Iowa State economists extend outreach to help Iowans understand economy

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AMES, Iowa – If news about the ongoing economic recovery or changes in the unemployment rate has you wondering what it all means – Iowa State University’s Department of Economics can help. The new “Ask an Economist” website is a tool the public can use to get answers to their questions on a variety of economic topics.

John Schroeter, professor and interim chair of economics, says faculty members routinely receive emails with questions about issues, such as the U.S. debt level. The new website will make it easier for people to submit questions and make sure they are directed to the faculty member with the expertise to respond.

“We hope to hear from curious Iowans,” Schroeter said. “This is not intended to provide financial advice or advocate for political issues. We want to help people with legitimate questions about policy debates and try to illuminate the issue.”   

While the department welcomes questions from students, the website is also not intended as a helpline for homework assignments. Instead, department leaders like to think of it as a way for Iowans to elevate the level of conversation at the dinner table.

Joydeep Bhattacharya, a professor of economics, hopes high school teachers, legislative staffers and business leaders will utilize the resource. He says the popularity of books such as “Freakonomics” may also generate discussion.

“I imagine people reading these books may have questions about all these buzz words out there, such as labor economics, industrial organization or game theory,” Bhattacharya said. “We expect to hear from the person who picks up the newspaper or watches the news and is constantly being told something about the economy and just wants to know more about the topic.”

Anyone can submit a question anonymously online. Answers will be posted, along with the question, on the “Ask an Economist” website for everyone to read. Inappropriate questions will be filtered out and response times will depend on the volume of questions. You can submit your question at: http://www.econ.iastate.edu/node/add/ask-an-economist.

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