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It’s the Economy, Honey

Yesterday’s NY Times contained a very flattering (and quite personal!) profile of Betsey Stevenson and me. For me, it was all worth it just to get a great family portrait. (Have you ever tried to get a dog and a toddler to look at the camera at the same time?)

I don’t really have a lot to add, other than to say that I thought the author, Motoko Rich, did a fabulous job. Hopefully it gives folks outside the ivory tower some sense of just what it is that animates the lives of economists.  And yes, I admit that reading it, you’ll quickly conclude both that we are passionate about economics, and that we fit the usual stereotypes about academics.  And if the article makes it sound like we are crazy about our kid, that’s because we are.

But the thing I learned most from the piece is just how darn hard good journalists work.  In this case, Motoko knew all of our published research, spent a full day interviewing us, and came along to see us present our latest research.  She then reached out to a number of economists — not only the prominent folks quoted in the article, but everyone from our graduate students to past coauthors, academic rivals, and even our parents. And the degree of fact-checking by the Times was amazing.  For instance, my CV states that I won the University Medal as an undergraduate at the University of Sydney, way back in 1994.  She even had that fact checked! (And yes, the university did confirm it.)

I have no idea why the Times thought we were interesting enough to profile.  But from our side, co-operating involves a lot of risks.  You never really know what will happen when you open up to a journalist.  And far from acting strategically, we were frank about everything, including some topics that are quite personal and even painful (my parents’ divorce, for instance).  But ultimately, we’re economists, interested in educating the public about what we do, and how economics is relevant to everything around us.  And so hopefully this article helped spur a few more discussions about some of the interesting insights that our wonderful field provides.