Economists and the public systematically disagree; but can they at least agree about which problems are bigger than others? To check, I returned to the Survey of Americans and Economists on the Economy. (Yes, I do talk about this survey a lot; but in many ways, it’s unequaled).

The first 18 questions have respondents rank the severity of various putative economic problems. So I took the public’s and economists’ average responses (0=not a problem; 1=minor problem; 2=major problem) and looked at the correlation. It’s actually moderately positive, r=.30. Here’s the graph, with regression line:


So while there are systematic disagreements question-by-question, things could be worse. We can imagine a world where the public’s “leading problems” are predictably economists’ non-problems, and vice versa. But that’s not the world we’re in.

I should add, though, that when you expand the sample to include all 37 questions in the SAEE*, the correlation turns slightly negative.


So even though there’s some agreement between economists and the public about how which problems are bigger than others, the general pattern is that you can’t predict the public’s views from economists’ views. I wonder why one would be different from the other. Any ideas?

* Three questions were re-scaled to fit on a 0-2 scale.