Economics Research Paper Topics

Encompassing the traditional economics research paper topics as well as those that economists have only more recently addressed, this list will meet the needs of several types of readers. Students of economics will find summaries of theory and models in key areas of micro- and macroeconomics. Readers interested in learning about economic analysis of a topic or issue as well as students developing research papers will find sample research papers on various economic topics. And economists seeking to learn about extensions of analysis into new areas or about new approaches will benefit from research papers on cutting-edge topics. The sample research papers linked in this list provide a good place to begin researching or studying a topic in economics.

Economics Research Paper Topics

Economics Research Paper Topics Part 1: Scope and Methodology of Economics

Economics Research Paper Topics Part 2: Microeconomics

Economics Research Paper Topics Part 3: Public Economics

Economics Research Paper Topics Part 4: Macroeconomics

Economics Research Paper Topics Part 5: International Economics

Economics Research Paper Topics Part 6: Economics Analyses of Issues and Markets

Economics Research Paper Topics Part 7: Emerging Areas in Economics

Nowadays the interest in economics is at an all-time high. Among the challenges facing America is an economy with unemployment rates not experienced since the Great Depression, failures of major businesses and industries, and continued dependence on oil with its wildly fluctuating price. Americans are debating the proper role of the government in company bailouts, the effectiveness of tax cuts versus increased government spending to stimulate the economy, and potential effects of deflation. These are topics that economists have dealt with for generations but that have taken on new meaning and significance.

At the same time, economists’ recent innovative approaches to analyzing issues and behavior and the expansion of economic analysis to nontraditional research topics and arenas of activity have attracted new interest and attention from scholars and general public. Economists are working with sociologists and psychologists in areas such as neuroeconomics, the economics of happiness, and experimental economics. They have applied economic analysis to sports, the arts, wildlife protection, and sexual orientation, in the process demonstrating the value of economic methods in understanding and predicting behavior in a wide range of human activities and in development of policies aimed at many social issues.

Economics is generally described as the study of resource allocation; or of production, distribution, and consumption of wealth; or of decision making—descriptions that sacrifice much for the sake of brevity. Within these relatively vague definitions lie fascinating questions and critical policy implications. Traditional economic analysis has been used to explain why people who are overweight tend to have lower incomes than those who are thin as well as why some nations grow faster than others. Economists have explored why people gamble even though they are likely to lose money as well as why stock markets respond in predictable or unpredictable ways to external events. They develop models to analyze how tax policies affect philanthropy and how managers of baseball teams can determine which players are worth their salary demands. The range of research paper topics that falls within the domain of economic analysis is much broader (and more interesting) than those suggested by the traditional definition of the discipline.

The value of economic analysis in development of policies to address social issues is also much broader than generally perceived. Economists have played a critical role in the development of policies aimed at protecting endangered species and addressing global warming and climate change. They contribute to development of policies that will curb smoking, promote entrepreneurship, reduce crime, and promote educational quality and equality. And they also provide the theory and evidence that is applied in policy arenas more traditionally thought of as being in the purview of the discipline—managing unemployment, economic growth, and inflation; regulating industries to promote competition, innovation, and efficient outcomes; and developing tax policies and rates that achieve a range of possible objectives.

To the extent possible, the sample research papers in the list follow a common format. They begin with a review of theory and then examine applications of the theory, relevant empirical evidence, policy implications, and future directions. This research paper format reflects the typical approach of economists to a topic. They begin by asking what theory or models exist to help in understanding the behavior of the participants in decisions related to the topic. Participants may be consumers, producers, resource owners, agents of government bodies, or third parties who are affected by but not in control of the decisions made by other participants.

The theoretical base is then applied to the decisions and behavior of participants relevant to the topic being explored. For example, an economist researching the decisions of owners of professional baseball teams may find that traditional models of profit maximization provide a good base but that they have to be modified to take into account motives that include status or pleasure in addition to profit. Whether existing or modified models are used, the economist’s objective is to ask whether the theory or model can take into account the unique considerations critical to the topic.

Once the theory or model is developed, empirical evidence is explored, usually using statistical and econometric tools, to evaluate the ability of the model to predict outcomes. If the data lend support to the model, the model can then be used to predict outcomes. It is at this point that economic analysis leads to policy implications. Once economists have models that explain decision making and predict outcomes, policy makers have the basis for altering incentives to lead economic agents to make desirable choices. For example, once economists have identified the key variables influencing consumers’ decisions about how much sugary soda to drink or whether or not to recycle soda cans, policy makers can establish or modify incentives for consumers to change their soda consumption and to recycle their cans instead of putting them in the trash.

The format of most research papers—theory, applications, empirical evidence, policy implications—is consistent with this common approach to economic analysis. Following the section on policy implications, most research papers discuss future directions—what are the new but related questions that are likely to be explored by economists; what new methods are being developed to analyze data on the topic; what insights from other disciplines are likely to be applied to this topic; what policies are likely to be developed related to the topic? Research papers collected here generally reflect this approach and the resulting format, but given the wide range of topics addressed, the format is not appropriate in every research paper. Some of the initial theory research papers, methodology research papers, and history research papers more logically follow a different structure, and common format has been sacrificed in favor of following the logic.

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