Oregon State University

Q&A with Patrick Emerson

Today we introduce the ninth of our more than 50 community blog partners, a group of people whose web logs we recommend for their overall quality and consistency in posting. Meet Patrick Emerson, an associate professor of economics at Oregon State University who blogs at The Oregon Economics Blog.


Q. Tell us about your blog. When did you start it and why?

I started my blog in 2007 as a way to engage Oregon State economics students outside of the classroom setting.  I was enthusiastic about the possibility of using new social media to bridge the gap between the classroom and the everyday lives of students. I thought this could in some way make economics more relevant, more alive and more interesting for them and in so doing, make them better economists.  It also quickly became a way for me to engage in my own personal interests: looking at the world through the lens of economics and thinking about policy matters from an economics perspective.

Q. Who or what influenced you to become an economist?

I was always drawn to economics and enjoyed the learning and mastering the logic of economics, so I started studying economics as soon as I got to college at Lewis & Clark. But it was a junior study abroad trip to India that made it all click. I was struck by the obvious wealth difference of course, but I was even more fascinated by the questions of why some societies grow wealthy and others do not, and what could be done to improve the lives of the world's poor. This is when economics came alive to me and suddenly nothing else seemed nearly as important or interesting,

Q. What's the coolest thing about being an economist?

Cool?  Economists?  Surely you are thinking of some other discipline... Seriously, looking at the world as an economist to me is like looking at nature like Charles Darwin: suddenly it all makes so much more sense.

Q. Most common misperception?

That we have a rigid and mechanical models that assumes humans are robotic and soul-less. That, and that I know anything about the stock market. When people hear I am an economist they always want to talk stocks, which has nothing whatsoever to do with what I do.

Q. Describe your research.

My main area of research is in international development. I have spent years studying child labor trying to understand better the causes and consequences, and have conducted a lot of research on the subject in Brazil. I also study microfinance as a development tool, the consequences of corruption in developing countries and the link between education and growth.

Q. When do you write your posts?

I sometimes write a draft the night before, but generally write them first thing in the morning.  Unless they are more in-depth analysis pieces, I have a 30-minute rule for them so as they don't encroach on my real work. If I want to do more, I'll do them at night, but generally wait to post them in the morning.

Q. Favorite blog post you've written?

I'm going to cheat and say the sales-tax series I wrote. I was genuinely interested upon returning to Oregon in learning if the lack of a sales tax was a problem for the state. I eventually concluded that it was not.

Q. Do you have other projects or interests besides the blog?

I am an avid homebrewer and craft beer enthusiast. Because of this, I used to use beer and the beer industry as a fun way to describe economic concepts and theories and post these in my blog. Eventually this evolved into a separate blog called Beeronomics.  I am a soccer player and huge soccer fan -- RCTID! (Rose City Til I Die!)

Q. Describe Corvallis in one word.

Bucolic.

Q. Describe Portland in one word.

Home (I have lived many places in the U.S. and world and this is the one place that feels like home)

Q. Describe yourself in one word.

Curious.

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