Emily Oster, a University of Chicago economist, uses the dismal science to rethink conventional wisdom, from her Harvard doctoral thesis that took on famed economist Amartya Sen to her recent work debunking assumptions on HIV prevalence in Africa.

Why you should listen

Emily Oster, an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, has a history of rethinking conventional wisdom.

Her Harvard doctoral thesis took on famed economist Amartya Sen and his claim that 100 million women were statistically missing from the developing world. He blamed misogynist medical care and outright sex-selective abortion for the gap, but Oster pointed to data indicating that in countries where Hepetitis B infections were higher, more boys were born. Through her unorthodox analysis of medical data, she accounted for 50% of the missing girls. Three years later, she would publish another paper amending her findings, stating that, after further study, the relationship between Hepetitis B and missing women was not apparent. This concession, along with her audacity to challenge economic assumptions and her dozens of other influential papers, has earned her the respect of the global academic community. 

She's also investigated the role of bad weather in the rise in witchcraft trials in Medieval Europe and what drives people to play the Powerball lottery. Her latest target: busting assumptions on HIV in Africa.

And she's an advice columnist too >>

 

What others say

“At just 26, economist Emily Oster may have the highest controversies-generated-to-years-in-academia ratio of anyone in her field.” — Esquire

Emily Oster’s TED talk

Emily Oster on the TED Blog
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News

TED News in Brief: Bryan Stevenson speaks out on circumventing mandatory minimum sentencing, Emily Oster takes back her pregnancy

August 13, 2013

Over the past week, we’ve noticed a lot of fascinating TED-related news items. Here, some highlights. Yesterday, U.S. attorney general Eric Holder announced a major relaxing of mandatory minimum sentencing for drug possession. He asked prosecutors to use their discretion when charging nonviolent, low-level offenders and opt not to list the quantities of drugs involved […]

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Raise your awareness on World AIDS Day

December 1, 2009

Every year, on December 1, the globe comes together on World AIDS Day to learn more about the virus and to show support for those have been infected. Currently, there are approximately 33 million people living with HIV, while stigma and prejudice continue to cripple educational efforts in many countries. To increase our awareness of […]

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4 great talks for International Women's Day

March 8, 2009

To celebrate March 8, International Women’s Day, we suggest these four TEDTalks gems from some amazing speakers — artists, scientists and economists who think deeply about the role of women. Author and activist Isabel Allende discusses women, creativity, feminism — and the power of passionate thinkers and doers: The former Finance Minister of Nigeria, Ngozi […]

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Quotes from Emily Oster

Education campaigns … may not be enough, at least not alone. If people have no incentive to avoid AIDS on their own, even if they know everything about the disease, they still may not change their behavior.
Emily Oster
TED2007 • 640K views Jul 2007
Informative, Persuasive