The upshot is that we can statistically test whether the vast belief differences between economists and the public are just a byproduct of economists’ privileged circumstances, a rightwing orientation, or both. In other words, we can use the data to run a thought experiment: What would a person with average income, average job security, average party identification, average ideology, average everything, think if he had a PhD in economics? I call such a person a member of the “enlightened public”—someone who combines the circumstances of the layman with the knowledge of the expert.22
22) To estimate the beliefs of the enlightened public, I first regressed economic beliefs on respondents’ characteristics, including income, job security, income growth, sex, race, party identification, ideology, education, and “econ” (a dummy variable equal to 1 if the respondent is an economist, and 0 otherwise). Then, for each equation, I calculated the predicted belief assuming a respondent had the general public’s
average income, job security, income growth, sex, race, party identification, and ideology, combined with a PhD in economics. For more details, see Bryan Caplan, The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007), pp. 84–93.
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