The Impact of Economics Blogs

David McKenzie (World Bank, BREAD, CEPR and IZA) and Berk Özler (World Bank). Policy Research Working Paper 5783. August 2011. Available as pdf. See also the authors’ blog about this paper.

Introduction: Practically nonexistent a decade ago, blogs by economic scholars have become commonplace. Economics blogs, such as Freakonomics, Marginal Revolution, Paul Krugman and Greg Mankiw, have built large followings – whether measured by subscriptions in Google Reader or by average daily page views (1). Cowen (2008) argues that blogs are the main way that the general public consumes economics in a given day and guesstimates that “…about 400,000 people are reading economics blogs and digesting them” on a daily basis.

These blogs not only give their creators an outlet to disseminate their ideas and work immediately in a format that is more accessible, but also enable instant feedback, are easy to share on the open web, and allow the bloggers a personal style rather than the inaccessible format of academic journals (Glenn, 2003; Dunleavy and Gilson 2011).

Our motivation in examining the impact of economics blogs stems from two observations about blogs and questions that arise from these. First, it seems fair to state that “…informing is the core business of blogging.” (McKenna and Pole 2008, p. 102) This leads to the question of whether blogs improve the dissemination of research findings and whether their readers are indeed more informed (2). On the one hand, coupling the large readership of blogs with the argument of Cowen (2008) that the best ones are written at a level far higher than that of any major newspapers offers the promise that economics blogs may have sizeable effects on the dissemination of economic research and on the knowledge and attitudes of their readers.
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