Sunday, June 21, 2015

Beards Redux

Barkley Rosser, who is beardless (but not goatee-less) thinks I’m the victim of small sample bias.  Paul Krugman, whose whiskers are iconic, says its because economists’ careers outrace their maturation.  I say its Krugman who’s locked into a small, unrepresentative sample.

On the few occasions I sit down with economists like me (whose careers never took off or did so in unconventional ways), the men mostly do have beards.  Granted, we are another small sample.  I think it may have something to do with being in an in-between state, drawn in one direction to social science, political dissidence or a bit of bohemianism, and to an aura of techie-ness and familiarity with the norms of money and business in the other.  A neatly trimmed beard cuts right down the middle.

But if this is worth thinking about, and if anyone actually cares, it’s worth serious empirical investigation—at the very least, an AEA survey like the ones that periodically show up in your inbox if you’re a member of this particular cult.


Bruce Wilder said...

You would not have to do a respondent survey. You could actually go look, and take notes, as opportunities to do so arise.
I have never understood the fetish for surveys. They are so annoying, as well as being frequently pointless.

Peter Dorman said...

But Bruce: (1) The people you happen to see constitute a convenience sample. Maybe economists with beards are more socially secure and willing to be seen in public. Or less. (2) At best, this can only establish relative prevalence, but science demands causation -- a theory, a mechanism. At the very least we need covariates to get a sense of what kinds of economists (other than male) wear beards and test hypotheses about their motives. Longitudinal data would help too for modeling the flows into and out of beardhood. said...

When I first had my goatee, I had very long sideburns, which made my beard look nearly full. I also for a brief period many years later did have a full beard, but my wife did not like it and that was that. I have not been clean shaven except after briefly after I got rid of my full beard since I got my goatee at around 21.

BTW, last time I saw Don Coffin, he was clean-shaven, but I have not seen him for awhile, so I do not know if he now belongs to the hirsute among us (which I include myself in).

And, yeah, for me I suppose some sort of combo of the sorts of things Peter mentioned, vague bohemianism and political dissidence, and this and that, blah blah blah.