The Economics of…Anything.

July 25, 2007 at 6:21 pm Leave a comment

I am often astounded at the number of fields Economics can be related to, and the vast body of research done by economists, which in a sense, wasn’t very economic. Take, for example, Emily Oster, a renowned economist at the University of Chicago, whose main research area has been to do with diseases in Africa. Sure, one could label such research as relating to Health Policy (another economic field I was surprised to learn, existed), but this really relates to, (and is often pointed out by her critics) Epidemiology – the study of factors affecting the health and illness of populations. Seems more of a Natural Science field than a Social Science, doesn’t it?

Nevertheless, her efforts have been well rewarded, being named by the New York Times as one of 13 up-and-coming academic economists in the world today. And the truth is, her research is pretty darn good. I think what gave her an edge was the training in mathematical and analytical thinking that a degree in Economics gives, (over a degree in say, Sociology) which enabled her to effectively analyze econometric models and the like, thus arriving at theoretically sound, yet factually-based, conclusions.

Does that mean then, that as future economists, it can be possible to conduct research on any topic that catches our fancy – and be able to label it as (somewhat) economic – so long as we apply the principles of economics we learned in college and elsewhere? I would like to think so. The question we must ask is, where then do we draw the line?

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