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Applying for Economics - what books to read?(21 Posts)
Looking for alternatives to Freakonomics, which seems to be read by everyone looking to do Economics, that DC can read & discuss on their personal statement.
As well as Superfreakonomics, we also suggest prospective economics students look at:
- Angrist and Pischke - Mastering Metrics
- Duflo and Banerjee - Poor Economics
- Harford - The Undercover Economist
- Mlodinow - The Drunkard's Walk
I also like Taleb's Black Swan and Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow.
These are all gateway books that introduce different aspects of economics in a fairly accessible way. The idea is that there should be something amongst them that will pique someone's interest in a way that makes them want to know more.
Personally, I don't find it particularly impressive if someone has read one book. I already assume they can read. The reading of a book should be a starting point in economics, not an end in itself.
Thanks Phphion - Have already given DC The Undercover Economist, and we have got the Black Swan at home, so will suggest that.
Have also suggested the Spirit Level?
Completely agree, but DC can only read one book at a time, and is not doing Economics A level. The school has not been helpful. DC's reaction to Freakonomics was "This is so much more interesting than fiction" - they are struggling a bit with Eng Lit A level at the moment.
Agree with the PP. Economics is normally a new subject at either A level, or in your son's case potentially at degree level. Not everyone enjoys it. For his own sake he should make sure that he has sufficient interest to sustain him.
I would also suggest reading the Economist.. And if you are withing striking distance of London, registering for and attending some of the public lectures at the LSE. When DS was at school we also went to the Economist bookshop at the LSE and the helpful assistant pulled out a good selection of summer reading.
If your DC is entirely unfamiliar with studying Economics, I would also recommend having a look at (but not actually reading from cover to cover) some core texts on macro and micro. Stuff like Freakonomics is interesting, but it's very much the cherry and not the cake when it comes to studying Economics.
Hayek and Keynes. They go so well together.
OUP has a good range of economics books in their A Short Introduction To series. Oxford actually sent copies to DD before a summer school, so they must rate them. I've used a few myself and they are very accessible.
Freakonomics is essential reading so he should read it any way. However as someone who interviews economics grads for work I personally find the ability to apply and research Current economic trends really helpful. One of the best grads I know even created a website to display his market research - it was comparable to HL and he could explain his reasoning really well.
Mine wrote about Nudge as part of his personal statement.
Doughnut economics by Kate Raworth might me worth a look too - for ideas about how Economics may change in the future
What sort of course is he aiming for. Be aware that economics can be very over subscribed and that places like St Andrews, Durham, Warwick, LSE and UCL will regularly be rejecting applicants with higher than minimum grades. (DS was rejected by Warwick and UCL despite 4xA* predictions, including economics and double maths). Universities other than Cambridge, dont interview so the PS needs to demonstrate a deep interest.
However once you get beyond the top half dozen or so courses most applicants who meet required entry grades will get offers, so PS won't matter too much. But he should make sure he is sufficiently interested in economics to want to study it for three years.
They are looking to do joint honours with another essay-focused subject (course not offered at many unis), so PS has to reflect that as well. Not aiming for the top tier (hoping for A, A, A).
I studied Economics & Politics myself. I think DC's interest is definitely in applied economics rather than economic theory. Maths is strong though, so should help.
@needmoresleep if you dont mind me asking, where is your son studying now then if he got several rejections?
Tumpy, DS was absolutely fascinated by economics and wanted a top tier University. Because of the randomness involved with applications to oversubscribed top tier courses he applied to Cambridge, LSE, UCL and Warwick, hoping to get one. His Plan B was a gap year and reapplication. He was offered a place at LSE on practically the last day of March. He loved it, stayed on for a Masters, and is now on his second year of a PhD in the US.
Yr13 was tough though. Rejection is hard for students who have usually excelled academically. But in his case it was worth aiming high.
Needsmore, statistically your DS was very unfortunate to not get UCL or Warwick. According to the UCAS offer calculator he had an 87% chance of an offer at UCL and 69% for Warwick. Cambridge would have been an early application and I wonder if they both deliberately reject some obvious Oxbridge applicants for the kudos.
DS1 was offered both with lower predictions and he is I am fairly certain not as smart as your DS, however he did have a very good personal statement. He had spent about 4 weeks in work placements in investment type companies, I am being deliberately vague. He had a very keen interest in the stock market, how it was calculated, how it moved, how it gets manipulated, crashes etc and that showed in his PS. He read books specifically about what he was interested in and I think that shone through and he got offers from everywhere he applied.
I think as someone said upthread books like Freakonomics are gateway books but they should start a spark somewhere. So use that spark and find something weightier to fan the flames and the interest and enthusiasm will come through in the PS.
I am not sure. He received a clear warning from his school that he should apply to the top four in the hope of getting one. Someone else got none, but then was accepted by Cambridge, though not LSE, on reapplication.
DS' PS would have focused on academic economics, rather than banking. He had read a lot, entered essay competitions, that sort of thing. Our observation was that Cambridge seemed to prefer confident, would be bankers, rather than quieter would be academic types, but that might simply be the result of using interviews as part of the selection process. Warwick seemed to like linguists. Whatever the differences in criteria LSE seemed the most interested in applicants whose focus was academic economics especially those with strong maths.
It all worked out. Economics at LSE was fab.
I am dubious Needsmore because if I remember rightly your DS was at W who get a huge number of Oxbridge places, he was an obvious applicant with his predictions and his early application confirmed it. He probably looked like a shoe in for Cambridge or LSE and some places get chippy about being a backup.
DS1 was told that LSE is by far the most difficult place to get into for Economics and despite all the people on MN saying this wasn't the case he was most definitely told that you must have FM to be considered because he was known to be at a school that offered it. No one from his school without FM applied. The LSE course is known to be for first rate mathematicians and was obviously the right place for your DS.
Dubious or not, it was surprisingly hard. There were a few years where Cambridge economics was seemingly inaccessible for certain schools, then it suddenly became easier. Some very strong applicants were rejected. Warwick was also odd. The older brother of a friend of DDs was also rejected at the same time. Bursary pupil, first of his family to go to University, etc etc. Yet someone else with very strong languages but perhaps weaker maths, was offered a place. I guess each University knows what it wants.
These courses are very oversubscribed. Some get accepted, some rejected. The important lesson is that nothing can be assumed. And, given most don't interview, the PS is very important.
I think it is true to say that LSE like strong maths. DS worked out that he could have taken his economics degree with only two economics courses. (He did a couple more, but not many, and chose Masters options so he did not have to write a single essay.)
All illustration that economic courses can vary hugely. DH read PPE so was properly shocked at how mathematical DS' degree was. DH seems to think that economists should be literate. (I studied at LSE with double maths, so am happy to join DS in claiming that DH has it wrong!)
A large number of DS's LSE friends are now in the US. His network extends across most of the major economics departments. LSE was a very good starting point. For what he wanted it was the perfect place.
The Economist.. back to OP. Good magazine.
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