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Prof: Economics can explain almost anything

Olson with fiancée Lydia Dickey of Temple Terrace, Fla.

Looking through cost-benefit goggles, just about anything can be scrutinized and illuminated using economic principles.

That’s the opinion of Eric Olson, assistant professor of Economics. He enjoys seeing the world this way, and, given a few moments, he would be pleased to explain to you the economics of terrorism, energy and equity markets, whether Greece’s amalgamation with the European Economic Union was prudent, how “qualitative easing” might pan out and the relationship between monetary policy shocks and supply shocks.

He loves to talk about these things and has an ability to explain all the above, and more, in layman’s terms. This can be a very good thing for his undergraduate students, many of whom are getting a first look through the cost-benefit goggles. Olson teaches macroeconomics to undergraduate students and asset pricing at the graduate level. “I enjoy macro because it allows one to see the big picture,” he said.

For Dr. Olson, an interest in economics began while he was working as a janitor at the Athens (Alabama) Bible School where his father, Joseph, was principal. He invested the money he made and was fascinated, and one would assume very pleased as well, with the outcome. He paid for college living expenses by pulling his money out when stocks were exploding, just before the bubble burst back in the late 1990s.

His interest might, however, go back even further, to when he traded baseball cards with the other kids in Athens. “Investing and trading is the heart of economics,” he said.

With a minor in political science, in 2004 Olson received an undergraduate degree in economics, then a master’s degree in 2005 at the University of Alabama. He went on to earn a doctorate in economics there in 2010.

“Economics, when you boil it down, is a way of thinking,” he said. “It’s all about the costs versus the benefits.”
Olson, who came to WVU last year from Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, said he’s glad to be in West Virginia: The people are friendlier, and it’s a whole lot less expensive. “The West Coast was a little different, especially for someone from Alabama,” he said. “Here in Morgantown, I think the people are nice. Maybe the Los Angeles area has a bit of a hard edge.”

In addition to explaining arcane economic issues so that anyone can understand them, Olson enjoys skiing, white water rafting and scuba diving. He has backpacked through Europe and Egypt.

He is a reviewer for the Journal of Economic Behavior & OrganizationJournal of Empirical Finance, North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Israel Science Foundation, and the Journal of Macroeconomics.

Additionally, Olson is a member of the American Economic Association, the Southern Economic Association and Financial Management Association, among others.

His recent publications include: The Relationship Between Energy and Equity Markets: Evidence from Volatility Impulse Response Functions forthcoming in Energy EconomicsTax Multipliers and Monetary Policy: Evidence from a Threshold Model in Economics Letters; andWas the Euro Good for Greece, inApplied Economics Letters.