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Tweeting Economists: Antisocial in the socials?


  • Della Giusta, Marina
  • Vukadinovic-Greetham, Danica
  • Jaworska, Sylvia


Economists have often been accused of adopting superior and distant attitudes (Fourcade, Ollion and Algan, 2015). This attributed stance has been variously linked to both poor understanding and traction of economics with the general public, the failure to generate realistic predictions and prescriptions (Coyle, 2012; Bresser-Pereira, 2014), and the lack of diversity in the profession (Crawford et al., 2018; Stevenson and Zlotnick, 2018; Bayer and Rouse, 2016). In this piece we focus specifically on Twitter communications by economists to investigate the ability of economists to fruitfully engage with the public in these networks and the attitudes their language use betrays. We compare economists to scientists, gathering data from the Twitter accounts of both the top 25 economists and 25 scientists as identified by IDEAS and sciencemag, who account for the lion’s share of the Twitter following, collecting a total of 127,593 tweets written between December 2008 and April 2017. Using both network and language analysis our paper finds that although both groups communicate mostly with people outside their profession, economists tweet less, mention fewer people and have fewer Twitter conversations with strangers than a comparable group of experts in the sciences, and sentiment analysis shows they are also more distant. The language analysis of differences in register (a higher register is generally less accessible and thus more distanced) finds that economists use a higher number of complex words, specific names and abbreviations than scientists, and differences in pronoun use reveal they are also less inclusive, all of which adds to distancing.

Suggested Citation

  • Della Giusta, Marina & Vukadinovic-Greetham, Danica & Jaworska, Sylvia, 2018. "Tweeting Economists: Antisocial in the socials?," MPRA Paper 89527, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:89527

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Joseph Henrich, 2001. "In Search of Homo Economicus: Behavioral Experiments in 15 Small-Scale Societies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 73-78, May.
    2. Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, 2003. "Are Political Economists Selfish and Indoctrinated? Evidence from a Natural Experiment," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 41(3), pages 448-462, July.
    3. Julie A. Nelson, 1995. "Feminism and Economics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 131-148, Spring.
    4. Tiago Mata & Steven G. Medema, 2013. "Cultures of Expertise and the Public Interventions of Economists," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 45(5), pages 1-19, Supplemen.
    5. Mike Thelwall & Kevan Buckley & Georgios Paltoglou, 2012. "Sentiment strength detection for the social web," Journal of the Association for Information Science & Technology, Association for Information Science & Technology, vol. 63(1), pages 163-173, January.
    6. Tiago Mata & Claire Lemercier, 2011. "Speaking in tongues, a text analysis of economic opinion at Newsweek, 1975-2007," Center for the History of Political Economy Working Paper Series 2011-02, Center for the History of Political Economy.
    7. Hengel, E., 2017. "Publishing while Female. Are women held to higher standards? Evidence from peer review," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1753, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    8. M. Fourcade & E. Ollion & Y. Algan., 2015. "The Superiority of Economists," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 7.
    9. Marion Fourcade & Etienne Ollion & Yann Algan, 2015. "La superioridad de los economistas," Revista de Economía Institucional, Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Economía, vol. 17(33), pages 13-43, July-Dece.
    10. Amanda Bayer & Cecilia Elena Rouse, 2016. "Diversity in the Economics Profession: A New Attack on an Old Problem," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 30(4), pages 221-242, Fall.
    11. Frank, Robert H, 1987. "If Homo Economicus Could Choose His Own Utility Function, Would He Want One with a Conscience?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 593-604, September.
    12. Alice Wu, 2017. "Gender Stereotype in Academia: Evidence from Economics Job Market Rumors Forum," Working Papers 2017-09, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
    13. repec:aea:apandp:v:108:y:2018:p:180-85 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Nelson, Julie A., 1997. "Feminism, ecology and the philosophy of economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 155-162, February.
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    16. Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 1993. "The Revenge of Homo Economicus: Contested Exchange and the Revival of Political Economy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(1), pages 83-102, Winter.
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    18. Diane Coyle, 2012. "The paradox of popularity in economics," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(3), pages 187-192, September.
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    More about this item


    social media; communication; language; networks;

    JEL classification:

    • A11 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Role of Economics; Role of Economists
    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D85 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Network Formation

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