Considering an economics education? Whether you’re interested in career academia or the fast-paced world of Wall Street, whether you’re interested in formal, mathematical study or the tumultuous world of politically charged social research, economics has something to offer. In this guide to economics resources we look at some of the facets of economics (both macro- and micro-) as a field of study and offer links to help the student conduct thorough, informed research.
Microeconomics and Personal Finance
At the smallest level, economics deals with the attitudes and behaviors of individual consumers and households and how they expend money. Microeconomists are less interested in fiscal policy and more interested in how the consumer reacts to market forces. This isn’t to say that microeconomists aren’t interested in larger-scale forces; it’s to say that they’re interested in how these forces are reflected in the actions of the individual. For example, a microeconomist would ask how a new tax impacts consumer spending. Microeconomists also examine individual markets, such as, for example, rice prices over the course of four years in Sumatra.
- Readings and lectures in microeconomics from the State University of New York at Oswego.
- Coursework from MIT in microeconomics.
- The American Economic Journal: Microeconomics is the nation’s leading journal of microeconomic study.
Macroeconomists look at the economy as an entire system. Macroeconomists are interested in tools and measurements such as GDP, interest rate, inflation rate, and unemployment. Systemic, governmental issues like fiscal policy and monetary policy are also of critical interest to the macroeconomist. An example of a macroeconomic research program would be a historical study of government fiscal policy in Chile and its effect on standard of living. Macro-level economists, due to their interest in policy, often imbue their economics with an expressly political bent, and macroeconomic thinkers like John Maynard Keynes, Milton Friedman, Paul Krugman, and Friedrich Hayek have become strongly associated with specific political movements and ideologies.
- A discussion of macroeconomics, growth, and development, hosted by the World Bank.
- Coursework in macroeconomics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- Case studies in macroeconomics, hosted by California State University, Bakersfield.
- The American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics is the macroeconomic publication of the American Economic Association.
- The Journal of Macroeconomics is another major macroeconomic scholarly journal.
Modern economics was born with the writings of Adam Smith, and his “political economy” approach– examining the relationship between the state and the economy– remains a very important, arguably the most important, part of contemporary macroeconomic study. Working at the intersection of economic studies and other social sciences, political economists study the ways in which market forces are affected by sociology, anthropology, geography, history, and psychology.
- Vox, an EU-based think-tank, publishes its reflections on political economy.
- The Center for Global Political Economy at the University of Sussex studies the interactions of policy and economy worldwide.
- A glossary of terminology used in political economy, hosted by Auburn University.
Mainstream Versus Heterodox Economics
What has become known as the economic mainstream (at least in the United States) has emerged in the past 100 years. Mainstream economists generally derive their studies from the neoclassical approach to economy and place a strong emphasis on empirical study and quantitative data. The term “neoclassical economics” was coined by the sociologist Thorstein Veblen, and refers to an economic theory that assumes that people are actors working in rational self-interest, and that price levels are an equilibrium determined by a process of supply and demand. This is the standard approach in America among microeconomists. Macroeconomists most frequently follow the neoclassical synthesis, a fusion of neoclassical approach to human behavior and John Maynard Keynes’ insights into how markets operate at a large scale. Mainstream economics in the US is frequently divided into two schools: a “freshwater” school centered at Great Lakes universities like Chicago, Minnesota, and Rochester, and a “saltwater” school operating at coastal schools like Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and Princeton. Freshwater schools generally favor a more liberal, laissez-faire approach to markets, while saltwater schools are more in favor of Keynesian, social-democratic government interventions to promote employment and improve standard of living.
Heterodox economists reject the mainstream model. Their refutations range from far-left to far-right in their political orientation. The Austrian School is one of the best known heterodox schools. Austrian School economists reject the quantitative, empiricist approach of mainstream economic study; rather, they use “praxeology,” the establishment of what they believe to be self-evident axioms of human nature that can be used as the basis for logical elaboration, extrapolation, and application. Their theories, while rejected by the mainstream, are highly influential outside academic economics, with a particular importance in American politics. Post-Keynesian economics is a school that straddles both classical and heterodox theories. Post-Keynesians hew much closer to Keynes’ original vision of full employment and stable prices, and are extremely influential in Europe. Marxian economics use Marx and Engels’ elaboration of the labor theory of value as the basis for their approach, and seek an alternative to current modes of capitalist production.
- An introduction to neoclassical economics from Mount Holyoke College.
- The International Confederation of Associations for Pluralism in Economics supports research in heterodox schools of economic thought.
- A primer on Austrian School economics from the pro-Austrianist Ludwig von Mises Institute.
- Klaus Hagendorf’s introduction to Marxian economics.
General Economics Resources
The following links cover economics in general, including data, professional organizations, and textbooks.
- Caltech professor Preston McAfee’s open-source introductory economics textbook is a great reference point for budding econ scholars.
- The American Economic Association (AEA) is the major professional organization of working economists in the United States.
- Resources for Economics is a database of online economic resources from the AEA.
- The Wall Street Journal lists out the 25 best economics blogs for the non-expert reader.
- Plain Sense Economics is an educational site dedicated to economics, written by a professor at Southern Oregon University.
- An index of global economic data from the World Bank.
- A database of other online economics textbooks from Wikibooks.