The 18 Fields of Economics

The American Economic Association classifies the economics literature into 18 broad fields. (Not surprisingly, “Forensic Economics” is not one of them.) Some of these 18 fields, such as microeconomic theory, underlie the applied fields. However, only Labor Economics focuses on the estimation of the elements of economic damages in personal injury and death litigation. These elements include the determinants and estimation of the lifetime earnings of an individual (including non-wage or fringe benefits), the determination of his or her level of education, occupational choice, lifetime expenditure/consumption and savings decisions and health expenditure decisions. These are matters researched by those studying labor economics at the Ph.D. level. Labor economics is no less relevant to the damages issues in personal injury damage estimate than obstetrics is to birth trauma, neurology is to neurological disorders, or aeronautical engineering is to aviation litigation. Few outside of litigation would retain those unfamiliar with labor economics to opine on such matters.

The National Academy of Sciences, in its publication “On Being A Scientist” said, “Science is a cumulative enterprise in which new research builds on previous results.” In other words, modern economists stand on the shoulders of giants who came before them. Rather than stand on the decades of literature created by hundreds of scholars in the field, most so-called “forensic economists” have created their own rules of thumb. This enables almost anyone with a calculator to be an economic “expert,” especially when the ones they must convince have learned their economics in the courtroom.

To see this, one need only observe the plethora of non-economists selling their time as economic “experts.” These include accountants, counselors, vocational counselors, actuaries, those trained in business and the like. Among those with Ph.D.s in economics, few have studied labor economics, rendering their knowledge little better than those who have never taken an economics course beyond freshman Econ 1 and 2.