Some people have been complaining about the increasing mathematization of econonmics and how it leads to a disconnect of economics with real life (which I suppose is void of mathematics). I would argue that this is actually a good thing, first because it forces you to have rigorous arguments, second because you often need quantitative answers to questions that result in qualitatively ambiguous outcomes, and third because it simply allows us to look at more complex problems. But, has mathematization actually increased?

Miguel Espinosa, Carlos Rondon and Mauricio Romero look at the publications of top economists and look at how many equations or econometric outputs per article they produced. The analysis for the last century shows a gradual increase of mathematization throughout, except for the number of equations which went through a serious recession in the 1980's. And of course, econometrics started only seriously in the 1950's. It also appears that professional success as measured by prestigious prizes is certainly linked to the use of mathematics, but not the econometric kind.

Miguel Espinosa, Carlos Rondon and Mauricio Romero look at the publications of top economists and look at how many equations or econometric outputs per article they produced. The analysis for the last century shows a gradual increase of mathematization throughout, except for the number of equations which went through a serious recession in the 1980's. And of course, econometrics started only seriously in the 1950's. It also appears that professional success as measured by prestigious prizes is certainly linked to the use of mathematics, but not the econometric kind.

## 10 comments:

This paper is awesome, although there are some typos...its seems pretty amazing.... I strongly recommend to read it!!!...for me the data base is the best...really promising future research..great post

Its good to see this 50 years discussion with some objective measures!

I am not sure counting equations is the proper measure. First, I think articles have become longer, which makes it possible to display more equations. Second, there may been an increasing tolerance to equations, which combined with the same mathematical content leads to more displayed equations. The increased mathematization is not that simple to establish.

Mathematization is just a natural evolution. Once the low-hanging fruit that can be analyzed in a simple and narrative way have been taken, anything after that is more complex and benefits from being described in a mathematical way. This happens in every scientific field.

While there is currently a backlash against mathematization because it lends people to lose sight of "real issues," I think mathematization has brought us much good.

Rigor.

Without rigor, flawed arguments can pass as valid unless the reader is capable of replicating sometimes complex logic in his head. And that is mathematics anyway.

People complain about mathematization because of a maths aversion and they feel left out. Too bad for them.

Thanks for all the comments.

I want to add that the paper focuses on top economists. Of course they lead the way, and others will imitate their use of mathematics. But if they have become top economists, it is not because their works were obscurely complex, but because they made important points they managed increasingly to convey with mathematics. And remember that there is text around the equations, and it is often that text that makes a paper great, not the equations. The latter are there only to support the argument.

You complained a few days ago that there was not enough economics in environmental policy. Maybe it is because all that math is incomprehensible to policy makers.

Hi there,

I am one of the authors of the paper and I found very enriching this discussion. Let me go step by step.

For Vilfredo:

I do agree there is no any way to know if the equations-counting is the best way to evaluate our question. However, we believe it is one of the cleanest one. I appreciate your comment about the change of the articles lenght. That is a very good point. However, all our results hold when we control for number of pages, that is equations per page.

**for Economic Logician: thank you very much for your acclaration. I agree that is the correct way to say it!

thank you all

And another Nobel goes to mathematicians: Al Roth and Lloyd Shapley.

Post a Comment