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Posts from the ‘Women’ Category

AIER Issue Brief: H-1B Visas Have no Impact on Average Wages

How H-1B visa holders impact American wages is hotly debated. Many argue that H-1B workers, the foreign-born, highly skilled, temporary workers that companies can hire for three to six years, drive down American wages. Others argue that H-1B workers actually help increase wages for Americans.

But what if H-1B visa status has less impact on wages than we think?

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Pretty Brilliant: Women in the Technology Industry

Women in the Tech IndustryVerizon’s recent commercial calls on parents to inspire girls’ minds, encouraging girls to study typically male-dominated fields such as science and technology. The ad finishes, “Isn’t it time we tell her she’s pretty brilliant too?” Well, new data from three tech giants show the time for telling girls they’re brilliant might be coming sooner than later.

Recently, Google, Yahoo, and LinkedIn released data on the gender makeup of their firms. As Kimberly Weisul of Inc. Magazine explained, none of the three are particularly diverse. Women are in the minority of each company’s workforce, and they are in the very small minority of each company’s leadership. However, AIER data suggest that these three companies’ share of female employees is actually higher than the national average.

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Why Allowing H1B Spouses to Work May Only Increase the Tech Gender Divide

Ironically, allowing H1B spouses to work in the U.S. might only exacerbate the gender divide in the U.S. computer technology industry. The White House recently released a statement that proposed giving work visas to spouses of H1B visa recipients.

As it stands now, the H1B visa program, or the program that allows high-skilled temporary workers entrance to the U.S., does not provide a work visa for recipients’ spouses. Spouses currently can get a student visa, but unless they are on their own work visa, they legally cannot work.

We have heard that this will make the already highly demanded visa even more desirable, especially for computer technology workers. AIER’s latest Research Brief, H1B Jobs: Filling the Skill Gap, showed that computer technology requests make up the lion’s share (70%) of H1B petitions.

Marital Status

Source: AIER Analysis of Ruggles, Alexander, Genadek, Goeken, Schroeder, and Sobek. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 5.0 [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2010.

What will this mean for H1B visa holders? AIER’s analysis from 2010-2012 Census data shows that in the computer technology industry, there are larger shares of H1B men that report being unmarried compared to U.S. citizen men: 74% of H1B men are unmarried, compared to only 6% of U.S. citizen men.

But many H1B females in computer technology are married. 76% of H1B females are married, compared to 58% of U.S. citizen females in that field.

Right now, H1B women have the highest rates of educational attainment in the U.S. computer technology industry (94% have a college degree or higher), but they make up the smallest share of H1B holders in the industry (22%).

It is safe to assume that allowing spouses of H1B visa holders to work will increase the numbers of married applicants. But since the majority of H1B women are already married, this policy might only further exacerbate the gender disparity among H1B visa holders as more men than women apply.


Empowering Victims of Domestic Abuse with Financial Knowledge

Women EmpowermentAIER is in the process of expanding and strengthening its economic education initiatives. The Teach-the-Teachers Initiative will help raise economic literacy in America by providing customized training for high school teachers. Its internship and fellowship programs recruit the most talented scholars across the country to engage in economic research. And AIER frequently gives talks to students in this county to deliver important financial literacy exercises.

AIER is now exploring how best to deliver financial literacy services specifically to women. In particular, AIER is looking at ways that economic knowledge can increase the economic security of the 1.5 million women who are survivors of domestic violence.

For many women, domestic violence is often associated with economic calamity. When a victim of domestic violence decides to leave her abuser, she is usually making the choice between her personal safety and her financial security. A Government Accountability Office report explained in 1998 that not only do women suffer emotional and physical ramifications as a result of abuse, but abusers also often destroy women’s employment and education opportunities, and they frequently deny women access to banking and credit. These stresses cripple a woman’s financial choices, ultimately impeding many of them from making their own financial decisions.

AIER is conceptualizing a curriculum catered specifically to women who are survivors of domestic violence. Such a curriculum would ideally teach the concepts most crucial to this population’s economic security: financial goal-setting; budgeting, or juggling competing needs; negotiating skills; checking and savings accounts; and credit, debt, and predatory lending. This financial knowledge will not only help to empower women; it will also bolster AIER’s mission of educating all individuals, thereby advancing their personal interests and those of the nation.

Changing Perspectives: Women in Economics

Anna Schwartz at AIER

Anna Schwartz at AIER

Recently, a local high school economics class visited AIER for Career Day. Several AIER staff members – from researchers to administrative officers – spoke about what it’s like to work for an economic think tank and how they use economics to produce our Business Cycle Conditions and Inflation reports.

What struck most of us was that out of 30 economics students, only one was a girl. We asked the teachers why, and they responded, “The girls are just not registering for the class.”

A few researchers at AIER delved into the topic of why women still trail men in the world of economic academia despite their rising profile in the fields of business, finance, and economics.

They found that economics may be facing the same problems as the technology industry, where only 25% of workers are women. These problems include gender stereotyping by teachers and employers, the added pressure on women to balance personal and professional lives, and more nuanced ways our culture discourages women and girls from pursuing careers in economics.

Sheila Bair at AIER

Sheila Bair at AIER

The tech industry’s gender problem is getting some attention. There are toys geared towards the next generation of female engineers, and websites and programs aimed at teaching girls coding and innovation. Even some media outlets have taken on the task of highlighting female leadership in the tech industry. Shouldn’t there be a similar type of outreach for young women in economics?

Much has been written about the potential of women breaking the glass ceiling (even by superstar Beyoncé). But here at AIER, we want to become an active part of that conversation. While we don’t have a clear-cut formula on how to fix it, we do believe that an early introduction to economics in the classroom is a good starting point. Toward that end, we are working with students from various schools across the Berkshire region to introduce economic literacy concepts at an earlier age.

It is just as important to recognize the problem and begin to find creative ways to change perspectives. Notable role models like Anna Schwartz and Sheila Bair can help. And so can giving children more confidence in their grasp of economics.

Marketplace of Ideas

Mary Barra, General MotorsWelcome to the Friday the Thirteenth edition of Marketplace of Ideas!

  • What’s the most important aspect of this week’s budget deal?  It exists.  That’s the Washington Post’s view: “The agreement’s importance is not fiscal but political: It amounts to a truce in the destructive budgetary wars.” Over at Forbes, Karl Smith says that the “failure to slash entitlements and raise taxes leaves us on the road to ruin.” On the bright side, however, that is “less true now than at just about any time in our post war history.”
  • In a week when one of the biggest stories was GM’s appointment of Mary Barra as CEO, making her the most powerful woman executive in the U.S., the Guardian warns that focusing on the handful of women who have shattered through the glass ceiling distracts us from making changes that would improve more women’s working conditions and opportunities. Unfortunately, pseudo-scientific claims like this one in Forbes, suggesting that the “feminine” hormone oxytocin contributes to a better business environment than testosterone, only play into the stereotypes that hold women back in the workplace.
  • Who goes to work to have fun?  In a New York Times op-ed, Oliver Burkeman, author of “The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking,” criticizes the Fun at Work movement.  While enjoying your work is never a bad thing, Burkeman is wary of deliberate efforts to make employees have a good time — a sort of unpaid emotional labor.  Earning a living wage with dignity would probably make workers happier than free doughnuts or posters featuring cringe-worthy humor. How many of the top-ten employers for 2014 have an executive role for a “fungineer”?
  • There’s been a lot of debate since the 2008 crisis over the future of economics as a discipline.  Did economists get it wrong, or are critics short-sighted and politicized?  The academic job market for economists may have some answers:  The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the number of new job openings for economics PhDs fell 6.6% in 2013 to 1,924.  That may sound grim, but the demand for economists is still higher than for sociologists (507 jobs), historians (740 jobs in 2012, the latest data available), or political scientists (531). Perhaps things aren’t so bad for the dismal science.

Photo Mary Barra, courtesy

Economist 101: Questions for Emily Oster

Emily Oster is an associate professor of economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Her book Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong–and What You Really Need to Know comes out this August. She offers advice on Costco trips and breakups in The Wall Street Journal‘s economic advice column “Ask Emily” and contributes to Slate’s DoubleX. Check out her TED talk on how incentive-based analysis can help combat AIDS in Africa and follow her on Twitter.

In one sentence, describe what you do at your job every day.

On a great day, think and write; on a less-great one, management, administration and table formatting.

What’s the most important economic concept for the average person to understand?

Opportunity cost.  People undervalue their time to an incredible extent.

Name three people, living or dead, who you’d invite to your dream economics-themed dinner party.

Gary Becker, Paul Krugman, and Larry Summers.  Dinner parties are most fun with arguments.

What’s one policy change you would make to help aid the recovery?

I’d recommend not asking a health economist like me to weigh in on the macro economy.

Tell us one thing about the economy that the media often gets wrong.

That economics is just about interest rates and the Fed (although this is changing).

What book do you think everyone should read?

Becker’s Treatise on the Family.  And, of course, mine (Expecting Better, due out in August).

What do you refuse to spend money on?

Fixing dents in my car.  And it shows.

For more of AIER‘s Economist 101 interviews, click here.

In Finland, A Starter Kit for Every Baby

Putting a newborn down for a nap in a cardboard box may not sound like a comforting image of parenthood. But it’s a beloved tradition in Finland, where the government provides all new moms with a box filled with baby clothes, cloth diapers, and bed and bath-time accessories. The box even doubles as a crib–mattress, sheets, blanket, and duvet cover included.

Much like the boxes themselves, the tradition serves a variety of purposes. It provides all families with a mini-care package that includes the basic things a newborn will need, sending a message of unity and equality. Low-income families have access to items that might otherwise be unaffordable. And reporter Helena Lee writes that the boxes, introduced in 1938, may also have helped Finland achieve one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates.

In order to get the box or the alternative cash grant (140 euros), expecting mothers must visit a doctor or pre-natal clinic before their fourth month of pregnancy. Lee says this tradition helps ensure that mothers and babies get medical care. “In the 1930s Finland was a poor country and infant mortality was high – 65 out of 1,000 babies died,” she writes. “But the figures improved rapidly in the decades that followed.” Medical and technological advances, as well Finland’s economic growth, also doubtless played a part. Today, the country’s infant mortality rate is 3.4 out of every 1,000 babies–a number that’s considered exceptional.

Do you think a program like this would work in the U.S.? Why or why not? Personally, I think those boxes look pretty cozy.

Networking 101: How to Mingle with Confidence

Carla Oleska knows how to work a room. The CEO of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, a grant-making organization dedicated to advancing economic and social opportunities for women and girls, spoke at AIER yesterday as part of our Women’s Financial Empowerment lecture series. The theme of the evening: How to network like a pro. After offering the eager crowd some pointers, Oleska had the group put their new knowledge to the test with an on-the-spot professional mixer. As business cards and handshakes flew, it was clear Oleska’s wisdom had worked wonders. “The only problem was getting them to sit back down,” said AIER’s Natalia Smirnova.

If you couldn’t be there, no need to worry about missing out. Here are a few of Oleska’s tips to help you make a smashing impression at your next professional event. (Of course, while these are aimed at women, they’ll work for people of any gender.) Happy networking!

  • When you enter the room, don’t skitter off to a corner and wait for someone to approach you. Instead, stand confidently at the front of the room and scan the crowd. That way, you’ll be able to find people you want to talk to–and other people will notice you, too. Oleska says the master of this move was none other than Henry Kissinger, who would find an elevated perch like a staircase or platform in order to get an eagle’s eye view of the room. No wonder the man rose so high in Washington. Read more