Abdoulaye Ndiaye, Morten Ravn, 21 September 2020

The open-access Virtual Macro Seminar Series (VMACS) started in March 2020 as a response to the Covid-induced lack of standard academic seminars, but the organisers quickly spotted a bias towards senior academics in this new virtual format. To address this and the lack of minority representation typical of macroeconomics conferences, the organisers of the Society for Economics Dynamics Meeting experimented with a two-step double-blind review process. In this column, two programme committee members describe how the result was a high-quality programme presented by economists from a diverse set of institutions. There is still room for improvement, however, and a double-blind review process by itself does not solve the broader issue of unequal representation in the economics profession.

Debopam Bhattacharya, Renata Rabovic, 15 September 2020

The balance between merit and diversity in university admissions is a controversial issue, but statistical analysis is challenging because applicant characteristics are only observed by admissions officers and post-entry test scores are only available for those who were admitted. This column uses a novel, outcome-based test of merit-based admissions at Cambridge University, where some applicants enter via a second-round clearing mechanism from a ‘pool’, to bypass the non-observability problems. The test reveals robust evidence of higher admissions standards for men in STEM and economics, and weak evidence of the same for private school applicants. The gender gap is non-evident in law and medicine.

Giovanni Immordino, Maria Berlin, Francesco Flaviano Russo, Giancarlo Spagnolo, 13 September 2020

Domestic violence appears to have surged during the Covid-19 crisis in almost all countries. This column argues that dwindling prostitution markets during the lockdown might be partly responsible for the surge. Analysing the effects of the one-sided criminalisation of prostitution introduced in Sweden in 1999, it finds that the law reduced street prostitution but increased domestic violence against women outside the prostitution market. This evidence suggests that the freeze of sex markets caused by the Covid-19 crisis might have contributed to the observed spike in domestic violence. 

Sam Cosaert, Alexandros Theloudis, Bertrand Verheyden, 28 August 2020

COVID-19 lockdowns and school closures have affected working hours and household income, with an unequal effect on women and men. The collective model of the household has hitherto ignored distinctions between private versus joint activities by parents in household time allocation. This column examines the evolving costs and benefits of togetherness, using Dutch data for 2009–2012, and speculates on how lockdown policies may affect togetherness and household welfare. Joint leisure and childcare generate a loss of flexibility in the labour market, and joint childcare prevents specialisation, generating tension between parental childcare quality and quantity.

Mariarosaria Comunale, 23 August 2020

Historically, Lithuania has had very high suicide rates, especially among its male population. This column aims to shed light on possible factors linked to the high suicide rates in the Baltic states and specifically in Lithuania. Factors with the strongest links to suicide rates in the region include GDP growth, demographics, alcohol consumption, psychological factors and climate temperature. For Lithuania specifically, other macroeconomic variables (especially linked to the labour market) may also matter. The percentage of rural population is not a key robust factor.

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