I’ve written extensively on the history of economics and American political economy in the twentieth century, where my primary interests lie in the creation of empirical economic knowledge (notably statistics) and the use of that knowledge in political and economic life. To date, much of my work has focused on cost-of-living statistics, though I have also explored the relationship between economic expertise and democratic politics more generally. I am working on a long-term project about the history of family economics and on a history of econometrics during the interwar years.
Some select publications in these areas are described below.
Empirical Economics & Economic Statistics
The Cost of Living in America: A Political History of Economic Statistics, 1880 – 2000. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).
My first book started with a basic question: If economic statistics are ambiguous (they can be defined in multiple ways), what would it mean to write a political history that takes that ambiguity seriously? My book pursues that question by exploring various efforts to measure the “cost of living,” notably price indexes and standard budgets.
Articles & Book Chapters
Economists and Democratic Politics
Robert Van Horn, Philip Mirowski, and Thomas Stapleford, eds., Building Chicago Economics: New Perspectives on the History of America’s Most Powerful Economics Program (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
Economists from the University of Chicago were extraordinarily successful in the second half of the twentieth century, both at winning Nobel prizes and influencing government policy. In this co-edited volume, our contributors explore the roots of that success by looking at the early history of the Chicago School.
Articles & Book Chapters
“Family Economics” emerged from the intersection of economics and home economics in the early twentieth century. Comprised primarily of women, most of whom had graduate training in economics and sociology, family economics used economic and social theory to study household life, considering the home as both a site of production and consumption. My first publication, “Housewife vs. Economist,” examined some of that literature, and several family economists appeared in subsequent work, such as “Market Visions” and “Re-conceiving Quality” (above). I’m working on a longer term project, tentatively titled “Home & Market”, that explores the rise and fall of this field in more detail.