Emily Oster

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Emily Oster
Spouse(s)Jesse Shapiro
Parent(s)Sharon M Oster and Ray C Fair
Academic background
EducationHarvard University
Academic work
InstitutionsUniversity of Chicago
Brown University
Notable works'Expecting Better', and 'Cribsheet'

Emily Fair Oster (born February 14, 1980[1]) is an American economist and bestselling author.[2] After receiving a B.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard in 2002 and 2006 respectively, Oster taught at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.[3] She later moved to Brown University, where she is Professor of Economics.[4] Her research interests span from development economics and health economics to research design and experimental methodology. Her research has received exposure among non-economists through the Wall Street Journal, the SuperFreakonomics bestseller book, and her 2007 TED Talk, among other media sources.

She is the author of two books, Expecting Better and Cribsheet, which discuss a data-driven approach to decision-making in pregnancy and parenting.[5]

Early life[edit]

Oster is the daughter of two economists, Sharon M Oster and Ray C Fair.[6] When she was two years old, Oster's parents noticed that she talked to herself in her crib after they left her room. They placed a tape recorder in her room in order to find out what she was saying, and passed the tapes on to a linguist and psychologist they were friends with. Analysis of Oster's speech showed that her language was much more complex when she was alone than when interacting with adults. This led to her being the subject of a series of academic papers which were collectively published as a compendium in 1989 titled Narratives from the Crib.[7] The book was reprinted in 2006, with a foreword by Emily.[8]


In 2005, Oster published a dissertation for her economics Ph.D. from Harvard University, which suggested that the unusually high ratio of men to women in China was partially due to the effects of the hepatitis B virus.[9] "Hepatitis B and the Case of the Missing Women,"[10][8] pointed to findings that suggested areas with high Hep B rates tended to have higher male-to female birth ratios. Oster argued that the fact that Hep B can cause a woman to conceive male children more often than female, accounted for a bulk of the "missing women" in Amartya Sen's 1990 essay, "More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing."[11] Oster noted that the use of Hep B vaccine in 1982 led to a sharp decline in the male-to-female birth ratio.[8] Sen's essay had attributed the "missing women" to societal discrimination against girls and women in the form of the allocation of health, educational, and food resources.[8] In April 2008, Oster released a working paper "Hepatitis B Does Not Explain Male-Biased Sex Ratios in China" in which she evaluates new data and shows that her old research was incorrect."[12] Freakonomics author Steven Levitt saw this as a sign of integrity.[13]

In a 2007 Ted Talk, Oster discussed the spread of HIV in Africa, applying a cost-benefit analysis to the question of why African men have been slow to change their sexual behavior.[14]

Oster's work on television and female empowerment in India was featured in Steve Levitt's second book, "SuperFreakonomics".[15]


In her book, Expecting Better, Oster discusses the data behind common pregnancy "rules" and argues many of them are misleading.[16] On the guideline of avoiding alcohol consumption during pregnancy, she argues that there is no evidence that (low) levels of alcohol consumption by pregnant women adversely affect their children.[17] This claim, however, has drawn criticism from the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome[18] and others.[19] As of March 2019, the book has sold over 100,000 copies.[20]

Her second book, Cribsheet, was published in April 2019 and was a New York Times bestseller.[21][22] It evaluates and reviews the research on a variety of parenting topics relating to infants and toddlers, including breastfeeding, safe sleep guidelines, sleep training, and potty training.[23][24] The week of April 28, 2019, Cribsheet was also the best selling book in Washington, DC according to the Post.[25]

Personal life[edit]

Emily is the daughter of Sharon M. Oster and Ray C. Fair, both professors of economics at Yale University. She married Jesse Shapiro, also an economist,[26] in June 2006.[27]


  1. ^ Dieterle, David A. (2017-03-27). Economics: The Definitive Encyclopedia from Theory to Practice [4 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. p. 257. ISBN 9780313397080.
  2. ^ Green, Jaime (2019-04-23). "Is This the Millennial Parent Book?". The Cut. Retrieved 2019-05-04.
  3. ^ "Emily Oster | Watson Institute". Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. Retrieved 2019-05-04.
  4. ^ "Friedman, Oster and Shapiro join Brown Economics Department | Economics Department at Brown University". www.brown.edu. Retrieved 2019-05-04.
  5. ^ Louis, Catherine Saint (2013-08-19). "Pregnant, and Disputing the Doctor". Well. Retrieved 2019-05-04.
  6. ^ Hoby, Hermione (2013-08-20). "Drop the baby talk". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
  7. ^ "Narratives from the Crib — Katherine Nelson | Harvard University Press". www.hup.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2019-05-04.
  8. ^ a b c d Dubner, Stephen J.; Levitt, Steven D. (2005). "The Search for 100 Million Missing Women". Slate. Retrieved 2006-10-15.
  9. ^ Lahart, Justin. "Economist Scraps Hepatitis Theory On China's 'Missing Women'". WSJ. Retrieved 2019-04-04.
  10. ^ "Oster's Ph.D dissertation on 'Missing Women'" (PDF). Journal of Political Economy. 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-07-03. Retrieved 2007-08-01.
  11. ^ Sen, Amartya, "More Than 100 Million Womer Are Missing, The New York Review of Books, Vol.37 No. 20 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-05-04. Retrieved 2013-05-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ "Hepatitis B Does Not Explain Male-Biased Sex Ratios in China" (PDF). 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-01-18. Retrieved 2008-05-21.
  13. ^ Levitt, Steven D. (May 22, 2008). "An Academic Does the Right Thing". Freakonomics: The hidden side of everything. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  14. ^ Conway, Laura (July 28, 2009). "Got A Riddle? Ask Economist Emily Oster". Planet Money: The economy explained. npr. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  15. ^ Robb, Richard (18 November 2009). "Extreme Economics". Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  16. ^ Levitt, Steven D. (2013-09-03). "Emily Oster Answers Your Pregnancy Questions". Freakonomics. Retrieved 2019-05-04.
  17. ^ Oster, Emily (21 October 2015). "'No Alcohol' During Pregnancy Is Just Another Shame Battle in the Mommy Wars". Time. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  18. ^ "Emily Oster's Alcohol and Pregnancy Advice is Deeply Flawed and Harmful". NOFAS. 16 August 2013. Archived from the original on 15 March 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  19. ^ "The Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Right—Do NOT Drink while Pregnant" (PDF). University of Washington. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  20. ^ "Emily Oster on Instagram: "Guess what? #ExpectingBetter has officially sold over 100,00 copies! 🎉 I'm so grateful and excited for the new journey to come with…"". Instagram. Retrieved 2019-05-04.
  21. ^ Boretz, Adam (18 January 2019). "The Science of Parenting: PW Talks with Emily Oster". Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  22. ^ "Emily Oster | Penguin Random House". PenguinRandomhouse.com. Retrieved 2019-05-04.
  23. ^ LaScala, Marisa (23 April 2019). "The Data Driven Parenting Book You Need". Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  24. ^ Kimball, Jill (2019-04-23). "In 'Cribsheet,' a Brown economist debunks long-held parenting myths". Brown University. Retrieved 2019-05-04.
  25. ^ "Washington bestsellers: Hardcover nonfiction". Washington Post. 2019-04-28. Retrieved 2019-05-04.
  26. ^ "Jesse Shapiro". University of Chicago. 2006. Archived from the original on 2006-11-05. Retrieved 2006-10-15.
  27. ^ "Emily Oster and Jesse Shapiro". New York Times. 2006-06-18. Retrieved 2007-12-31.

External links[edit]