About The Department
Economics is more quantitative and theoretically more rigorous than the other social sciences, but it is decidedly more "social" than scientific in comparison with the natural sciences.
In the broadest terms, economics is the study of how society organizes production and distributes what is produced to its members. For most of human history the economy was embedded in the social order, and people did not perceive "the economy" as something separate from other social institutions. The development of capitalism—with markets in labor and land and the rise of the factory system—made people aware of the economy as a separate sphere of social life and gave rise to the field of economics, or political economy as it was then known.
Modern economics is divided into the two separate branches of microeconomics and macroeconomics. Microeconomics is the study of how individual production and consumption decisions are made and how markets coordinate them. Macroeconomics is the study of how overall output and employment and the price level are determined. Both of these branches of economics aim not only to understand the economy but also to prescribe policies to improve its performance.
Ultimately, economics and economists must be judged by the usefulness of economic analysis and the economic policies derived from that analysis. That is our challenge.
The members of the Economics Department at Smith, through both our teaching and research, use economic theory, statistical and experimental methods, and historical and institutional analysis to investigate the behavior of the economy.
We are committed to helping our students develop the ability to:
- appreciate, develop, and use models to understand economic phenomena
- critically evaluate economic arguments based on abstract or quantitative reasoning
- acquire the requisite quantitative skills to collect and manage data and to conduct systematic empirical analysis
- develop the analytical capacity to study the relationship between the economy and society
- write clearly and concisely
- make effective oral presentations