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ECPR Summer School in Methods & Techniques 2020

Patterns and Cycles of Behavioral Economics in Economics and Public Policy: A Bibliometric Analysis

Public Administration
Public Policy
Stuti Rawat
National University of Singapore
Stuti Rawat
National University of Singapore

Economists have used randomized experiments in different settings around the world (Levitt and List, 2009) with the use of behavioral economics showing up increasingly in the policy world (Lunn, 2014), especially development policy (Datta and Mullainathan, 2014). But is this rise a recent phenomenon or something that follows cycles of its own, given that behavioral economics is premised on violations of rational choice theory (Thaler and Mullainathan, 2000) which itself can be traced to Simon’s conception of ‘bounded human rationality’ from 60 years ago (1955). This paper thus maps cycles and patterns related to the rise of behavioral economics, within Economics, Public Administration, and Public Policy. This is done by undertaking a bibliometric analysis of the top three journals in these disciplines- from the 1940’s onwards to 2015, and studying the behavioral economics premised papers in them. The intuition being to capture the direction of institutional and academic thought in the ‘top echelons’ of these core disciplines.
The top journals are determined on the basis of their weighted ranks over time. A preliminary shortlist of articles is through key word searches of the topic, title, and abstract, before closer inspection. Relevant articles are then disaggregated over time, sectors and regions. This helps answer three key questions: (i) is there a cycle in the rise of behavioral economics premised studies?; (ii) to what extent is it mirrored between disciplines?; (iii) is there a geographic and sectorial dimension to behavioral economics studies in the fields of public policy and public administration? The paper hypothesizes a few reasons explaining these observations and identifies areas for future research given the current state of knowledge. The limitation of this approach is that it is restricted to journal articles and may reflect activities of academics and key word usage rather than actual institutional thought and knowledge.
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