Preface

Welcome to Doing Economics. Our aim is to introduce students to the art, practice, and excitement of using data to understand economics and policy analysis.

Doing Economics is a unique empirical resource created by a worldwide collaboration of economists and social scientists. As with all projects created by the CORE Team, it is free, and open-access. We designed it primarily to complement our books Economy, Society, and Public Policy and The Economy, but you can use it in any way you choose: if you are studying on your own and want to learn new skills, or you are a teacher who wants to apply it to a course in which the quantitative understanding of policy plays a role, or you are a student and think this is a skill that will help with your course or future employment, you have an open invitation to try or adapt any of these projects.

Doing Economics gives you the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with real-world data in areas of pressing importance to contemporary societies. If you are interested in environmental sustainability, inequality and wellbeing, or policies to address public health problems such as obesity, you will find something relevant.

In our experience, students are drawn to study economics precisely because they are interested in these topics—but leave disappointed by abstract and theoretical courses. In recent years, students, citizens, and teachers have all complained loudly about the gap between what is commonly taught in economics and these important and fascinating empirical questions. This deficiency is not solely academic. Policymakers, journalists, and decision-makers who fail to understand how economics can be employed in the real world are ill-equipped to address the major economic challenges we face.

Doing Economics seeks to close this gap. It has a set of empirical projects based on carefully curated data sets and publicly available data. Each project takes students on a step-by-step journey of investigation using easily-available software. Three tracks are available—using a spreadsheet application (Excel or Google Sheets), or a programming language (R).

Through Doing Economics, students gain a first-hand appreciation of why they are learning economics, and the relevance and power of the economics they have learned. They gain a valuable toolkit of data handling, data cleaning, software and statistical skills that they can transfer to other courses they might take and, afterwards, to the workplace.

Having looked at many different ways in which data is collected, and the problems of finding a good fit between data and the economic question at hand, as well as having worked with the data, users of Doing Economics will be more critical consumers of data, and more appreciative of the efforts of researchers and statistical agencies collecting and analysing it.

The expanding CORE team of educators, researchers, students, and teachers that produced these resources believes that economic understanding and data literacy should be taught to as many people as possible, and that the democracies we inhabit benefit from a population that is not easily confused and misled by data. That is why we created Doing Economics as a standalone, free resource.

We thank the Nuffield Foundation for financial support and all of the contributors to CORE around the world. As with all CORE resources, we depend on our users for improvements. Please send your corrections and suggestions.

We dedicate Doing Economics to the memory of James Lincoln of Manchester University, who generously contributed to this project and passionately helped his students to wrestle with data … never losing sight of the joy of doing so.

The CORE Team
January 2020