An Article on Slate

Those of you who like economics detective stories — yes, it’s a pretty limited genre — might want to read this Slate article we wrote, about a sharp young Harvard economist named Emily Oster. Some of the debate in “The Fray” (Slate’s online feedback chatroom) gets into the question that’s been tossed about a lot lately: “What makes this economics?” Judge for yourself.


Marie

Riiiiiiiiiiiight on

James

You should also write about her senior thesis on witchcraft...

Brad DeLong

James VI

Since I started economics at uni this year, I soon began to think of it as "heightened common semse." many of my friends agree. that's what makes this economics.

jonnybigtime

Sen's work sounds more like economics because his theory seems to involve utility maximizing decisions on sex of child given budget constraints of number of children etc. Oster's work seems to be basically refuting the "economics" explanation for the disparity in sex.

That being said, I think labels are overrated. Her economic mind and her economic/econometric training allows her to make this important discovery. Maybe it's biology or maybe it's epidimiology or maybe it's applied economics. In the end, it's interesting and important research and that is what really matters.

Princess Leia

The past couple of entries have been way to deep for me. Aaaaayyy! There's a reason I'm not an academic. Would love to stay and think with you guys, but must do laundry, wash dishes, etc. Or at least check the shoe blog.

john

Empirical data analysis, even with lots of data is not economics. And expanding the definition of economics to include the study of anything that incentivises or motivates humans beyond material wealth runs the risk of making the findings rather meaningless. Maybe economists can show that humans maximize status instead of wealth, but if they do what does that say about the behavior of the entire aggregated market. Surely they would not argue that maximizing status is an ideal state to provide for the least fortunate, which was the worthy cause many economists pursued in the first place.

Marie

Riiiiiiiiiiiight on

James

You should also write about her senior thesis on witchcraft...

Brad DeLong

James VI

Since I started economics at uni this year, I soon began to think of it as "heightened common semse." many of my friends agree. that's what makes this economics.

jonnybigtime

Sen's work sounds more like economics because his theory seems to involve utility maximizing decisions on sex of child given budget constraints of number of children etc. Oster's work seems to be basically refuting the "economics" explanation for the disparity in sex.

That being said, I think labels are overrated. Her economic mind and her economic/econometric training allows her to make this important discovery. Maybe it's biology or maybe it's epidimiology or maybe it's applied economics. In the end, it's interesting and important research and that is what really matters.

Princess Leia

The past couple of entries have been way to deep for me. Aaaaayyy! There's a reason I'm not an academic. Would love to stay and think with you guys, but must do laundry, wash dishes, etc. Or at least check the shoe blog.

john

Empirical data analysis, even with lots of data is not economics. And expanding the definition of economics to include the study of anything that incentivises or motivates humans beyond material wealth runs the risk of making the findings rather meaningless. Maybe economists can show that humans maximize status instead of wealth, but if they do what does that say about the behavior of the entire aggregated market. Surely they would not argue that maximizing status is an ideal state to provide for the least fortunate, which was the worthy cause many economists pursued in the first place.