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Journal Article

Consensus, Polarization, and Alignment in the Economics Profession


Van Gunten,  Tod S.
Transnationale Diffusion von Innovationen, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;

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Van Gunten, T. S., Martin, J. L., & Teplitskiy, M. (2016). Consensus, Polarization, and Alignment in the Economics Profession. Sociological Science, 3(published online December 5), 1028-1052. doi:10.15195/v3.a45.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002C-16FC-0
Scholars interested in the political influence of the economics profession debate whether the discipline is unified by policy consensus or divided among competing schools or factions. We address this question by reanalyzing a unique recent survey of elite economists. We present a theoretical framework based on a formal sociological approach to the structure of belief systems and propose alignment, rather than consensus or polarization, as a model for the structure of belief in the economics profession. Moreover, we argue that social clustering in a heterogeneous network topology is a better model for disciplinary social structure than discrete factionalization. Results show that there is a robust latent ideological dimension related to economists’ departmental affiliations and political partisanship. Furthermore, we show that economists closer to one another in informal social networks also share more similar ideologies.