…Menzie Chinn’s geographic analysis of who signed the dueling economists’ letters on health care reform? Of the 41 professionals signing the letter favoring President Obama’s plan, only two (Kenneth Thorpe of Emory and Len Nichols of George Mason) are from institutions in the south. By contrast, 40 of the 131 signers of the anti letter are identified with institutions below the Mason-Dixon Line.
Chinn leaves it to others to speculate about why. So we’ll give it a shot.
For starters, the line could have as easily been drawn as red-state versus blue-state. None, zip, nada of the Obama 41 is from a university/think tank in a plains state, mountain state or, for that matter, from conservative states including Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia. Liberals might be tempted to conclude that the divide is really determined by professional success: all 41 are identified with institutions that are good-to-great by anyone’s reckoning. But that wouldn’t explain why Columbia, Carnegie-Mellon, Chicago, UCLA, Minnesota, Duke and Cornell all have players on the anti team.
The most persuasive explanation is that the organizers of the pro letter were in a hurry, and turned first to colleagues whose positions were known in advance and wouldn’t need persuading. Is it really any surprise that a letter drafted by Henry Aaron (Brookings), David Cutler (Harvard) and Alice Rivlin (Brookings) would be signed by five academics from Harvard, five from Princeton and four from Michigan?
Indeed, if there is anything disturbing here, it is how much more concentrated the network of liberal policy wonks is than the network of their conservative counterparts: The 131 signers of the anti letter are connected to institutions in 33 states. Or maybe conservatives just have more practice with e-mail blasts…