The Economics Job Market Rumors Site Needs to Clean Up Its Act

September 7, 2017 5:15 PM
The following are Blanchard's comments in response to Justin Wolfers's review in the New York Times of new research from graduate student Alice H. Wu that finds evidence of sexism on the online anonymous message board, Economics Job Market Rumors (EJMR).

The facts established in the recent paper by Alice H. Wu, and the deserved attention brought to them in the column by Justin Wolfers (University of Michigan), forces each of us to think about where they stand vis-à-vis the Economics Job Market Rumors (EJMR) site. I feel I cannot stay silent as an individual committed to the vitality and fairness of the economics profession. I speak for myself, not as the president-elect of the American Economic Association.

The initial goal of the EJMR site was to inform students about the ins and outs of the job market and about economic programs more generally—a legitimate goal.  But it has become a breeding ground for personal attacks of an abusive kind, the sexism identified in the paper by Wu being the most obvious incarnation. Indeed, having now spent some time reading various recent threads, I sometimes felt I was wading in a cesspool.

While this reflects deeper problems than the existence of the EJMR, there is little question the website amplifies and worsens these problems.  They may be problems of human nature rather than shortcomings of economists in particular—but we economists must take responsibility to drive these out of our profession. The vicious attacks and bullying spill over to interactions within departments and into what should remain intellectual rather than personal arguments.  This harms our profession's ability to reward and retain talent of all people, whatever gender, background, or belief.

I urge the EJMR website to live up to its own code of moderation and be more aggressive in removing those posts (quoting from the site's declaration) "that are too critical of someone's personal life," or reflect "racism, homophobia, and sexism."  While I assume the moderators eliminate some of the worst posts, there is some way to go towards having a civilized site and discussion.  I hope it happens.