Is economics a house divided?

That is a recent paper by Onder and Terviö (pdf), publisher version here, here is the abstract:

We investigate divisions within the citation network in economics using citation data between 1990 and 2010. We consider all partitions of top institutions into two equal-sized clusters, and pick the one that minimizes cross-cluster citations. The strongest division is much stronger than could be expected to be found under idiosyncratic citation patterns, and is consistent with the reputed freshwater/saltwater division in macroeconomics. The division is stable over time, but varies across the fields of economics.

Or put it this way:

The likelihood of citing a paper by an author from another university in the same cluster is about 16% higher than the likelihood of citing a paper by an author from the other cluster.


Oddly, Northwestern and Penn are in the freshwater cluster of citations.  Yale and Michigan are the only two schools whose cluster changes with the specification.

Berkeley and MIT have the saltiest taste, while Minnesota and Rochester are the freshest of the fresh.  Chicago has a more neutral set of citation practices than many economists (not I) might think.  Chicago cites saltwater school papers at a higher rate than the general average, nonetheless Chicago ends up strongly in the freshwater camp because it is cited so much by other freshwater schools, and not so much by the saltwater schools.  A cynic might wonder if the Chicago economists are more open-minded than their critics, and I must confess that is consistent with my own anecdotal experience.

By the way, all this corresponds to hiring placement data.  Sadly, academic hiring is more clustered across camps of schools than is the case for…comparative literature.  If you are wondering, the saltiest Fed branch is in Boston, the least salty in Richmond.

Addendum: Bob Hall directs my attention to his posting: “In a 1976 paper, I introduced the distinction between fresh-water and salt-water economists. Bloggers using these terms are asked to contribute $1 to a fund that sends graduate students to MIT for one year and to the University of Minnesota for a second year.”


What about New Institutional Economics?

...and Behavioral Economics, of course...

Saltwater. Human behavioral and institutional logic besides (not to mention both beyond and behind) market logic.

that is ok for the various kinds of economics (influenced by Simon). But today BE tries to establish links with standard economics (Thaler & Sheffrin "The Behavioral Life ‐ cycle Hypothesis" 1988 + Laibson "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting." 1997 are two examples).

Salt water and fresh water is an appropriate image, since both sides are drowning. And for the same reason: fresh water economists believe we can return to robust economic growth of the past if government stays out of the way and salt water economists believe we can return to robust economic growth of the past if government gets in the way. Both are wrong. The genie is out of the bottle and can't be forced back in. Of course, the genie is globalization, the fruits of industrialization having been shifted to low cost developing countries which won't return the favor; indeed, we are rapidly approaching a new phase of globalization, one where goods are developed, manufactured, and sold by firms in developing countries for their own benefit to compete with goods sold by firms in developed countries (including goods assembled in developing countries for the firms in the developed countries, the dominant model in the first phase of globalization). In the first phase of globalization, blue collar workers in developed countries lost out to blue collar workers in developing countries; in the coming new phase of globalization, white collar workers in developed countries will lose out to white collar workers in developing countries. Shenzhen is called the Silicon Valley of China for a good reason. Fresh water economists believe blue collar workers in developed countries just need a nudge for self-motivation, so they will get the education and training they need in a global economy. What kind of nudge will white collar workers need in the second phase of globalization? Maybe a one-way ticket to Shenzhen.

I have given more than one Graduate "Shenzhen" as an updated "Plastics."

Nudges have nothing to do with marginalism.

For globalization to destroy our economy we must cooperate. And of course we do. We do it because for a handful of rich investors the global economy makes the difference between them being a mere billionaire and being a multi-billionaire. These handful of rich investors/entrepreneurs buy and rent congressmen and even presidents to achieve their goals. If we decide to make globalization benefit our country instead of rape it then and only then will globalization be beneficial for us.

No, actually we do it because a Bangladeshi garment worker has five times as high an income - and can afford to feed his family - if he can sell his product to the highest bidder (who may be in Cleveland) than if he has to sell it at the village market.

The billionaire's profit has something to do with the importance of capital in the production function (see

The citation index methodology has one slight caveat that no one seems to adjust for or look into:


You might have situations where schools and colleges are physically close to each other. What this could have an effect on is the frequency of schools having conferences which draw faculty from adjoining schools as presenters or attendees.

Have you ever cited someone in a paper where you were an attendee at their conference, or cited someone when you were presenting a paper that was on the same panel as yours.

Location has another effect: faculty members move, as do their graduate students, to a different school close to home. There might be a tendency for persons to cite papers more frequently from the past department they were in because they know the work of their former colleagues better. And, if location determines how far the prof or student seeks employment, that can also influence the future citation patterns.

Location of a employer is also relevant. If you are in a Federal Reserve district which is quite conservative, and your future employer might be the local Fed research department, you might tilt your work output.

I like citation and information network work, but I think we forget the human dimension that comes randomly from location and frequency of contact often gets ignored.

Also, don't forget, if you are attacking someone in your work, you are also citing them.

I wonder what the results are like in other disciplines. The 16% difference in citation rates strikes me as a small one, given that I'd expect researchers to more often cite peers who are studying similar topics using similar approaches.

"A cynic might wonder if the Chicago economists are more open-minded than their critics."

Why would this be cynical?

If you cite an opponent in your paper attacking their work, you get street cred on this index for being fair and balanced.

Look at how many times Paul Krugman has been mentioned in this blog. Tyler gets credit for citing a saltwater economists under the citation methodology unadjusted for a thumbs up or a thumbs down reason for the cite.

Needs just a little AI. Positive and negative cites.

There's no scientific value in people engaging (and criticizing) ideas that run counter to their own?

Of course there's value. But, that's not the point. The point is that you are given false credit for "fair and balanced" if you do not take into consideration the purpose of the citation. Citation network indices are intended to measure influence and connectedness. Here, the table is being used to measure connectedness in terms of citing other schools work. You can do that for many reasons, including attack, or citing because they are physically close and your fellow speaker is from a different nearby school and you are citing their work. There is a difference between science and political science.

Ironically, though, such thoughts would result from empirical data mining rather than theoretical assumption.

"Is economics a house divided?"

Dude, did you just get here?

A citation index for, say, chemistry or physics might be different than econ or poly sci where you cite your opponent and their work to attack it.

Actually I am surprised that the difference is only 16%. Looks a lot less divided than I would have thought it was, although I think the divisions get a lot larger when one goes into smaller sub-groups, especially more isolated heterodox ones. How much cross-citing is there between Austrians and Post Keynesians? Some, but that gap is a whole lot more than 16% I suspect.

Explanation for the smaller difference than expected:

The citation index did not include blogs

Saul Bellow, Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Philip Glass (to name a few), what do they have in common? They are graduates of the outlier: Chicago. Chicago is the outlier because Chicago is about scholarship, not ideology.

Hahahahahahahahahahaha good one

Chicago econ is still doing okay, but I hear Chicago more generally is a bit of a mess these days, even in some areas where they used to dominate...

Because the market for talent and ideas is efficient,

I would rationally expect them to be where they are.

It is what is, and not what is what was.

That's right. Vonnegut and Sontag are (sort of) leftists.

>Oddly, Northwestern and Penn are in the freshwater cluster of citations.

Northwestern is on Lake Michigan, in Evanston, Illinois.

I think Tyler found it odd because Northwestern isn't usually thought of as being a freshwater school ideologically: I see Eisner and Mortenson as saltwatery, Nerlove AFAIK was neutral, I don't know about the department more recently.

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