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Friday, July 08, 2005

Oh, Come On

Those of you who are labor or education economists are probably aware of an ongoing argument between Princeton Assistant Professor Jesse Rothstein and Harvard Professor Caroline Hoxby. I haven't read the papers involved, so I won't comment on the specifics; I'll probably add a link to those papers in a bit. But suffice it to say that the argument has gotten publicly nasty over the last few months.

Today's there's an article in the Harvard Crimson about the dispute. It includes this choice bit:
Hoxby said she believes that Rothstein’s interest in her work—and his working paper—have been instigated by the “ideological bias” of Rothstein’s dissertation adviser, [David] Card. She said she believes there may be a larger issue of prejudice underlying the entire debate.

“I think there is quite a lot of race and gender bias going on here,” Hoxby said in an interview with The Crimson. “I think it’s really a pity. I think there are a few people being very unreflective about their behavior.”
First of all, I remember when Jesse was thinking about education issues as a grad student (I was doing a fellowship at Berkeley, where he did his PhD), and I can say that his interest in questions related to Caroline's work was hardly due to "ideological bias". It's probably true that David and Jesse have different views of economics of education issues from Caroline's, but anyone who knows either of them knows they care about evidence first. I don't think it's at all fair to attribute their differences with Caroline to "ideological bias".

Second, I know both David Card and Jesse Rothstein reasonably well personally (and I know Caroline Hoxby a bit). To accuse David and Jesse of race and gender bias is absolutely outrageous. I've talked with Jesse about the ongoing dispute with Caroline, and neither her race nor her gender has ever come up. I hope that Caroline's quote was somehow taken out of context, because otherwise it's much worse than a cheap shot.

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