Why I Majored in Economics

Derek Chen '22

I arrived at Yale thinking I would major in Mathematics. During my first semester, I took MATH 120 and enjoyed the quantitative aspect of the course. However, I realized the qualitative analysis was missing, and I wanted to study a subject that incorporated both.

During the second semester, I decided to take introductory microeconomics because I heard amazing things about the Economics department, and I also needed a social science credit. To my surprise, the course was exactly what I was looking for: a major that combines both quantitative and qualitative analysis to provide new insights. Even though there were more than 100 students in lecture, Professor O’Dea was very engaging, and I found myself looking forward to every class. I took intermediate microeconomics the following semester which was more challenging but also simply fascinating. That’s when I decided to major in Economics.

To me, the community is collaborative and intimate. I met some of my closest friends in Economics classes, and we worked together to solve difficult psets. There are many opportunities to interact with faculty. For example, I conducted research for Professor Botelho on the labor market as a Tobin Research Assistant. And lastly, there are many resources available to economics students to enhance learning, such as TA’s and peer mentors. I’m truly excited to be a part of this collaborative community where I learn just as much from my peers as I do from professors.

Lauren Harris '21

When I started at Yale, I planned to major in Ethics, Politics, and Economics and eventually attend law school. After taking intermediate microeconomics, I discovered how much I enjoyed using mathematical models to describe individual behavior and decided to focus on economics. My sophomore spring, I took MATH 225 and loved the proof-based approach to math. I decided to incorporate even more math into my study of economics and switched majors to Economics and Mathematics.

The major has given me both the structure to discover new interests and the flexibility to explore them further. In required econometrics courses like ECON 117 and 123, I realized that I was interested in data analysis and coding, and I had the opportunity to develop those interests and pursue my own projects in electives such as “Applied Econometrics: Politics, Sports, Microeconomics” with Professor Fair. I gained more research experience through my work as a research assistant in the Tobin and Herb Scarf programs. Entering my senior year, I’m looking forward to the challenge of writing my thesis. I’m so grateful for the support I’ve received from my faculty mentors, and I’ll remember my time in the Economics Department as one of immense self-discovery.

Sebastian Quaade '21

Coming to college, I was frustrated with the myriad forms of inequality and injustice that capitalism and imperialism produce. What drove me toward economics was a desire to understand markets and economies as constituent parts of these world systems.

At its core, I believe economics is about studying how initial resources, incentives and constraints influence decision-making and the outcomes that these decisions aggregate to produce. This can give us crucial insight into how we can change realities that are objectionable. For example, in “Economics of Space”, we studied how incentives for college educated laborers to agglomerate in just a few cities is one of the structural causes of widening income inequality in America. These sorts of dynamics exist locally too; in New Haven, Yale students, faculty and other high-income earners tend to live just in the periphery of campus or in East Rock, contributing to the emergence of class and race segregated neighborhoods. Understanding some of the key forces behind these inequities helps us know what needs to be done to change the status quo. Although economics does not tell us what kinds of ends we should be pursuing, it can help clarify the right means.

Lara Varela Gajewski ‘21

When I began my time as a student at Yale, I did not have a clue about what I wanted to study. I took a wide range of classes in the fall of my first year, one of which was introductory microeconomics. While this course initially caught my attention because of its popularity as a social science credit, I quickly found myself excited for class each week. From there, I realized the vast array of possibilities within the Economics Department. I was excited by the diversity of coursework available in the department, and I decided to major for this reason.

As a double major with History of Art, my schedule is limited in terms of opportunity to take classes outside of my areas of study. Acknowledging this constraint, I have come to appreciate the range of subject matter and applications in the Economics Department. For example, I have been able to explore policy with courses like Professor Schott’s “International Trade,” while also learning about climate change through a unique lens with Professor Mendelsohn’s “Economics of Natural Resources.” Finally, the Economics Department fosters an unparalleled sense of comradery amongst students. I have made some of my closest friends working on psets, studying for Economics exams, or even just chatting for a few minutes before class starts. The community in the Economics Department has cultivated memories that I will fondly look back on long after my time at Yale.