Table talk — what is the best new work in economics?

We had lunch with Eric Helland yesterday, and the talk came around to a standard question: what is the most interesting work in the economics profession today?  Steve Levitt and the improved use of instrumental variables was mentioned.  Shleifer and Acemoglu.  World Bank data sets on corruption and governance.  I added the following:

1. Recent work showing the Industrial Revolution was a more gradual process than had been thought.

2. Neuroeconomics, albeit more on promise than delivery.

3. The work of Abhijit Banerjee and his MIT "lab" on randomized trials for developing economies.

I then grasped for another option and came up with:

4. A better understanding of the importance of peer groups; this is happening mostly outside of the economics profession.  I was thinking of that study which showed how much campus alcoholism can be reduced, simply by spreading information about how disgusting the other students find your drunkenness.

Those were my gut reactions rather than a well-thought out list.  My apologies to the thousands of unjustly excluded economists, some of whom read this blog.  I invite other econ bloggers to take up the same question.


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