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Study Notes

Is Economics a Social Science?

A-Level, IB
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB, Eduqas, WJEC

Last updated 9 Sept 2023

There is debate among some scholars about whether economics should be considered a social science or a separate discipline.

Some argue that economics is more closely related to the natural sciences because it increasingly relies on mathematical models and data analysis to study human behaviour and economic systems. An example here is econometrics.

Econometrics is the application of statistical methods to economic data in order to estimate and test hypotheses about economic relationships. It is a branch of economics that aims to provide empirical evidence for economic theories and to forecast future economic trends.

Others view economics as a social science because it is concerned with how people, institutions, and societies make decisions about how to use scarce resources and how these decisions affect the well-being of individuals and society as a whole.

A good example of this approach is institutional economics which emphasises the importance of the legal, political, and social framework in which economic activity occurs. It recognizes that economic outcomes are not determined solely by market forces, but are also influenced by the rules, regulations, and norms that shape the behavior of economic actors. This perspective is often used to analyze issues such as property rights, contracts, and the regulation of markets.

One point in favour of economics being a social science is that it involves the study of human behaviour and the way that individuals and societies make choices. It looks at the social, psychological, and political factors that influence economic decision-making and the ways in which these decisions affect society.

Additionally, economics uses tools and methods from other social sciences, such as sociology and psychology, to study economic phenomena and to understand how different economic systems such as a free market or mixed economy operate.

For an additional study note - see behavioural economics.

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