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

More news and ideas from Emily Oster


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