What Are Economists Talking About?

What are the big issues economists are talking about? Here’s a tag cloud, showing the frequency of various terms across the 698 papers presented in the various sessions at the recent annual meetings of the American Economic Association:

created at TagCrowd.com

It’s good to see the biggest word here is “evidence.” In fact, there’s more “evidence” than “economics.”

The “global” “financial” “crisis” has clearly affected the direction of research. There’s a large role played by “credit” and “risk,” real attention being paid to “policy,” fear about “jobs,” and the “labor” and “capital” market implications of problems that began in the “mortgage” and “housing” market.

While “fiscal” policy didn’t rate a mention, “monetary” policy did.

Beyond the response to the crisis, some of the newer fields of economic inquiry remain vibrant, with terms like “learning,” “experiments,” “school,” and “health” featured prominently. There’s surprisingly little work on “development,” but a lot of interest in “gender,” “households,” and “women.” Our students will be pleased to hear of several sessions focusing on “teaching.”

But our research methods remain largely unchanged, with that sharp focus on “evidence” and “analysis” also reflecting ongoing interest in “prices,” “information,” “structure,” and a surprisingly small contribution from both “innovation” and “institutions.” Oh, and paper titles mentioning “theory” were just as common as those mentioning “empirical” work.

O.K., this is a pretty crude analysis. But still, this year’s conference suggests to me that the economics profession is healing itself.


Where's "recession"?


While evidence may be high, data is still quite low.


It's good to know that Economists are showing good amount of interest in area like Teaching & Learning .


what was the change from the last meeting's word frequency?


"Recession" *snort* Where's "depression" lol?


Where is trillions of dollars of federal debt?

Joe Smith

Given the profound depth of the failure of economists over the last ten years it is a bit early to be claiming redemption.


Federal debt? Where is the hundreds of billions of "bailouts". Are we really ignoring the impact of the bailouts on the institution of capitalism? When the axioms are actually lies, what good is the theory?


I don't believe this analysis. 698 papers, and the top frequency is "evidence" 87 times? It seem pretty likely that if you used that word once in a paper, you'd use it five times (how short were the papers?), so that would mean 18 papers, roughly, out of 698.

I know economists are fantastists who struggle to spell empirical let alone comprehend it, but 2% of papers only? That's pretty crap.


Well hopefull they'll "change" their "economics" "model" so that it reflects the real world, takes "debt" into consideration, and start "teaching" that the economy is never in "equilibrium".


@buddy I thought the same thing (minus the "economists can't spell thought). This is probably from the text of the presentations of the papers not the presentations themselves.


Buddy, I think the number you see is a percentage, as in 87% of papers use the word evidence.
It's funny, though, that you berate economists for their empirical work, but misinterpret the data in front of you. Perhaps interpreting data is actually rather difficult. Not to say economists haven't made pretty big mistakes, and that the academic institution is a little less shaken than one might have hoped by these mistakes...

Leigh Caldwell

For comparison, here's what economists are talking about on their blogs:



There's surprisingly little work on "development," but a lot of interest in "gender," "households," and "women."

Having said that, "development" occurred one more time than "women".

Ian Kemmish

Does it count how many times they say "while we haven't any direct evidence,..."?


I noticed that the term "economic laws" wasn't included. I wonder why? :-)


I wonder how many of these words are just from the introductions to "Sell" the paper. Every economist these days when they sit down to write a paper tries to connect it to something "current" or "relevant." Often, despite the sales pitch, the paper still leaves alot to be desired.

I wouldn't immediately conclude from this economists are now starting to DO the right things. Rather, they know what people want them to do.

science minded

So I am curious as to what Economists are not talking directly about?

Eliot McCain

gigantic fraud

The current financial is a gigantic fraud, the fallout of a deliberate and preconceived profit agenda to enslave millions middle classe Americans in a debt bubble.
It is somewhat surprising that there is not already rioting in the streets, given the gigantic fraud perpetrated by the financial elite at the expense of ordinary Americans.
Business, of course, needs consumers to carry on spending in order to make money, so a way had to be found to persuade households to do their patriotic duty. The method chosen was simple. Whip up a colossal housing bubble, convince consumers that it makes sense to borrow money against the rising value of homes to supplement our meagre real wage growth and watch the profits roll in.
As we did - for a while. Now it's payback time and the mood could get very ugly. We Americans, to put it bluntly, have been conned. We have been duped by a bunch of serpent-tongued hucksters who packed up the wagon and made it across the county line before a lynch mob could be formed.



I can't believe the word "job" appears only 14 times!