Statistics and Time Series.

The Current Need for Mixed Methods in Economics.

Economists and policy analysts continue to wonder what is going on in the U.S. economy currently. Most of the uncertainty stems from both the anemic pace of economic growth as well as from fears of a new recession. In regards to economic growth, analysts point out to sluggish changes in productivity, while fears of new recessions derive from global markets (i.e. Brexit). Unlike fears from a global economic downturn, the previous issue drives many hypothesis and passions given that action relies on fiscal and monetary policy further than just market events. Hence, both productivity and capacity utilization concentrate most of the attention these days on newspapers and op-eds. Much talk needs to undergo public debate before the economists’ community could pinpoint the areas of the economy that require an urgent overhaul; indeed, I would argue that analysts need to get out there and see through not conventional lens how tech firms struggle to realize profits. Mixed methods in research would offer insights of what is holding economic growth lackluster.

Why do economists sound these days more like political scientists?

Paradoxically enough, politics is playing a key role in unveiling circumstances that otherwise economists would ignore, and it is doing so by touching the fiber of the layman’s economic situation. The current political cycle in the U.S. could hold answers for many of the questions economists have not been able to address lately. What does that mean for analysts and economists? Well, the fact that leading economists sound these days more like political scientists than actual economists means that the discipline must make use of interdisciplinary methods for fleshing out current economic transformations.

Current economic changes, in both the structure of business as well as the structure of the economy, demand a combination of research approaches. At first instance, it is clear that economists have come to realize that traditional data for economic analysis and forecast have limitations when it comes to measuring the new economy. That is only natural as most economic measures were designed for older economic circumstances surrounding the second industrial revolution. Although traditional metrics are still relevant for economic analysis, current progress in technology seems not to be captured by such a set of survey instruments. That is why analysts focusing on economic matters these days should get out and see for themselves what data cannot capture for them. In spite of the bad press in this regard, no one could argue convincingly that Silicon Valley is not adding to productivity in the nation’s businesses. Everyone everywhere witnesses how Silicon Valley and tech firms populate the startup scene. Intuitively, it is hard to deny that there are little to none gains from tech innovation nowadays.

Get out there and see how tech firms struggle to realize profits.

So, what is going on in the economy should not be blurred by what is going on with the tools economists use for researching it. One could blame the analysts’ incapability of understanding current changes. In fact, that is what happens first when structural changes undergo economic growth, usually. Think of how Adam Smith and David Ricardo fleshed out something that nobody had seen before their time: profit. I would argue that something similar with a twist is happening now in America. Analysts need to get out there and see how tech firms struggle to realize profits. Simply put, and albeit generalizations, the vast majority of newly entrepreneurs do not know yet what and how much to charge for new services offered through the internet. Capital investment in innovative tech firms ventures most of the times without knowing how to monetize services. This situation exacerbates amid a hail of goods and services offered at no charge in the World Wide Web, which could prove that not knowing how to charge for services drives current stagnation. Look at the news industry for a vivid example.

Identifying this situation could shed light onto economic growth data as well as current data on productivity. With so much innovation around us, it is hard to believe that productivity is neither improving nor contributing to economic growth in U.S. Perhaps, qualitative approaches to research could yield valuable insights for analysis in this regard. The discipline needs desperately answers for policy design, and different approaches to research may help us all to understand actual economic transformations.

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