Why Do Economists Disagree About Policy?

51 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2000

See all articles by Victor R. Fuchs

Victor R. Fuchs

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Alan B. Krueger

Princeton University - Industrial Relations Section; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

James M. Poterba

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics

Date Written: August 1997

Abstract

This paper reports the results of surveys of specialists in labor economics and public economics at 40 leading research universities in the United States. Respondents provided opinions of policy proposals; quantitative best estimates and 95% confidence intervals for economic parameters; answers to values questions regarding income redistribution, efficiency versus equity, and individual versus social responsibility; and their political party identification. We find considerable disagreement among economists about policy proposals. Their positions on policy are more closely related to their values than to their estimates of relevant economic parameters or to their political party identification. Average best estimates of the economic parameters agree well with the ranges summarized in surveys of relevant literature, but the individual best estimates are usually widely dispersed. Moreover, economists, like experts in many fields, appear more confident of their estimates than the substantial cross-respondent variation in estimates would warrant. Finally although the confidence intervals in general appear to be too narrow, respondents whose best estimates are farther from the median tend to give wider confidence intervals for those estimates.

Suggested Citation

Fuchs, Victor R. and Krueger, Alan B. and Poterba, James M., Why Do Economists Disagree About Policy? (August 1997). NBER Working Paper No. w6151. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=225914

Victor R. Fuchs (Contact Author)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Alan B. Krueger

Princeton University - Industrial Relations Section ( email )

Princeton, NJ 08544-2098
United States
609-258-4046 (Phone)
609-258-2907 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

James M. Poterba

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

50 Memorial Drive
E52-350
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-6673 (Phone)
617-253-1330 (Fax)

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