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Using papers published in 2003 and 2004, we measure the extent of math-free research in top economics journals. Of more than 1200 papers published in ten top journals, six percent met a weak criterion of math-free, three percent an intermediate criterion, and only 1.5 percent a strong criterion. General interest journals published more math-free papers than field journals. If Adam Smith were alive today, to survive he would in all likelihood need to learn math. His extensive mastery of literature, history, ethics, and rhetoric would ill-serve his career.
Podcast related to this article: Daniel Sutter on the Near Absence of Math-free Economics Articles (EJW Audio, March 2012).