There was a great post on The Economist awhile ago about an economics teacher that spent some time helping homeless single mothers improve their financial knowledge. It was a fabulous step out of normal social boundaries, the kind that is entirely too rare. Have a care to read the original.
"If there was one thing I learned from my experience, it was what a bad job the financial system does by people with low incomes."
Given the economic status implicit in pursuing an advanced degree, it is not surprising that virtually no economists have personal experience with living in the underclass. It is surprising though that more do not study this significant portion of the population.
A profession that seeks to benefit all portions of society should strive to understand all portions as well. No doubt many economists do not fully see the bubble of privilege they reside in. This lack of perspective damages the credibility of the profession and begs for unintended consequences in policy recommendations.
Perhaps it is too much for academic economists to step off campus, but they might at least get in touch with the Sociologists and Community Studies professors across the hall. This diary is a laudable example of the learning that can occur when we step into the shoes of the working poor.