if sociology had an igm panel

The IGM panel of economic experts got some recent buzz because 63% of their experts — 81%, when weighted by confidence — disagree with the Piketty-inspired argument that r > g is driving recent wealth inequality in the U.S.

I always enjoy reading these surveys. The panel includes 50 or so top academic economists, from a variety of subfields and political orientations, and asks them whether they agree or disagree with a policy-relevant economic statement. Respondents answer on a Likert scale, and indicate their degree of certainty as well as their level of agreement. Sometimes they add a short comment.

The results usually aren’t incredibly surprising. Not really shocking that 100% of economists agree that

Letting car services such as Uber or Lyft compete with taxi firms on equal footing regarding genuine safety and insurance requirements, but without restrictions on prices or routes, raises consumer welfare.

They’re a little more nervous about selling kidneys (45% favor, but nearly 30% find themselves “uncertain” — the highest proportion for any recent question besides whether ending net neutrality is a good thing). The most interesting ones are those where there’s disagreement (Have the last decade of airline mergers improved things for travelers?) or that counter the stereotype (54% disagree that giving holiday presents — rather than cash — is inefficient. Okay, counters it a little).

Anyway, this got me wondering. What if sociology had a similar panel? I mean, aside from the fact that no one would care. I can think of empirical findings we’d have broad confidence in that much of the public wouldn’t buy — for example, that there’s lots of hiring discrimination against African-Americans. But are there policy prescriptions we’d agree on — ones that are grounded in the discipline, as opposed coming solely from our left-leaning tendencies, though of course the two are hard to separate — that would tell us, Yep, sociologists WOULD say that.

EDITED TO ADD: Yes, I know that Piketty does not actually argue r > g is the cause of recent inequality growth in the US, which is what the question asks. But if they can headline the poll “Piketty on Inequality,” it seems fair to call the statement “Piketty-inspired.”

Written by epopp

October 16, 2014 at 2:43 am

5 Responses

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  1. For one thing, internet use increases connectivity and social support.

    Liked by 2 people


    October 16, 2014 at 2:50 am

  2. IGM is interesting, and has been used in some clever ways to test the influence of economists’ opinions on broader public opinion (answer: not much).

    The Piketty question in particular is frustrating, though, because Piketty himself doesn’t think r > g is driving contemporary US inequality (but rather wage inequality)! It’s actually one of the major critiques of his book/approach – it doesn’t seem to explain as well the thing most readers care about (the US in the last 30 years, surprise). Here’s DeLong on the subject.


    Dan Hirschman

    October 16, 2014 at 3:02 am

  3. I don’t expect the range among these types of economists to be that wide.



    October 16, 2014 at 8:03 am

  4. I think that it is a fascinating idea. It reminds me of a question the professor of my graduate research methods class asked: “What would a President’s Council of Social Advisors look like?”

    Anyway, I don’t think that it is a terrible idea and I think that there are a range of questions for which non-sociologists would care.



    October 16, 2014 at 9:28 pm

  5. @mike3550: There have been efforts to create a Council of Social Advisors at various points. In the late 60s, Walter Mondale championed one of them (unsurprisingly, the CEA was not thrilled with the idea). More recently, there was a push for one when Obama entered the White House (e.g.

    I think sociology has more intellectual diversity and less political diversity than economics, overall. Unfortunately, I think more of our agreement would be driven by shared politics than shared knowledge.



    October 17, 2014 at 1:39 am

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