August 09, 2006
Why do economists think sociologists are stupid?
Posted by Gordon Smith

Don't even try to debate the premise of this question. It's an exaggeration and it's unfair and yadda, yadda, yadda. But I have heard too many comments by economists to doubt that there is a widespread prejudice running through that profession along these lines. So let's explore some possible explanations, all of which I have heard from economists:

1. Sociologists are stupid!

2. Math: economists got there first, and sociologists are only now starting to catch up

3. Equilibrium: economists have it, and sociologists don't (that is, economists have a concept that focuses their analyses, while sociologists are scattered in their analyses)

4. Empirical Methods: economists use "hard" numbers, and sociologists use case studies, surveys, interviews, ethnographies, etc.

Though I have heard each of these "explanations" from economists, #1 is patently ridiculous. What about the other three?

UPDATE: I wrote this rather hastily in response to a comment from an economist, so I am still thinking about possible explanations. How about:

5. Economists just assume sociologists are stupid because that improves the r-squared of the economists' world view.

UPDATE2: If we did a parallel post, what should the title be? "Why do sociologists think economists are _________?"

UPDATE3: Larry Solum has some thoughts on Legal Theory Blog. The takeaway: "sociologists disagree with [economists'] fundamental assumptions and they wouldn't be considered technically sophisticated if they were economists."

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