Sunday, November 28, 2010

Are You Smarter Than An Economist?

The "Week in Ideas" secion of yesterday's WSJ had an interesting tidbit:

Economists are more likely than average citizens to view trading with other nations as a win-win scenario, to prize the efficiency of markets and to see recessions as cyclical downturns rather than systemic collapses. Some research has found that the more education people have, the closer they move to this economist's-eye view of the world. A new study suggests that, even more than education, intelligence itself leads citizens to "think like economists."

The researchers wanted to tease out the independent effects of intelligence and education. They made use of the National Opinion Research Center's massive General Social Survey, which includes demographic data, queries about economic attitudes and (for half the respondents) a short vocabulary quiz, which the authors treat as a workable (if not ideal) test of intelligence.

The authors found that intelligence supplanted education as the primary predictor of whether one took an economist's typical point of view. Education moved into second place, followed by party identification (Republican) and recent growth in income. The correlation between the views of intelligent people and professional economists offers "another reason to accept the 'economists are right, the public is wrong' interpretation" of differences in opinion, these economists argue.