Department of Economics

Contributions by Economists

Professionals in any sector will benefit from having an economics minor. And economists have made valuable contributions to many fields.

Attorneys and legal scholars frequently rely on economic analysis when bringing lawsuits in cases involving wrongful deaths or injuries to individuals, commercial disputes involving two businesses and public policy issues such as antitrust violations, pollution or patent infringement. Federal Court Judge Richard Posner is a leading figure in the field of Law and Economics (ECO 435).

Doctors, dentists, pharmacists and veterinarians face the decision of operating an individual practice, joining a group or going to work for a larger institution such as a hospital or other health care operator. They hire nurses and other specialists, invest in equipment, advertise their services and pursue training later in their careers. Such decisions can be analyzed using methods discussed in microeconomics classes (ECO 165, 365) and Health Care Economics (ECO 504).

Political scientists study voters, elected officials and unelected government employees (bureaucrats), and seek to understand the behavior of those in each group. To a considerable extent, say public choice economists, political behavior is motivated by self-interest much like that observed in private markets. Moreover, a larger body of empirical evidence supports those conclusions. Public Sector Economics (ECO 515) examines these and other issues, such as budgeting, associated with government.

Gary Becker, a Nobel Prize winning economist, made a career of studying issues of interests to sociologists and criminal justice specialists. Among those are the Economics of the Family (what are the economic explanations for the number of children a couple has and for the allocation of work responsibilities among various family members?), the Economics of Discrimination, and the Economics of Crime (why are some individuals far more likely to commit crimes than others, and what is the impact of various policy proposals to reduce criminal behavior?).

Historians have always studied events like the discoveries of Christopher Columbus, settling the American frontier, migration and wars; but in recent decades historians have focused increasingly on the economic forces propelling such actions. Many economics courses (ECO 155, 305, 310 and 320) enlighten those inquires.

Biologists, chemists and other natural scientists study the effects of human behavior on nature and the environment, but often unanswered in their inquiries are what motivates people and companies to spoil planet earth and what policies are most likely to succeed in altering their behavior. Economics of the Environment (ECO 540) and Public Sector Economics (ECO 515) consider these and related issues.

Journalists write about many topics that are largely or entirely economic in nature: the latest inflation or unemployment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the impact of a new business or business closing on the local community, the effects of a proposed tax on area businesses and so forth. Pick up today’s paper or the latest issue of Time magazine to find many more examples.

Social Workers deal with the poor and downtrodden on a daily basis, but can be far more effective if they understand the causes of poverty, the macroeconomic trends likely to increase or decrease poverty and the design of government initiatives aimed at alleviating poverty (ECO 155, 310, 385, 515).