Julie A. Nelson
While behavioural economics has awakened our discipline to the existence of non-rational aspects of human behaviour, economists have rarely turned this insight on ourselves. This essay describes how failures of rationality - in particular, gender biases - have distorted economists’ own practices. First, a case study of economists’ research concerning gender “differences” in preferences is presented. Meta-analyses of this literature reveal how confirmation and publication bias have made the “findings” of this field unreliable. Next, examples are given of additional biases in research, followed by some examples of how biases affect policy recommendations. Lastly, examples are given of the way that gender bias distorts economists’ own actions, relative to scientific standards. This paper argues that were our discipline to remedy these failures of rationality in the area of gender biases, it would not only be less hostile towards women, but also more rigorous, reliable, and helpful.