Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Math Hazing

When I first came to teach at The University of Western Ontario about 54 years ago, I was one of the young turks; I also used quite a bit of math in my work. As time went on, I became increasingly skeptical about all the gratuitous use of math in graduate economics training. I am delighted to see I am not the only one. From Arnold Kling (you have to love his term, "math bigots"):
Today, the "theory sequence" at most top-tier graduate schools in economics is controlled by math bigots. As a result, it is impossible to survive as an economics graduate student with a math background that is less than that of an undergraduate math major. In fact, I have heard that at this year's American Economic Association meetings, at a seminar on graduate education one professor quite proudly said that he ignored prospective students' grades in economics courses, because their math proficiency was the key predictor of their ability to pass the coursework required to obtain an advanced degree.

And Micha Ghertner of Catallarchy adds:
Perhaps the continued use of complex mathematics and econometrics even in the face of mediocre results is the method by which economists make it more difficult for the marginal student to enter the field, thereby protecting themselves from further competition. Further, this protects economists from competition with other social scientists, like sociologists, psychologists, political scientists, and philosophers, who do not need and do not have the mathematical background necessary to decipher and challenge the work done by economists.
Links courtesy of Katie at A Constrained Vision here and here.

and remember the math guy on the hiring committee who said, "He's so smart even I can't follow his math." Some of my friends and I thought it was something like Freudian compensation, maybe "math envy".
Who Links Here