Monday, May 12, 2014

The University of Chicago Economists Run a Field Experiment

In May 2014, what does the reading public want from leading economists?  Last week, Atif Mian and Amir Sufi released their University of Chicago Press book "House of Debt:  How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening Again" and today Steve Dubner and Steve Levitt have released their new book; "Think Like a Freak".

Mian and Sufi are betting that readers want serious analysis.  The Piketty datapoint should raise their confidence that their book will be read and debated.

Dubner and Levitt appear to have a different market segment in mind.  "Serious people" such as Paul Krugman are unlikely to read their book.   But, there are a large number of High School and College hipsters eager to increase their creativity and to be challenged by new ideas and seeking to understand how all of this "Big Data" can be sifted through to see patterns and to understand what causes what in our complex world.

A challenge for PHD economists who seek to write "serious books" is that there appears to be a relatively small set of active readers out there with a core "pro-free markets" worldview.     I would love to wrong about this.