As recently pointed out by writer Justin Wolfers, 200 years ago, the field of economics barely existed. Today, it is arguably the king of the social sciences. According to Wolfers’ research, if one analyzes the archives of the New York Times, one discovers that in recent years, roughly 1 in 100 articles mentions the term economist.
Far fewer articles mention the terms historian or psychologist, while sociologists, anthropologists and demographers are rarely mentioned at all. This was not always the case. Until the Great Depression, historians claimed the largest market share. But a frightened public turned to economists, and economists have been more popular ever since.
In fact, tough economic times are good for economists. Each economic downturn since the Great Depression, like stagflation during the 1970s, the double dip recession of the early 1980s, the dot-com bust and the most recent Great Recession have served to elevate interest in what economists are saying and writing. The occupation did suffer a setback during the Clinton-era boom, when unemployment slipped below 4 percent and the prominence of economists plummeted. But the dismal science has since been rejuvenated. Listeners, it’s good to be back.