Emily Oster, Associate Professor of Economics at Chicago Booth, was recently recruited by The Wall Street Journal to pen a bi-weekly advice column aiming to help optimize readers' lives by answering their questions – using the same economic principles she teaches in her courses at Booth.
"Making life decisions according to good economics principles is second nature to me," Oster wrote in her introductory "Ask Emily" column for the WSJ. "So ask away: kids, spouses, jobs, chores, how to spend your time. I'm here to optimize your life."
Below, Oster answers our questions about the new column, which launched March 25. For more information, or to read Oster's latest "Ask Emily" piece, visit http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/ and search for "Ask Emily." New columns are published online every other Monday.
Chicago Business: I'd love to hear the background story behind how this column came to fruition. Did the WSJ approach you with the idea? If so, how did WSJ's editors become familiarized with you and your work?
Emily Oster: The WSJ approached me with the idea. I think they had seen some writing I had done for Slate and thought that bringing economics to the every-day might be a fun column.
CB: Do you have any specific goals for this column and the information you want to impart on its readers?
EO: I hope that ultimately some of the most basic and important lessons from economics – opportunity cost, thinking on the margin, optimization – will come across many times, in many different contexts. My hope is that readers will ultimately come to see the incredible value of these tools for good decision-making. More broadly, I am hoping that the column will make people think a little more about carefully about these decisions – to recognize that it may make sense to approach the choices you make about managing your household/life/relationships in the same systematic way you approach work or financial decisions.
CB: Your first several columns featured questions from readers on relationship and domestic issues. Do you expect these to be common themes for Ask Emily?
EO: Yes. This is specifically not a personal-finance advice column. I don't know what to do with your investments! The goal is to show people how these tools can be used to make good decisions outside the realm of personal finance.
CB: Have you noticed any overlap in the content you teach your Booth students and the questions you've received from WSJ readers so far?
EO: I think it says it all when a student emailed me to say that the column was "just like your class." So, there you have it: it is just like my class.