Monday, April 07, 2008

The Future of Economics

Or, what are assistant professors in America's top economics departments doing? Andrew Oswald and Hilda Ralsmark of the University of Warwick comb the CVs of 112 assistant profs for clues about where the discipline is going (pdf):

As part of a larger study of the brain drain among elite scientists, we have been collecting information on young American economists. This has been done by examining, and collating the patterns in, the CVs of all assistant professors at the top-10 departments in the USA... these young men and women arguably provide a glimpse of the future of American economics.

First, we find evidence of a severe brain drain -- what one might call a funnelling of talent into the United States -- at the bachelor-degree level. The typical assistant professor has a BSc from outside the USA and a PhD from inside the USA. Second, contrary to numerous gloomy assessments of the state of academic economics -- including some in the 1991 The Future of Economics centenary issue of the Economic Journal, compiled as a set of essays in Hey (1992)) -- the great majority of these young economists are doing empirical work. Many people who criticise economists as obsessively mathematical have a view of economics that is out-of-date: our data paint a clear and more modern picture.

The future of economics in the elite American universities seems likely to be heavily applied, not abstractly theoretical. Of our 112 researcherrs, few appear to be doing deductive theory for its own sake. Third, we show that the male-to-female ratio among assistant professors is now approximately 3 to 1, and that the most-studied areas of economics are now macroeconomics, econometrics, and labour economics (though these days this encompasses topics only obliquely related to labour markets).


And here's a reminder of where economics has been in the last century.

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