Economists can add a lot of value to debates about policy and current events, even in areas not generally thought of as “economic.” But to really make a difference in these debates in the technical jargon and statistical methods, we have to translate the logic and statistical methods we use so that they can be understood by a wide variety of audiences.
Debate instances where these translations occur include:
From time to time, I am consulted by parties to legal cases in areas related to my research. My reports must be precise -- I will be grilled in deposition and at court about my logic and my statistical methods. But they must also be clear to the group that hired me and – especially – to the judge or arbitrator that eventually hears and makes a decision based in part on my evidence. For example, I testified before the Federal District Court of Rhode Island re: Cassie M. v. Chaffee, December 9, 2013. See coverage in The Providence Journal, December 10, 2013.
I also work with groups to make policy recommendations to legislatures. These recommendations must be understandable to the advocates, interest groups, lobbyists and legislative aids that write the text of the law.
- "Report on Executive Session: Eliminating Barriers to the Adoption of Children from Foster Care," Harvard Kennedy School Research Reports Online, November 2011, with Elaine C. Karmark, Julie Boatright Wilson, and Jeff Katz.
- Elements included in the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014.
Finally, I speak with reporters to explain current events related to my areas of research and teaching. Translating economics is particularly important when the audience is the thoughtful, news-consuming public.
Example interviews I’ve had with the media include:
- Fortune, “Fast food worker strikes: After two years is there anything to show?” September 4, 2014.
- CNN, “Is child poverty inevitable?” November 4, 2014.
- LA Times, “Obama pushes paid sick/family leave for workers,” January 16, 2015.
Being precise yet clear is hard work. It takes practice.
Throughout the online MA in Economics program, you will be required to explain your analysis in clear, precise language. For example, in my Labor Economics course (ECON 673), students write a comprehensive literature review on a topic in labor economics. You will have to demonstrate your expertise on your topic by clearly summarizing previous work in this area using language that can be understood by a wide variety of audiences, including other, non-labor economists and professionals with only a limited understanding of economic theory. Our goal as a program is for all students to master the clear communication of economic analysis by the time students complete their Capstone course at the end of the program.
About the Author
Mary Eschelbach Hansen is widely published in the fields of child welfare policy and economic history. Her research has contributed to passage of laws such as the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act. Hansen, along with Brian Yates (Psychology Dept.) won a $39,444 Annie E. Casey Foundation award for the project Costs and Benefits of Interventions that Reduce Group and Institutional Care. Her most recent published works include: The Standard of Proof at Adjudication of Abuse or Neglect: It’s Influence on Case Outcomes at Key Junctures, Social Work and Social Sciences Review, October 2014, The Evolution of Garnishment and Wage Assignment Law in Illinois, 1880-1930, and Essays in Economic & Business History, May 2014.
To learn more about American University’s online Master of Arts Economics, Applied Economics specialization, request more information or call us toll free at 855-725-7614.