Are Men Threatened By Women At Work?

By , 23 May, 2012, No Comment

Some of them are, according to a new study I’ve written up at Forbes.

Researchers at Harvard and UNC-Chapel Hill surveyed men in three kinds of marriages: traditional (wives who don’t work), neo-traditional (wives working part-time) or modern (wives working full-time). And they found that the more traditional a man’s marriage, the harder he was likely to be on the women he works with.

There is an obvious reason for this: that men who live in traditional marriages are more likely to have more traditional worldviews overall and less likely to have been exposed to feminist or gender-egalitarian ideas.

The more interesting suggestion is that these men are acting out of self-interest. We know that the earnings premium for married men is highest for those whose wives don’t work outside the home, and instead provide supportive labor in the home that enables their husbands to be better employees.

And so the authors of this paper suggest that men with stay-at-home wives are enforcing in the workplace an order that they know benefits them personally, seeing the women who work for them as proxies for what their wives could become. The values these men express – that women aren’t competent at their jobs, that marriages work better when women stay home– are actually rationalizations for a self-interested reaction to a perceived threat.

Read the whole post here.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the World Bank

By , 8 April, 2012, No Comment

A post up at Foreign Exchange about the World Bank leadership competition, and why the Bank ought to select Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala over the U.S. nominee, Jim Kim. Short version: she’s a heavy-hitter with the right experience who, critically, solves the Bank’s legitimacy crisis.

By far the most important reason to appoint Okonjo-Iweala is that she has experience on both sides of the table in the international lending negotiations that are the bread and butter of the Bank’s work. As an economist who rose to be the Bank’s Managing Director, she oversaw its lending from 2007 to 2011, helping shepherd it through the global financial crisis. As Nigeria’s finance minister between 2003 and 2006, she represented her government in debt relief negotiations with Paris Club donors, succeeding in reducing the country’s debt burden from $30 billion t0 $12 billion. That remains the only time the Paris Club has allowed a debtor nation to buy back its debt below par.

What’s critical about the experience is that Okonjo-Iweala understood what it meant to face a debt burden that was so beyond repayment as to be punitive, and she worked to have it reduced. But she also understood that the single case of Nigeria didn’t negate the merits of international development lending and she went back to the Bank to provide critical funding to other nations.

She therefore embodies the argument that the Bank desperately needs to make if it is to regain its legitimacy in the developing world: that aid and development lending are powerful forces for good, so long as they are delivered justly. Appointing her turns control of the Bank over to those it serves while re-affiriming the Bank’s underlying mission.

Read it here.

Does Empowering Women Improve the Economy?

By , 30 March, 2012, No Comment

Esther Duflo, an economist I like and admire, made some troubling comments about women’s empowerment in a recent FT interview:

“Giving more to women will to some extent come at the expense of men. People sometimes try to sweep that under the rug by saying you will create so much additional resources that everyone will be better off.” She smiles wryly but firmly. “I don’t think that’s true.”

The comments fly in the face of a wealth of economic data showing that empowering women is a boon for economic growth, some of which I’ve written up for Forbes:

1. A 2007 Goldman Sachs report concluded that closing the gap between male and female employment would add 9% to US GDP, 13% to European GDPs and 16% to Japan’s GDP. Moreover, policies to facilitate female employment – like child care and parental leave rules that make it easier to work and have children – boost low fertility rates in the developed world. That means more women in the work force would actually alleviate one of the heaviest burdens on developed economies: an aging population’s expensive entitlements.

2. The World Bank reports that if women in the Middle East and North Africa were fully integrated into the workforce, average household earnings in the region would increase by 25%.

3. The Economist reports that rising numbers of women in the workforce in the developed world over the past decade have added more to global growth than China has. In the U.S., the State Department says the productivity gains attributable to the increase in female employment account for 25% of current U.S. GDP.

Read the whole post here.

Has the Business Press Failed the Public Trust?

By , 14 March, 2012, No Comment

That’s the title of a panel I recently moderated on behalf of Public Business, featuring New York Times business editor Larry Ingrassia, Reuters finance blogger Felix Salmon, Wall Street Journal reporter Suzanne Kapner, American Banker reporter Jeff Horwitz, and Columbia Journalism Review business media critic Dean Starkman. Here’s some video of the discussion:

I’ve also archived some tweets from the night, and written up a few highlights for the Public Business blog.

The Stratfor Emails

By , 29 February, 2012, 2 Comments

On Sunday night, Wikileaks began releasing its latest cache of documents, this time a set of 5 million emails from Stratfor, the self-described ‘global intelligence’ company. The emails are the result of several Anonymous hacking attacks on Stratfor in December. Anonymous turned the emails over to Wikileaks, who subsequently shared them with 25 partners – a combination of news outlets and activist organizations.

My reaction was one of deep discomfort. These emails are the product of outright theft by Anonymous, and in publishing them, Wikileaks and its partners are taking ownership of stolen goods.

This comes as News International is under investigation for hacking the phones of celebrities, royals, and a murdered teenage girl. How can journalists justify accepting a cache of stolen emails, while calling for the heads of peers who did the same with voicemails?

Read More →

Review: ‘Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions,’ by Paul Mason

By , 10 February, 2012, No Comment

Paul Mason, the Economics Editor of the BBC’s Newsnight program, has a new book out. In it, he argues that the myriad forms of protest we’ve seen over the last year – the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, student protests, protests against austerity budgets in Europe, are linked, part of a global revolution. Over at my Forbes blog, I’ve got a long review of the book.

The links are, according to Mason:

1. “the near collapse of free-market capitalism,” and in particular the opportunities it presents to the young;

2. rapid demographic growth creating a “youth bulge,” where young people come to represent a growing percentage of a country’s overall population, compounding and amplifying the impact of point 1;

3. growth in educational attainment, which Mason uses to argue that the young people sans opportunity are those who played by the rules and feel their economic loss more acutely as a result. He calls them “graduates with no future”;

4. “an upswing in technical innovation, a surge in desire for individual freedom and a change in human consciousness about what freedom means.” Technology and individualism, Mason says, allow protests to assume a networked structure than can overpower traditional hierarchies.

I’ve been skeptical of this argument since it first appeared on Mason’s blog a year ago.

The three core problems Mason identifies – youth unemployment, the youth demographic bulge, and the diminishing returns on education- are real ones. But in Mason’s account, they are depicted as three components of the same, global problem. That’s simply not accurate.

To learn exactly what’s wrong with Mason’s economic assumptions, and how a more rigorous look at the economic data undermines his argument, read the whole thing.

Europe’s constitutional literalism

By , 5 November, 2011, No Comment

Some frustrated words about the state of European political economy:

What we have, in other words, is a meta-debate about whether policy options are permissible, instead of a debate about whether they are sound. A debate in which what is permissible is defined narrowly, as whatever is specifically ‘foreseen’ in documents written years ago, instead of broadly, as whatever those documents do not explicitly forbid. And a debate in which it is hard to avoid the conclusion that policy options are being construed as impossible because they are politically unpalatable to the people who would have to carry them out.

More here.

First Thoughts on the Eurozone Summit

By , 27 October, 2011, No Comment

Burning a bit of midnight oil – a post up at Foreign Exchange on the eurozone summit and its results. Really short version: ‘It is hard not to see a game of hot potato at play here which eventually has to come back to the ECB.’

Read the whole post here.

Baseball and the Marriage Premium

By , 19 October, 2011, No Comment

At Foreign Exchange:

In honor of the World Series, which starts tonight*, I dug out a research paper I’ve been sitting on for a while.

The paper, ‘Productivity, Wages, and Marriage: The Case of Major League Baseball‘ looks at the wages of baseball players and identifies a 16% gap between the wages of married players and unmarried players.

Economists have been documenting the marriage premium – the income boost (anywhere from 10 to 40 percent) married men have over their unmarried counterparts – for decades. But researchers have historically gotten stuck when it comes to providing explanations for the phenomenon: Do married men perform better because their wives are doing more of the housework? Do married men perform better because women tend to marry high performers anyway? Do married men perform about the same, but employers discriminate in their favor because they come across as reliable?  Without data about productivity, it’s hard to say.

That’s what makes the baseball study distinctive: baseball is a geek’s sport, filled with statistics, and – in a post-Moneyball world – increasingly managed by the numbers. That allowed the paper’s authors, Francesca Cornaglia and Naomi E. Feldman, to control for productivity (using both Batting Average and On-Base Plus Slugging) and sorted players into groups by age (early and late career) and ability (low, medium, or high performers). They were not only able to show that there is a marriage premium, but able to test the prevailing theories about why it exists.

Go read.

Hillary Clinton on Economic Statecraft

By , 15 October, 2011, No Comment

New blog post at Foreign Exchange

Yesterday,Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech to the New York Economic Club on ‘economic statecraft’ and its role in American foreign policy. It’s a two-pronged concept – first, how the United States can leverage economic policy to strengthen its diplomatic position abroad; and second, how diplomacy can strengthen the U.S. economy at home.

As Dan Drezner’s already noted, venue aside, the purpose of the speech seemed to be to signal to career diplomats and civil servants that they will need to be savvy about economics, and incorporate it into their work, if they want to get ahead in Clinton’s State Department: “We need to be a Department where more people can read both Foreign Affairs and a Bloomberg Terminal,” Clinton said. Given the link between economics and foreign policy is my main hobbyhorse, it’s gratifying to see it taken seriously at the top like this.

As for policy, the speech was a bit more mixed.

For a detailed look at the speech, read the whole post.

NB: I’m posting this from a phone, so apologies for any typos or odd formatting.