1997: What Concerns Regional Experts: A Survey of Mid-South Economists

Article excerpt

In October of 1996, the Bureau of Business and Economic Research initiated the first of a series of forthcoming inquiries into the opinions of Mid-South economists on issues of significance to the region. Forty-one economists from regional colleges and universities were asked to rate certain issues, answer key questions regarding the national and regional economy, and indicate the importance level of various industries to the Mid-South.

The sample, the respondents

For the purposes of this survey, the Mid-South was defined as south of Cape Girardeau, Mo.; north of Jackson. Miss.: east of Little Rock, Ark.; and west of the Tennessee River. The Bureau mailed surveys to economics faculty members listed in The 1996 Prentice Hall Guide To Economics Faculty in the relevant area. Out of 130 academic economists, 41 responded for a response rate of about 32 percent. Of the 41 respondents, 18 were from Tennessee (44 percent), 14 were from Mississippi (34 percent), and 9 were from Arkansas (22 percent).

Mid-South economic issues

Respondents were asked to rate the importance of 16 issues facing the Mid-South economy in 1997. Using a list of issues derived from the "Outlook and Policy Survey" of the National Association of Business Economists and a 1-to-10 rating scale (the higher the number, the greater the importance), the economists were asked to indicate the magnitude of such issues as crime, agricultural prices, and government regulation to the Mid-South economy. Table 1 provides a summary of the mean and modal (most frequently appearing) responses provided for each issue.

The panel indicated that quality-of-life issues such as "poorly educated labor force/weak education system," "crime," "health care," and "slow growth in standard of living" were most important. Of the 16 issues, the panel overall rated as least important "regulations/government interference in markets," "agriculture prices," "recession threat," and "inflation."

One would expect to find few differences by state among respondents in such close proximity as Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas. However, applying a t-test for statistical differences in means. a few issues emerged in which average responses by state were statistically different at the a = .10 level.

The panel of economists from Mississippi and Tennessee, on average, attached a higher importance to crime, growth in state/local government spending/entitlements, and impact of international trade than did their colleagues from Arkansas. On the other hand. Arkansas economists rated "low savings and investment" as an issue of greater importance than did their fellow economists east of the Mississippi River. …