Monday, February 27, 2012

Economics (Almost) Never Sleeps

Catherine Rampell at Economix, the economics blog at the New York Times, reports on  "America’s 10 Most Sleep-Deprived Jobs." She writes that Sleepy’s, the mattress chain " hired researchers to analyze data from the National Health Interview Survey to determine which occupations, on average, produce workers who sleep the least and the most. The jobs with the most sleep-deprived work forces are below, starting with the most sleep-deprived at the top:"
Most Sleep-Deprived
6h57mHome Health Aides
7h1mPolice Officers
7h2mPhysicians, Paramedics
7h3mSocial Workers
7h3mComputer Programmers
7h5mFinancial Analysts
7h7mPlant Operators
My own take is that the sleeplessness of economists is a fact begging for an unsubstantiated and unproveable hypothesis.

Does a miserable economy cause economists to sleep less, as they internalize the pain of others? This seems implausible, because it would require that economists care about others.

Is economics the kind of field that tends to attract those who have trouble sleeping? Perhaps only those who have physical trouble in sleeping can make it through the economics curriculum, while normal sleepers will perpetually be dozing off through the required classes.

Is economics a field that attracts hypercompetitive people who can't sleep because they fear that, somewhere, some other economist might be getting ahead of them? This would also help explain why economists have a tendency to believe that all other economic actors are hypercompetitive, too--they are just projecting their own personalities.

Perhaps the lack of sleep helps to explain why economists have such a difficult time perceiving the reality around them, and thus why their advice is sometimes so weirdly out-of-synch with the actual economy. 

And of course, one possible response is: "Who cares why economists are sleeping less? As long as economists are suffering in some way, the sun will shine just a little brighter today."  

Further hypotheses are solicited. Send suggestions to <>.