What are the fringe benefits of being an economist?

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Question: 

What are the fringe benefits of being an economist?

Answer: 

Taken literally, fringe benefits are extra, non-monetary compensation, such as health insurance, etc. provided you by your employer.  I suspect, however, that the person who submitted this question is not interested in the package of benefits that Iowa State University offers me in addition to my monthly paycheck, but wants to know something about the psychic or intellectual benefits of advanced training in economics.

Interpreted in this light, the fringe benefits of being an economist hinge on the intellectual pleasure of thinking like an economist.  At its core economics is concerned with the question of how individuals make choices and how all of these individual choices interact with each other to determine what happens at the level of the entire economy.  Economics then provides a useful perspective for understanding and analyzing complex systems of interaction, making predictions about how changes in the underlying conditions surrounding those systems will change the outcomes they produce, and devising better rules for organizing particular choices.  Economists have, for example, contributed to improvements in the way in which organs available for transplants are matched with those waiting for transplants, the matching of medical residents with hospitals, and the allocation of radio spectrum for cellular telephones.

So, if you enjoy thinking about these sorts of problems, the fringe benefits of becoming an economist are quite large.  If, on the other hand, you find these sorts of issues dull and uninteresting, the fringe benefits are small.

Last updated on February 2, 2017