Views among economists: Are economists really so divided?
Gordon Dahl, Roger Gordon16 May 2013
Remedying a global crisis such as this requires concerted, consensual, coordinated effort. But we’re told economists are divided on what to do next. Is this true? Are we divided? This column praises efforts such as the Economic Experts Panel from the Chicago Booth School of Business. It’s from panels like this – which comprise top economists with differing political views – that we can get a sense of consensus or disagreement on major economic issues.
George Bernard Shaw famously quipped: "If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion". A common perception from the media is that economists are hopelessly divided on current policy issues. Regardless of the issue, noted economists can be found who stake out polar opposite views. With such divisions within the profession, it is no wonder that economists contribute little to the current policy debate.
Publishing in economics is a very tough game, especially for young scholars trying to establish a research record while on a tenure clock. This column discusses new research that shows the age profile of authors in top journals has distinctly shifted away from young scholars. In 1993, half the authors of top-level articles were under 35 and 90% were under 50. Today, only a third are under 35.
Sixty years ago, Harvey Lehman published a path-breaking book examining the lifecycle of productivity in various fields, scientific, humanistic and artistic (Lehman 1953). He demonstrated the now widely accepted conclusion that the contributions of mathematicians and people in mathematics-related disciplines peak very early in their careers. Lehman also showed that artists and humanists in many cases achieved their greatest successes much later in life. How do economists stack up along the age-productivity dimension, and how has that been changing?
How do economists assess the european economic crisis? A survey
Heiner Mikosch, Stefan Neuwirth, Theo Suellow, Andres Frick, Andrea Lassmann03 June 2012
How do European economists assess the economic crisis in Europe? This column presents results of a survey of members of the Association of European Conjuncture Institutes on various issues related to the European economic crisis, such as the likelihood of Greece leaving the Eurozone, the likelihood of Europe falling back into recession, and the role of the European Central Bank.
Has economics failed us? Should economists have seen this crisis coming? This column offers a defence of contemporary economics against those demanding forecasts of crises and complaining about the profession’s mathematical intensity. It says that the economy’s extraordinary complexity necessitates that economists remain modest, not that they abandon their training for a multidisciplinary melting pot.
The current crisis has spurred a debate on the training and usefulness of economists. Some contend that economists are useless since they failed to forecast the crisis. Others claim that their training is inadequate because it relies heavily on applied mathematics at the expense of a broad view of how the economy works, informed by other disciplines such as psychology, sociology, and political science.
In this Vox Talk from 2008, Alvin Roth talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about some of the research for which he was recently awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (with Lloyd Shapley). They discuss his work designing markets for kidney exchange, mechanisms for school choice in New York and Boston, and efficient systems for getting doctors and economists into their first jobs. Roth also explains the significance of repugnance as a constraint on markets.