Ideological Discrimination in Economics?

Sometime ago I remember reading a study that indicated the way that publications from Chicago trained economists clustered in the Journal of Political Economy and those from Harvard, in the Quarterly Journal of Economics. (Maybe someone recalls the reference.)

I recently came upon an article about the respective hiring patterns of departments of economics, comparative literature, of mathematics.  A similar type of clustering occurs in economics, but far more modestly in mathematics, where presumably ideology would not play much of a role.

Economists commonly describe the ideological clustering is a division between freshwater and saltwater economists — because the conservative departments tend to be in the interior and the more liberal along the East and West coasts.

The author does not attribute the clustering to ideological influences, but one might suspect a reluctance of Chicago to dilute its ideological purity with an excessive influx of people who do Harvard or MIT style economics.  Admittedly, the difference between these schools is much more modest than it has been in the past.

If one can accept the possibility of mutual discrimination on account of relatively modest intellectual differences, might one be forgiven for suspecting the long-denied discrimination against radical economists?


4 comments so far

  1. rich on

    Don’t forget about us lefties at the University of Missouri Kansas City!!

  2. Outbound Inbound Services on

    This is something new to me “Ideological discrimination on Economist”. Any detailed indication you can offer?

    • mperelman on

      Economics is a form of theology, with no tolerance for heresy.

      No young leftist economist has been hired by a top ten economics department for as long as I can remember.

      Within mainstream economics, despite their agreement about most major issues, departments tend to cluster around particular flavors of economics. They discriminate against each other.

      As economics has become more conservative in recent years, the remaining differences have narrowed. Nonetheless, I have not seen any indication that the degree of intolerance has diminished.

  3. Phil on

    From what I understand about the current state of conventional economic theory, the left will continue to be marginalized until they manage to empirically prove that neoclassical models are mathematically defunct. Producing political economic critiques, while useful, will not shake the foundations of the neoclassical Citadel.

    This is the hope of mathematically endowed Post-Keynesians and, more importantly I think, engineers and econophysicists. These types are more mathematical than neoclassicals and will be able to produce falsifiable models that are based upon real-world data without the need for the pseudo-scientific claim that “assumptions don’t matter”.

    “There is little or nothing in existing micro- or macroeconomics texts that is of value for understanding real markets. Economists have not understood how to model markets mathematically in an empirically correct way. Their only (once-) scientific model so far, the neo-classical one, has been falsified. What is now taught as standard economic theory will eventually disappear, no trace of it will remain in the universities or boardrooms because it simply does not work: were it engineering, the bridge would collapse. The reigning economic theory, based on the assumptions of optimizing behavior with infinite foresight, will be displaced by econophysics (where noise rather than foresight reigns supreme), meaning empirically based modelling where one asks not what we can do for the data (give it a massage), but instead asks what can we learn from the data about how markets really work.

    Existing standard economics texts are filled with scads of graphs, but those graphs are merely cartoons because they do not represent real data, they represent only the falsified expectations of neo-classical equilibrium theory. No existing economic model or idea provides us with a zeroth order starting point for understanding how real markets function. No current economics model provides a starting point for building an interesting falsifiable market model.” (pp. 606-607)

    “The real problem with my proposal for the future of economics departments is that current economics and finance students typically do not know enough mathematics to understand (a) what econophysicists are doing, or (b) to evaluate the neo-classical model (known in the trade as ‘The Citadel’) critically enough to see, as Alan Kirman put it, that ‘No amount of attention to the walls will prevent The Citadel from being empty’. I therefore suggest that the economists revise their curriculum and require that the following topics be taught: calculus through the advanced level, ordinary differential equations (including advanced), partial differential equations (including Green functions), classical mechanics through modern nonlinear dynamics, statistical physics, stochastic processes (including solving Smoluchowski–Fokker–Planck equations), computer programming (C, Pascal, etc.) and, for complexity, cell biology. Time for such classes can be obtained in part by eliminating micro- and macro economics classes from the curriculum. The students will then face a much harder curriculum, and those who survive will come out ahead. So might society as a whole.” (pp. 607-608)

    McCauley, Joseph L. 2006. “Response to ‘Worrying Trends in Econophysics'”, Physica A, Vol. 371, No. 2, pp. 601-609

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