More agreement among economists

By Paul Walker 29/01/2013

It is often said that economists always disagree, but is this true. If the results of a recent NBER working paper are anything to go by economists seem to be agreeing a lot. The paper is Views among Economists: Professional Consensus or Point-Counterpoint? by Roger Gordon and Gordon B. Dahl. The abstract reads,

To what degree do economists disagree about key economic questions? To provide evidence, we make use of the responses to a series of questions posed to a distinguished panel of economists put together by the Chicago School of Business. Based on our analysis, we find a broad consensus on these many different economic issues, particularly when the past economic literature on the question is large. Any differences are unrelated to observable characteristics of the Panel members, other than men being slightly more likely to express an opinion. These differences are idiosyncratic, with no support for liberal vs. conservative camps.

Interesting that differences are idiosyncratic with no support for a liberal vs. conservative divide. I’m sure non-economists would have thought there would be such a divide.

The questions referred to above can be found here.

One interesting question the panel was asked had to do with China-US Trade:

Question A: Trade with China makes most Americans better off because, among other advantages, they can buy goods that are made or assembled more cheaply in China.

85% of responses were either “Strongly agree or agree”. I think the other 15% were “Did not answer”. I can’t find anyone who “Disagreed or Strongly disagreed”.

On Free Trade:

Question A: Freer trade improves productive efficiency and offers consumers better choices, and in the long run these gains are much larger than any effects on employment.

85% “Strongly agree or Agree”, 5% “Uncertain”, the rest I think are “Did not answer”. I can’t find anyone who “Disagreed or Strongly disagreed”.

Another question was on Ticket Resale:

Laws that limit the resale of tickets for entertainment and sports events make potential audience members for those events worse off on average.

68% “Strongly agree or Agree”, only 8% “Strongly disagree or Disagree”.

On Buy American:

Federal mandates that government purchases should be “buy American” unless there are exceptional circumstances, such as in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, have a significant positive impact on U.S. manufacturing employment.

49% “Strongly disagree or Disagree”. 10% “Agree”. 0% “Strongly agree”.

On Rent Control:

Local ordinances that limit rent increases for some rental housing units, such as in New York and San Francisco, have had a positive impact over the past three decades on the amount and quality of broadly affordable rental housing in cities that have used them.

81% “Strongly disagree or Disagree”. 2% “Agree”. 0% “Strongly agree”.