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Reinhart, Rogoff: We've Received Hate Mail

Friday, 26 Apr 2013 | 8:19 AM ET

Economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff said they have received "hate-filled" and "threatening" emails since their influential research on austerity was exposed as containing a mathematical error last week.

(Read More: Reinhart-Rogoff Error Sparks Austerity Debate)

"Our research, and even our credentials and integrity, have been furiously attacked in newspapers and on television. Each of us has received hate-filled, even threatening, email messages, some of them blaming us for layoffs of public employees, cutbacks in government services and tax increases," Reinhart and Rogoff said in an article for The New York Times on Friday.

"As career academic economists—our only senior public service has been in the research department at the International Monetary Fund—we find these attacks a sad commentary on the politicization of social science research."

Reinhart and Rogoff's 2010 academic paper "Growth in a Time of Debt" concluded that sovereign debt above a certain level inhibits economic growth. The research is frequently cited as one of the inspirations for austerity measures, with high-profile advocates including the European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Olli Rehn, citing it during key debates about euro zone budgetary tightening.

"That paper, along with other research we have published, has frequently been cited—and often exaggerated or misrepresented—by politicians, commentators and activists across the political spectrum," Reinhart and Rogoff said in Friday's New York Times.

(Read More: Why the Fuss Over Reinhart and Rogoff Is Overblown)

The economists' rebuttal comes after three Amherst economists alleged last week that Reinhart and Rogoff had incorrectly calculated the average growth rates of highly indebted countries, making their growth prospects appear worse than they really are.

In the Times article, Reinhart and Rogoff conceded the mistake, but rebutted allegations that the error stemmed from "selective exclusion" of relevant data and "unconventional weighting of statistics."

(Read More: Call This Market Surge the Anti-Austerity Rally)

They added that their finding of a negative correlation between debt and growth had been falsely equated with an unambiguous call for austerity.

"Many countries around the world have extraordinarily high public debts by historical standards, especially when medical and old-age support programs are taken into account. Resolving these debt burdens usually involves a transfer, often painful, from savers to borrowers. This time is no different, and the latest academic kerfuffle should not divert our attention from that fact," the economists said.

By CNBC.com's Matt Clinch; Follow him on Twitter @mattclinch81

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