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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.