Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Preference Falsification in the Economics Profession


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In the economics profession there is a tension between the scholastic orientation and the public discourse orientation. The former affirms certain academic conventions among economists such as mathematical model building and statistical significance. The latter emphasizes communicating with lay people by addressing issues as they are understood in policy discourse. The results of a recent survey of economists indicate that most privately believe that the orientation is too scholastic. This paper explores the possibility that a large portion of the economics profession practices what Timur Kuran calls preference falsification—that is, individuals express or exhibit public preferences that are at odds with, or at least do not reflect, their private preferences. The survey results suggest that many economists at least weakly falsify their preferences about much of the profession’s conventions while actually having preferences to the contrary.