to post the outcome, each journal submission and rejection is separate. You can’t rely on another person’s entering your rejection. The journal wiki poses a larger free-rider problem because each of piece of information is only controlled by a single individual (or author group). I imagine that despite the collective action problem, it will still gets high levels of participation. In fact, it’s already quite filled out and has only been up a few days.

I’m all for more information. I’m all for making publishers and referees more accountable. I also wonder if it won’t push some better papers to lesser known journals. With a clear time-to-publication advantage, lower-ranked journals could attract better papers and upset the hegemonic closed circle that tends to dominate the highly ranked, very slow to publish journals. It could also damn those papers to obscurity, but it will be interesting to see if it has any effect on overall response times and time-to-publication.

Job lising of the month

I’m wrapping up my job-applying, at least for the big pre-December 1 deadline push, and am now mostly in the process of looking back at jobs I didn’t apply for in places I’d really like to live. Unsurprisingly, Denver is one of the places, and despite an apparent hiring spree by Colorado schools this year, I’m not a particularly good fit for the faculty positions that are open.

I’m curious, though, if there’s actually anyone who fits this University of Denver opening for an assistant professor of Economics: “Must show promise of distinction in research and publications in the fields of the Chinese economy, environmental economics, and feminist economics.” (emphasis mine.)

Not just heterodox, but feminist, examining questions of environment, and concentrated in an area where those that run the economy are largely indifferent to both feminist and environmental concerns. It kind of boggles the mind. I’m really curious to see who they end up hiring. In fact, I’d like to meet her; she sounds like a rockstar.