Are Economists as Biased as Everyone Else?

All nine nominees for office in the American Economic Association are from private universities, all from states on an ocean. (All but one member of the Nominating Committee was also on a coast.) Two are friends of mine, and all are good people, but: isn’t this evidence of reverse discrimination? Surely there are scholars from public universities, or from the several top-ten non-coastal private schools, who are at least as qualified.

Like others, we economists favor those like us. That’s the bad news—and it’s been shown in conferring other honorifics (Hamermesh and Schmidt, 2003). The good news is that, where it really matters—in judging scholarly papers for publication—economists are remarkably fair (Blank, 1991; Abrevaya and Hamermesh, 2012), ignoring an author’s affiliation, gender or prior reputation.

Given human nature of helping one’s friends, perhaps we should be congratulated for indulging ourselves only where it’s not important.

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  1. Julian says:

    Why would economists be special?

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  2. David Bley says:

    I just wish that I could put as much trust in economic predictions as I do in the weather forcast.

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  3. Eric M. Jones. says:

    “Are Economists as Biased as Everyone Else?”

    No. More so.

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  4. J1 says:

    Why are all the nominees academics? Is that a requirement to be an officer? Either alone suggests bias (in fact pretty extreme bias). And seriously, citing your own paper as proof of a claim you made? As this is a blog, I can’t tell whether or not you did that with a straight face, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume not.

    I’m not going to go as far as Eric, but yes, economists are at least as biased as everyone else.

    Somebody who tells you they aren’t biased has already lied to you once.

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  5. Rick W says:

    “isn’t this evidence of reverse discrimination?”

    Reverse from what? Is there normally discrimination FOR non-coastal or public university economists?

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  6. Helen says:

    Actually Cornell University has a mixed endowment and the nominated labor economist (ILR school) is a part of public part of Cornell.

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  7. Douglas says:

    I would dispute the idea that honors are unimportant. When it comes to the general public, nobody reads scholarly journals, but they commonly hear about honors in speaker introductions, etc. When it comes to forming culture, honors are often far more influential than journal articles. On that basis, I would dispute the interpretation that economists indulge themselves “only where it’s not important.” Quite often honors are more important than the journal articles themselves when it comes to things like influencing the popular consciousness and directing emerging academic stars to seek out the best advisers.

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