Andrew Oswald

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Andrew Oswald

Andrew Oswald (born 27 November 1953, eldest son of the late Professor Ian Oswald) was until recently the acting research director at the IZA Institute in Bonn and is a professor of economics at the University of Warwick, UK. He is an ISI highly cited researcher and has been a professorial fellow of the ESRC. He is currently a member of the board of editors of Science. He held previous posts at Oxford, the London School of Economics, Princeton, Dartmouth and Harvard.


Schooling mainly in Perth in Western Australia and in Currie, Edinburgh, Scotland. He holds degrees from the University of Stirling, the University of Strathclyde, and the University of Oxford.[1] Previously at Oxford and the London School of economics, with spells as lecturer, Princeton University (1983-4); De Walt Ankeny Professor of economics, Dartmouth College (1989–91); Jacob Wertheim Fellow, Harvard University (2005); visiting fellow, Cornell University (2008); visiting fellow and senior advisor Research, IZA, Bonn (2011).

Oswald joined Warwick in 1996 from the London School of economics.

Richard Lester Prize, Princeton University, 1995. Medal of the University of Helsinki, 1996. Member of the Stiglitz Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, 2009.

Academic interests[edit]

Andrew Oswald lists his research areas as Applied Economics and Quantitative Social Science. He has done theoretical and empirical work. His main research recently has been on the economic and social determinants of happiness and mental health.

His first journal article on the economics of happiness was published in 1994 in The Economic Journal (on unhappiness and unemployment, jointly written with Andrew E Clark). Some see this as the beginning of the new and now large modern literature by economists on well-being; the early seminal work, in the 1970s, which was ignored by economists for two decades, was by Richard Easterlin (1974) and by Bernard M.S. Van Praag (1971) and his Leyden school. Andrew Oswald has published papers in scholarly journals across the fields of economics, social science, statistics, psychology, and epidemiology.

Oswald's bio [2] says he has worked on seven main areas (trade unions, labour contracts, the wage curve, entrepreneurship, home ownership and unemployment, the consequences of high oil prices, and the economics of happiness and mental health).

The first area—stemming from his 1980 Oxford doctorate—was how to write down mathematical models of trade union behaviour. In the late 1970s, such research was unconventional.[editorializing] However, along with the important 1981 paper by McDonald and Solow in the American Economic Review, Oswald's work was to become standard in modern textbooks. It included a 1982 paper, in The Economic Journal, which was the first to propose the idea of the ‘utilitarian’ trade union model. Later in the 1980s, he worked on theoretical aspects of labour contracts, with papers in the 1986 American Economic Review and the 1984 Quarterly Journal of Economics. A 1993 paper in Labour Economics argued that last-in-first-out layoff rules means that union indifference curves are locally horizontal. Then began a strand of empirical work on labour markets—particularly the then-unconventional book The Wage Curve[3] (with David Blanchflower), published by MIT Press in 1994. This documented the discovery of a power law—with an exponent of approximately −0.1—linking wages to the local unemployment rate. Unusually for that era,[editorializing] it used data on 5 million randomly sampled workers around the world; this book went on to win Princeton’s Lester Prize. Replications of the wage-curve finding have been found in a large number of nations. His other research on wage formation demonstrated the importance of rent-sharing in the labour market (Quarterly Journal of Economics 1992, Quarterly Journal of Economics 1996); it included it an Oxford University Press book co-authored with Alan Carruth. The fourth strand of work was on entrepreneurship. This led in particular to a 1998 paper, with David Blanchflower, in the Journal of Labor Economics with the title "What makes an entrepreneur?".[4] This has become a principal reference in university and business-school courses. It is the most-cited paper of all time in JOLE. (source: Thomson Reuters Web of Science Database, 2013) Other work was on the idea that high rates of home ownership lead to a high rate of unemployment (in the 1997 Journal of Economic Perspectives) and that oil price shocks are a key driver of movements in unemployment (in the 1998 Review of Economics and Statistics).

The final theme is what is now called the economics of happiness. This was thought the most unusual work of all—insofar as anyone paid attention—by economists in the early 1990s when the work began. The research proposed ways to estimate ‘happiness’ and job-satisfaction regression equations. Today the area is one of the fastest growing within social science.[citation needed] Andrew Oswald's papers include articles in the 1994 and 1997 Economic Journal, the 1996 Journal of Public Economics, the 2001 American Economic Review, the 2002 International Journal of Epidemiology, and the 2004 Journal of Public Economics. According to some of these are among the most-quoted writings in modern economics. A paper in Science, co-authored with Steve Wu, in 2010,[5] showed that across the United States there is a match between subjective well-being scores and objective measures.

Oswald's newer work includes research that finds a U-shape in human well-being through life, on blood pressure and well-being, on happiness and productivity, on antidepressants, and on risk-taking. His recent co-authors include Nick Powdthavee, author of The Happiness Equation, and the Warwick economists Eugenio Proto and Daniel Sgroi.

More broadly, earlier journal articles included work on the design of optimal nonlinear taxation in a world in which people care about their relative income (in the 1983 Journal of Public Economics) and on why humans imitate each other (in the 1998 Journal of Public Economics). These articles are rather mathematical. He has also worked with Liam Graham on the theory of hedonic adaptation (in the 2010 Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization);[6] a key idea in their paper is that humans have a pool of psychic resources called by the authors 'hedonic capital'.

Media contributions[edit]

Oswald contributed to the BBC series The Happiness Formula, has written over 200 articles for newspapers and magazines, and given about 1000 broadcast-media interviews around the world. One article that provoked a public debate was his 19 January 2006 Op-Ed in the Financial Times entitled "The Hippies Were Right All Along about Happiness". In England he has contributed to public debate on many issues—including warning of a housing crash in newspaper articles in The Times in the middle of the 2000s, his writing in The Economist about the need for liberalized remuneration in UK universities, promulgating the case for higher taxes on fossil fuels and gasoline, and arguing for a larger private-rental housing sector in the European nations as a way of helping the labor market.

Personal life[edit]

Oswald is married to Amanda Goodall (Cass Business School) and he has two daughters.[7]


  1. ^ Be happy, says Dr Doom
  2. ^ CV and Research History
  3. ^ David G Blanchflower; Andrew J Oswald (1994). The Wage Curve. MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-02375-X.
  4. ^ "What Makes an Entrepreneur?", David Blanchflower and Andrew J. Oswald, Journal of Labor Economics, 1998, 16, 26-60
  5. ^ "Objective Confirmation of Subjective Measures of Human Well-Being: Evidence from the U.S.A." Andrew J Oswald with Steve Wu, Science 327, 576 (2010); DOI: 10.1126/science.1180606
  6. ^ "Hedonic Capital, Adaptation and Resilience", with Liam Graham, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, July 2010
  7. ^ Andrew Oswald: Ode to joy

External links[edit]