Dear AFEE Friends, 

I have been working on an initiative to increase the representation of women and minorities in our program (we run at or near the bottom on campus). As we all know, this is a pervasive problem not limited to TCU by any means.

As I dig into this, I find literature that refers to the greater sensitivity of women to intro econ grades, the desire for clearer career options by women, the lack of role models in our discipline, etc. What I haven't seen is anyone saying that our core problem is Neoclassical theory. Surely someone has done so?  It seems to me that if I’m a member of a minority or a woman (or both) and I hear from my mainstream intro econ instructor that the market objectively determines what I deserve to earn, I’m done with econ. Sure, they’ll tack on a dummy variable or mention “frictions” or “imperfections,” but that’s clearly not the core theory and the latter will not strike me as a relevant to my experiences. On the other hand, if I’m a white male–particularly one with a bit of a chip on my shoulder–then this is what I’ve been looking for. Sorry I get paid more, but I deserve it!

My own informal survey work has looked at women who decided to pick econ anyway (our alumni), so this was clearly not a problem for them. But it is my sense that this is the real reason women stay away from us is Neoclassicism.

What say you all? Does that ring true or am I missing something?

John