Race-related research in economics and other social sciences
What is this research about and why did you do it?
Large and persistent differences across racial and ethnic groups in wealth and economic well-being have been well documented. Issues of racial differences in economic opportunity have risen to the top of the policy agenda in recent years. If the causes of such inequality are to be understood and resolved, then economists need to be engaged in race-related research. This study examines the extent to which academic economists have been conducting such research, comparing it with the disciplines of political science and sociology.
How do you answer this question?
We build a corpus of academic journal publications for economics, political science, and sociology from 1960 to 2020. This covers half a million journal publications: 224,855 publications from 231 economics journals, 138,188 publications from 185 sociology journals, and 110,835publications from 213 political science journals. Within this body of work, we then identify race-related research using an algorithm that uses keywords related to: (i) the racial or ethnic group being studied; and (ii) the issue being studied. Examples of keywords include ‘discrimination’, ‘prejudice’, and ‘stereotype’.
What do you find?
Economics lags far behind the other disciplines in the volume and share of race-related research, despite having higher absolute volumes of research output. Since 1960, there have been 13,000 race-related publications in sociology, 4,000 in political science, and 3,000 in economics.
Over the six decades covered by the study, less than two per cent of articles in economics journals concern race with no trend since 1970. The data set includes half a million publications in the three disciplines. Race related publications were identified by key words such as “segregation” and “African-American”.
What implications does this have for the study of wealth concentration or economic inequality?
The work highlights the need for economists to pay greater attention to race. We surveyed economists on the extent to which they believe race is understudied, using the Social Science Prediction Platform. They correctly predict the disciplinary ranking but overestimate the share of race-related research in all three disciplines. 90% overestimated the share of race-related research in economics.
What are the next steps in your agenda?
We want to understand why economists have not studied race. Is it because race-related research is less likely to be published; the underrepresentation of minorities in economics; the absence of race related topics in economics education?
Citation and related resources
This paper can be cited as follows: Advani, A., Ash, E., Cai, D., and Rasul, I. (Forthcoming). 'Race-related research in economics and other social sciences'. Econometric Society Monograph. A pre-publication version is available.