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We’re All Evangelicals Now
A Guest Post by Bunchanumbers
The principle in this quotation is the basis of what’s since become known as the “Modesto Manifesto”, the “Billy Graham Rule”, and most recently, the “Mike Pence Rule”. A pithy statement of it is Never dine alone with a woman. For Mike Pence, he won’t even consume alcohol without his wife present.
When Pence’s application of the rule came to light as part of the muckraking that followed his vice presidential nomination in 2016, it inspired a furor. Some claimed it was sexist, Kamala Harris denounced it as “outrageous”, and some commentators went so far as to question the legality of the practice. On the other hand, there were people claiming the rule is good or inevitable for public figures. In the opinion of Polish science fiction writer Jacek Dukaj, movements like #MeToo make Pence’s personal code of etiquette unavoidable because there are no other ways to avoid today’s “New Puritanism”. Quoting from the Atlantic,
Socially liberal or non-religious people may see Pence’s practice as misogynistic or bizarre. For a lot of conservative religious people, this set-up probably sounds normal, or even wise. The dust-up shows how radically notions of gender divide American culture.
With a description so apt, whatever you feel about the matter, Pence’s personal is now certainly political.
So what would happen if we had a society-wide experiment in forcing Pence’s rule on people? As it happens, #MeToo laid the grounds for such an experiment. A recent preprint2 showed that was exactly what happened in the domain of economic research.
What appears to have happened is that after #MeToo hit its stride, female economists started fewer new projects and roughly 60% of that was because male economists become warier of collaborating with female economists.
Accordingly, after #MeToo, the number of women in the sample was conserved, but women’s research productivity fell behind since men’s seemed to be unaffected.
I don’t think this is mysterious. The author of the preprint said “Women do not substitute for lost collaborations. Men do not experience the same decline in productivity post #MeToo, as they substitute the reduction in collaborations with women with new collaborations with men.” Since the field has more men and the men in economics are older and thus more likely to have lucrative grants and graduate students in their employ, it’s easier for men to find substitutes.
What else do we know? The estimates are a bit heterogeneous, but there are some clear findings that ring out.
The effect on women’s new projects was stronger when university policies on “impersonal harassment” were more ambiguous and when the number of past public sexual harassment cases at a university was greater.
Female economists did not become less likely to work with women alone or women and men together, but they were less likely to work with men alone. This extended to new projects and new papers.
Female economists did not become less likely to work with untenured colleagues, but they were less likely to collaborate with tenured professors. This effect seemed to be attributable to tenured professors working at higher-ranking universities that saw larger reductions in cross-sex collaboration.
Female economists became less likely to initiate new projects with new and existing coauthors, and this effect was due to reductions in the numbers of new projects with new coauthors inside the university and of new projects with new coauthors outside of the university. The same pattern was observed for coauthorship generally.
Men think “#MeToo means if I accidentally say the wrong thing, I’ll be cancelled/fired. I’d better stay away from women.” Clear policies show that “saying the wrong thing” doesn’t get you cancelled/fired, so clear policies reduce men’s (perceived) risk of #MeToo.
Women think “#MeToo means I don’t have to work with the predator men anymore, so I’ll avoid them.” If that’s the story, we should see the decrease in collaborations regardless of whether policies are clear or not.
To be fair, both of her stories may be true to different degrees. Policy ambiguity doesn’t explain the whole reduction in collaborations in her data. Because that is the case, unless her policy ambiguity measures weren’t good enough, her suggestion that “#MeToo plus clear policies could create awareness for sexual harassment without hurting women’s productivity” may be misguided. Sure, ambiguity reduction looks like it could curb these changes a bit, but if we trust her measurement we have to conclude that some amount of damage is inevitable.
#MeToo has made us all evangelicals, and women are the victims of that change.
The King James version of this quotation may seem more appropriate. It goes: “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”