This question is based on this one in Math Overflow

I understand that I can't simply 'translate' the question into the area of economics. Thus, I'm open to improvements on the question framework.

Here's the question.

What were the most notable research papers published in Economics during 2021?


4 Answers 4


This is an opinion question, but I'll give my opinion.

In terms of methods, I like Arkhangelsky et al.'s synthetic diff-in-diff.

In terms of applied economics, I liked Goncalves and Mello's study of racial bias in the U.S. police force.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Yes, it can be considered an opinion question, but I think in this context, guidelines, whose objective is to preserve forum quality, are better used with a soft approach. This type of question adds value to the forum, I think. If the user base knows how to behave, and allows it, I think we'll be better off. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 27, 2021 at 13:02

I think the randomized trial of mask effectiveness is one of the most notable economic papers in 2021. This is not a pure economics paper and it is published in science that does not specialize in economics, but public health is part of the economics of healthcare and the leading authors are economists.

I think the paper is notable because it was the first randomized trial of whether mask-wearing helps improve health outcomes, which is an important topic during the pandemic.

Interestingly the paper shows that while wearing surgical masks helps somewhat, wearing cloth masks offers almost no protection at all. I think this is an interesting result because pundits or politicians argue about mask-wearing but they never even stop to ask themselves the question of what mask to wear.

Full reference is: Abaluck, Jason, et al. "Impact of community masking on COVID-19: A cluster-randomized trial in Bangladesh." Science (2021): eabi9069.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ This leaves the obvious question: Why not N95/FFP2 masks? And politicians in much of the world discuss this. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 28, 2021 at 1:06
  • $\begingroup$ "pundits or politicians argue about mask-wearing but they never even stop to ask themselves the question of what mask to wear" - well, the main issue is with people refusing to wear masks altogether, so telling them to wear a particular mask doesn't really do much. As for the people willing to wear masks, many pay attention to which masks are recommended and at least some countries reject cloth masks on an official policy level. $\endgroup$
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 10:48
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelGreinecker but that is exactly what I am talking about! We need to do cluster randomized trials for these things! If you ask any health economist its criminal that we did not do that yet! $\endgroup$
    – WilliamT
    Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 16:52
  • $\begingroup$ @WilliamT If you ask any aerosol scientist, they will tell you that waiting for the outcome of a randomized trial is criminal, $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelGreinecker are aerosol scientists against science based medicine? Just because something works on a plastic dummy does not mean it works in real life. For example, cloth mask work in laboratory experiments but not IRL. Don't get me wrong it was not bad idea to mandate them in emergency situation but after 2 years EU or US did no cluster RCTs? Thats literally insane $\endgroup$
    – WilliamT
    Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 16:56

Some papers that interested me this year (in game theory):

  1. Subgame-perfect equilibrium in games with almost perfect information: Dispensing with public randomization

They show the seminal result of Harris, Reny, Robson that a correlation device is required for existence of subgame perfect equilibria in continuous games can be weakened when nature is atomless. (He and Sun 2020 has a similar result).

  1. Strict pure strategy Nash equilibria in large finite-player games

I've thought of a few ideas that involve the relationship between finite and continuum games, and this paper establishes one such relationship (and is coauthored by one of our expert contributors here).

  • $\begingroup$ I think there might be some confusion behind the last sentence. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 27, 2021 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelGreinecker my mistake, I somehow though this was a paper by you and Podczeck! $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 27, 2021 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ No problem; I take the implied compliment. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 27, 2021 at 21:33

Despite the fact that I am tired of reading paper's on natural experiments, there is one contribution in this field that captured my attention. Not only the topic is fascinating (Switzerland offered up to two years of income tax exemptions to its inhabitants), but also because the results are quite surprising: almost no behavioral change occurred. Here is the reference:

Martínez, Isabel Z., Emmanuel Saez, and Michael Siegenthaler. 2021. "Intertemporal Labor Supply Substitution? Evidence from the Swiss Income Tax Holidays." American Economic Review, 111, 506-46.

In a fully different style, I appreciate Laurent Linnemer's paper on Jean-Jacques Laffont very much. I have read several papers by Jean-Jacques Laffont, but knew not much about him.

Linnemer, Laurent (2021). Le Magnifique Jean-Jacques Laffont (13 April 1947 - 1 May 2004). Annals of Economics and Statistics, 143, 1–69.


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