Are Referees and Editors in Economics Gender Neutral? (with David Card, Stefano DellaVigna, and Nagore Iriberri)

We study the role of gender in the evaluation of economic research using submissions to four leading journals. We find that referee gender has no effect on the relative assessment of female- versus male-authored papers, suggesting that the differential biases of male referees are negligible. To determine whether referees as a whole impose a different standard for female authors, however, we have to account for quality differences across papers. Building on a pre-specified design, we compare citations for female and male-authored papers, holding constant the referee evaluations and other characteristics, including prior publications of the authors. We find that female-authored papers receive about 25% more citations than observably similar male-authored papers. A survey of economists suggests that this result is unlikely to be driven by excess citations for female-authored papers. Rather, referees of both genders appear to set a higher bar for female-authored papers. Editors largely follow the referees, resulting in a 7 percentage point lower probability of a revise and resubmit verdict for female-authored papers relative to a citation-maximizing benchmark. In their desk rejection decisions, editors treat female authors more favorably, though they still impose a higher bar than under citation- maximization. We find no differences in the weight that editors place on the recommendations of female versus male referees, or in the time to reaching an editorial decision for female versus male-authored papers.

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