Essay on economics

An essay on economics

The failure of the neoclassical framework to explain important segments of economic life hasn’t dented economists’ faith in the universal applicability of supply and demand curves. In fact, over the past 40+ years, there has been a trend to say that economic principles have more application to all areas of human life.

How to Structure an Essay

There are three main ways to organize an essay.


It should be clear why you are asking the question. The conclusion can be included.

The introduction should be short and concise – you rarely get any marks for it directly. Many students waste too much time writing introductions that don’t lead to analysis or conclusion. This is especially true for exam questions.


The paragraphs should contain a sequence of sentences. Each might be a self-contained argument (which follows the Thesis – Justification – Support rhetoric) or the argument might be spread over several paragraphs (if your justification is long, for example).

Your paragraphs should flow in a logical order. They will usually be ordered according to importance. However, other orders are possible (e.g. chronological).


The conclusion should reiterate your main argument, but not exactly in the same way as the introduction. This section should remind the reader why this issue is so important and offer some possible policy implications.

It might also be possible to mention other considerations which are possible areas of future investigation but which you haven’t had time/space to address.

Senior Essay

Optional senior essays for majors in economics are not required. The senior essay for economics majors is optional. However, it’s required to be considered for Distinction in Major. Writing a senior paper is a rewarding experience for most students at Yale.

Students have the opportunity to write senior essays and engage in original, independent economic research. An essay is not a review of existing literature. It’s merely an analysis of a hypothesis through the lens of economics. Particularly, essays must include original research and/or analysis. The essays may be conceptual, empirical, or computational. The senior essays that receive A’s and are awarded prizes are typically those that use economics tools (and, where appropriate, data) to offer fresh insights on questions. Topics are as diverse as recording and analyzing the behavior of black jack players, the effect of charter schools on student performance, the effect of China’s development on trade, the effect of the Fed on the stock market…. Examples of past essays are available on the department website ( and in the Undergraduate Registrar’s office.

For a list of thesis writers from the Class of 2021, see below.

Senior essays in economics do not have to meet any page or formatting guidelines. Advice regarding bibliographies, graphs, etc. Your advisor should give you advice about bibliographies, graphs, etc. Essays typically run around 30 pages.

Note:To write their senior essays, students must complete two semesters of economics. DUS approval can only be granted exceptions to the rule.

Senior Essay Profiles

From the Class of 2021, Guides and Testimonials

Congratulation on reaching senior year! This guide may indicate that you might be interested in an Economics thesis. In an effort to help you understand the process, Economics Department peer mentors collected some responses from senior citizens. Contact any member of this guide as well as any other person.

Alya Ahmed’21, [email protected], Economics & Math

Lara Varela Gajewski ’21, [email protected], Economics & Art History

● Personal and childhood experiences
● Economics articles
● Conversations with family and friends
● Senior economics seminars
● Previous research experiences

● Herb Scarf RA and Tobin RA positions
● Junior / senior year seminars
● Professors suggested by the Econ 491 Instructor or TAs

● Doing half of it through a senior economics seminar in the fall
● Completing the bulk of it over winter break
● Working each day for a few hours
● Setting weekly goals
● Spending the first semester really honing in on your topic

● Meet with your advisor weekly to hold yourself accountable
● Make it two terms so you can have enough time to properly research
● Econ 136 + previous research experiences is super helpful
● Use Economics Department resources including Econ 491/492 TAs + stats resources
● Make sure you are truly interested in your topic, and spend a lot of time clarifying exactly what you are doing

    Which topic or advisor did you pick for your senior economics essay?

I’m writing my thesis on female attrition from STEM occupations, and Professor Altonji is my advisor. Since my mother was a scientist when I was born, hearing her stories has really made me interested in this topic. As Professor Altonji’s Scarf RA, I had the opportunity to collaborate with him on my thesis.

It’s really exciting to finally be able to write about the work I’ve been doing, but it hasn’t been without its challenges.

I had an idea of when I needed to finish my analysis because I have to clear my results for disclosure review (since I’m working on a secure server). That plan has since been disrupted (because I found an error in my code after I had already exported everything), but at this point I’m focusing on writing up the new results I have as they are cleared. It was only a minor fix and I learned a lot from formatting and exporting the original results, so I was able to quickly correct it.

Prof. Fair’s classes are highly recommended. By analyzing different papers, you learn to create economics papers. You can also practice writing short versions. I think the scariest thing about writing an economics paper is the feeling of not knowing if you’re doing the right thing, and I’m glad I got to get over that feeling in a lower-stakes setting.

    How did you and your advisor choose your thesis topic?

The heterogeneous effects of improved transport networks on Ghanaian income has been the subject of my senior essay. Economics of Space was the course I took in my junior year. I did this because I wanted to be able to use GIS. While I enjoyed the model of migration and trade was informative and beautiful, my curiosity grew about how these models were not able to capture the social and cultural constraints on mobility. Then, I knew that I wanted to study something in this area with Professor Arkolakis. At first, I was going to study social networks and immigration choices. However, I discovered that there was plenty of literature about this topic. The article caught my attention and I decided to switch the topic to cost-specific gender migration.

Although I’ve done much, there is still so much more to be done. The work is exciting, but it’s not always as easy as I expected. Unfortunately, data is not always perfect in real life so I tried my best to be careful with what I was doing. Although I was able to create a plan that I liked over the holiday, it took me longer than expected. I’m constantly revising and updating the plan.

i. You set your own deadlines. You can set your own deadlines. The prospectus must be submitted by the department before any other deadlines. You can still write more detailed prospectus, even after it has been submitted. It could be about a different topic! This outlines the idea and your tasks. You can refer to it often. This is related to the sending of memos and presentations to your advisor for discussion during meetings. This makes it easier to write and also makes communication much easier.

ii. Choose a field course that interests you during your junior year or your senior year. The literature may give you some ideas. This can help you build a rapport with potential advisors. To help you learn more about econometrics, I recommend taking an extra class such as Empirical Microeconomics and Applied Microeconometrics. This will expose you to other econometric methods with real-world projects that you can implement.

iii. You can find ideas anywhere, including books and news articles. It is also possible to explore the different approaches that various disciplines take on subjects of interest. These questions may lend themselves to economic methods and methodologies.

iv. StatLab can be very helpful in solving any questions about coding and stats!

  1. Which topic or advisor did you pick for your senior economics essay?
    The topic is one that I’ve been curious about for a while – I’m writing about the effect of megadevelopments in the United States on their local community. (1) What’s their impact? Does it cause gentrification? Are there income enhancements for the original residents? (2) How is that effect dispersed? i.e. What extent does this effect extend across the city? I’m from New York City and watching Hudson Yards go up over the past decade was probably the original spark. Stephen Roach was my junior spring’s thesis advisor. I felt very fortunate to have attended a seminar. Professor Roach dedicated enormous amounts of time and energy to his students during the course and I learned so much from working on my paper for that course (about the comparable roles of real estate in Japan’s Lost Decade and New York during the Fiscal Crisis), so it was a no-brainer to ask him to advise me for my thesis. I couldn’t be happier he agreed!
  2. Is the economics thesis related to your history thesis Do you feel that there is a connection? Do you feel that the connection has benefited your experience?
    Do you feel that connection has helped your life? Are you happy that they are distinct? In the broadest sense, the two are related: I’m writing both about uses of urban space and the power of real estate, and my History thesis is set in New York City in the 1990s, only across town and a decade before one of my case studies for my Economics thesis. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what we think about when we think about urban planning (i.e. lots of uses of the word “think”!). The theses, however, are totally different. My History thesis is focused on the Giuliani auctions in East Village, Manhattan of community gardens. In my Economics thesis, GIS and R are used to examine the impact of five megadevelopment sites across the United States.
  3. Are there any good practices for managing two different projects simultaneously? You can use them for juggling or for general writing.
    My biggest advice is to make sure you are very specific about everything in your company from the start. You’re going to be working on this for a whole year and you might want to look at something you thought about three months ago – you want to know where that is.

Re: juggling. It may just be me but I prefer to concentrate on one thing at a given time. For a few months, I put more effort into my thesis before switching to another. It was much easier for me to think of one project at a time, since I had so many data sources and archives.

There was one point for my Economics thesis when I got so in the weeds of my data that I was worried I’d forget where I left off. For the next few weeks, I kept myself updated by sending emails each night with details about what I had done and what was left.

On and off, I’ve also used the app Toggl to keep track of the time I spend on each thesis. Sometimes you feel like you’re not getting anywhere with either project and then I’d recommend just saying “I’m going to do three concentrated hours of this today and no matter what I accomplish I will stop after that.” Toggl can also help you keep track of how you’re balancing your time between different theses.

My work strategy is based on breaking down work and making lists. I also set goals. For example, I always write an outline that is almost as long as the paper itself and from there it’s really easy to write. Writing a whole essay feels really scary, but writing just the outline feels much less scary, and putting that research into words with a thorough skeleton of what you’ll say also feels much less scary. I’m the type of person who needs a few hours at a time to work, so I’ll set aside whole days and set a goal for what I want to finish during that day, whether it’s a certain amount of research/writing or a time goal.

Senior essays may be either 1-term or 2-term. A 2-term essay can be either 1-term or 2-term. The main difference is that the 2-term essay has a wider scope and/or is more in-depth. Most economics majors do 2-term essays.

There are many ways to write senior essays.

1-Term Essays

  • In the autumn of your senior years, enroll in Econ491a
  • In your senior year, expand a term paper you have written from a fall seminar (It all depends upon the availability of a seminar teacher)
  • You should note, however that an essay of one term cannot be written in the spring semester of senior year.

2-Term Essays

  • Econ 491a & Econ 492b – Enroll Now
  • Econ 492b is a course that allows you to extend a term from a fall semester seminar.It all depends on whether there is a suitable seminar instructor available for each semester.)

This is the 2022 class

2020 Fall

Take part in an informational session for senior essays.

Join Econ 491aIf you’re doing your senior essay in a fall seminar, it is not required.

Select an advisor and choose a topic. The Potential Advisors website can help you find an advisor that is suitable for your topic.For assistance in finding an advisor, contact the ECON 491 instructor (or the DUS) for advice. You may find an ideal advisor in one of the many economists on campus. A campus economist may be chosen by students from other departments. A DUS must be granted permission to select a non-economist advisor. If you are submitting an essay to a seminar in fall, the professor must agree to serve as your adviser (for both semesters if it is a 2-term essay).

Regularly meet with your advisor. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure that these regular meetings occur.

Submit a “Senior Essay Prospectus” on or before Monday, October 4, 2021 By 4:30 pmYour advisor should sign the prospectus. Students who are planning on writing a senior essay need to complete a prospectus. You will not be allowed to submit an essay if you fail to comply with the prospectus. A late prospectus will not be accepted without a Dean’s note.

A written progress report must be submitted by students enrolled in 2-term essays to their advisor Wednesday, November 10, 2021.An explanation of the research question as well as the data gathered may be necessary for essay that involves substantial data collection. Others may prefer a section of the essay or an outline that explains the topic, the literature and the plan for analysis. The advisor will give you either a satisfactory or unsatisfactory temporary grade for this report. In April, the final grade of your senior essay is going to replace the temporary grade.

The advisor must give permission to the student before Thanksgiving to allow them to switch from a 1-term essay for a 2-term one.For a student to be eligible for conversion, they must have made sufficient progress in their essays by the time of that date.After Thanksgiving, conversions are not allowed.

Senior essays for 1-term are due to the advisor WednesdayDecember 8, 2021 By 4:30 pmEcon 491a will grade and evaluate 1-term essays. This will also be your final grade. The advisor will grade and evaluate student essays that are written in seminar format. Your transcript won’t include this grade. For the determination of departmental and distinction prizes, grade and evaluation will be used. On or before the due date, the final version of your 1-term senior essay has to be sent. Wednesday, April 6, 2022 12:00pmFor grading by an outside anonymous reader, send an email to the Economics Undergraduate Registration. Late essays will not be accepted (in either December or April) without a Dean’s note . Notice: Students who are completing the 1-term essay can continue making revisions past the due date in April. Keep in mind, however that 1-term essay advisors may be obligated not to provide advice beyond the fall term.

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