My philosophy of economics has mainly involved how to get into and stay in the field. This essay gives some reminiscences of the bad old days and what it was like to be among the first women in academic economics.
Many economists have interesting stories about how and why they went into the field. Mine is that I was an undergraduate at Harvard during the 1960s. I didn’t have a scholarship, so my parents were paying all the costs. While they were happy that I was at Harvard and ungrudging about the expense, they really wanted me to be able to support myself after I graduated. This could be by getting married at graduation or by getting a good job. I grew up in the “civil service suburbs” of Washington, DC, so a good job was defined as a government job with a professional rating. My parents pressured me to major in a field in which professional jobs were available to applicants with only a bachelor’s degree. These fields included all the sciences, plus economics. At Harvard, students decide on a major field at the end of their freshman year. On entering college, I was planning to major in chemistry but quickly changed my mind. I thought about history, but it wasn’t on the list. So I signed up to major in economics even though I had never taken an economics course, simply because it was the only social science on the federal government’s list.