In the wake of the Great Recession, economists were accused of missing the obvious warning signs of the financial meltdown. More recently, critics have suggested an even more sinister failure—that conflicts of interest clouded many economists’ forecasts. A study of 19 economists by the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that the majority failed to disclose paid affiliations with financial organizations while offering expert advice to the media and in their research. It concluded that the profession should establish a code of ethics.
This month, 300 economists signed a letter to the American Economic Association calling on the group to adopt such a code, requiring members to disclose “relevant sources of financial support and relevant personal or professional relationships.” Last week the AEA agreed to raise the issue at its annual meeting. While there is still reluctance to police the profession, the debate is a small step toward rehabilitating the dismal science.