What Is an Economic Think Tank?

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  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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An economic think tank is a group of intellectuals who are dedicated to the study and discussion of economic topics. Their primary purpose is to devise new policies which can be used by governments to boost the country’s economy. Economic think tanks can study general issues or focus on a certain area or group of related issues. The concept of the think tank originated in the 19th century, though it was not known under that name until the 1950s. It is also known as an economic policy institute.

The issues studied by an economic think tank can range from current problems to emerging trends in the economy. A group may focus on a particular area or adhere to certain political beliefs. There are several potential areas a group can explore, from religion and public policy to employee rights.

An economic think tank can be either publicly or privately funded. Most are classified as not-for-profit organizations. While publicly-funded think tanks tend to be viewed as essentially impartial, there has been some controversy about whether the same is true of privately-funded groups. Typical private funders are businesses and advocacy groups. Skeptics believe that the views of a privately-funded group may be influenced so that their solutions support the agenda of its funders.


Traditionally, an economic think tank was an isolated entity. As the concept of the think tank has grown in popularity and spread to more nations, some of these groups have begun to collaborate. This can be particularly useful for a think tank that needs to fill in certain gaps of information. It can also be beneficial to introduce a fresh point of view into an established think thank.

In addition to global collaboration, multiple think tanks can collaborate in order to share information about their specialties. For example, a think tank that focuses on women’s issues may collaborate with a group primarily concerned with the continuation of social security. As there are numerous different types of groups, the possibilities for different collaborations are plentiful.

The members of an economic think tank can be solely citizens of its country or a mix of individuals from several nations. Group composition is typically highly influenced by the goals of a particular think tank. Some of the areas from which group members come include politics, economics, academia, and industries related to the group’s focus, if applicable.


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