The Economist as Plumber

40 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2017  

Esther Duflo

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD)

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Date Written: January 23, 2017

Abstract

As economists increasingly help governments design new policies and regulations, they take on an added responsibility to engage with the details of policy making and, in doing so, to adopt the mindset of a plumber. Plumbers try to predict as well as possible what may work in the real world, mindful that tinkering and adjusting will be necessary since our models gives us very little theoretical guidance on what (and how) details will matter. This essay argues that economists should seriously engage with plumbing, in the interest of both society and our discipline.

Suggested Citation

Duflo, Esther, The Economist as Plumber (January 23, 2017). MIT Department of Economics Working Paper No. 17-03. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2927153

Esther Duflo (Contact Author)

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

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Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD) ( email )

Duke University
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United States

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