A:

Economics is generally regarded as a social science, although some critics of the field argue that economics falls short of the definition of a science due to a number of reasons, including a lack of testable hypotheses, lack of consensus and inherent political overtones. Despite these arguments, economics shares the combination of qualitative and quantitative elements common to all social sciences.

Social sciences, which include fields such as law, anthropology and pedagogy, differ from natural sciences, such as physics and chemistry, in that they revolve around the relationships between individuals and societies, as well as the development and operation of societies. Unlike most natural sciences, social sciences rely heavily on interpretation and qualitative research methodologies. However, social sciences also use a number of quantitative tools used in the natural sciences to chart and understand trends. For example, economists use statistics and mathematical theories to test hypotheses and forecast trends, a process known as econometrics. In addition, many social sciences use surveys and other rigid research methodologies to determine trends and provide clarity to future practices.

The increased reliance on mathematical models to study the economy began with neoclassical economics in the late 19th century and remained essential to new classical economic theories of the latter 20th century. Both new classical economic theory and new Keynesian economics assume that individuals and businesses make rational decisions, which underpin economists' ability to build economic models based on scientific principles.

One of the primary arguments made against classifying economics as a science is a lack of testable hypotheses. Underlying the difficulty in developing and testing an economic hypothesis are the nearly unlimited and often unseen variables that play a role in any economic trend. The frequency of immeasurable variables in economics allows for competing, and sometimes contradictory, theories to coexist without one proving the other infeasible. This uncertainty has led some observers to label economics the dismal science.

Much of the uncertainty of the dismal science, however, applies to the theoretical and overarching questions of macroeconomics. The scientific method, on the other hand, is regularly applied by economists in the field of microeconomics, including conducting quantitative studies in real world settings that produce verifiable and retested results. Additionally, continued advances in computing power and data processing allow economists to model increasingly complex simulations.

While economics increasingly uses scientific and mathematical methods to track and predict trends, conflicting models, theories and results at the macroeconomic scale prevent economics from providing empirical data as found in many of the natural sciences. These discrepancies and conflicts, however, are inherent in any social science, all of which require an element of interpretation rarely found in the natural sciences. The field of economics contains quantitative and qualitative elements common to all social sciences, and as long as social sciences exist as a class of sciences, economics fits within the class.

RELATED FAQS
  1. Are perfect competition models in economics useful?

    Take a look at some of the arguments made by the proponents and critics of the theory of perfect competition in contemporary ... Read Answer >>
  2. What is the difference between macroeconomics and finance?

    Dive into the world of economics by learning the key differences between macroeconomics and finance. These ideas help investors ... Read Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Insights

    Economics Basics

    Learn economics principles such as the relationship of supply and demand, elasticity, utility, and more!
  2. Personal Finance

    How to Find the Truth in Financial Services Studies

    How do you find the real science today given an environment where there’s so much sensationalism and spin trying to present a specific answer?
  3. Investing

    Why Exact Sciences' Shares Lose Their Luster

    The market is underwhelmed by Exact Sciences Corporation's latest secondary offering.
  4. Investing

    Computer Sciences Corp. Is Graduating to the S&P 500

    The ever-shifting lineup of stocks on the S&P 500 will soon undergo another change. S&P Global (NYSE: SPGI), which manages that index and many others, announced that the company currently known ...
  5. Investing

    Gilead Sciences Stock: A Dividend Analysis (GILD)

    Discover analysis of the dividend policy of Gilead Sciences, Inc., and learn about its historical earnings growth and the future of its dividend.
  6. Insights

    The History of Economic Thought

    Economics is a vital part of every day life. Discover the major players who shaped its development.
  7. Investing

    Biotech's Exact Sciences Seen Plunging 25%

    With shares around $38.75, options traders are betting the stock falls by another 25% by Dec. 31.
  8. Insights

    Why Can't Economists Agree?

    There are many reasons why economists can be given the same data and come up with entirely different conclusions.
  9. Investing

    The difference between finance and economics

    Learn the differences between these closely related disciplines and how they inform and influence each other.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Social Sciences

    Social sciences are a group of academic disciplines that examine ...
  2. Data Science

    Data science is a field of Big Data that seeks to provide meaningful ...
  3. Actuarial Science

    Actuarial science is a discipline that assesses financial risks ...
  4. Mathematical Economics

    Mathematical economics is a form of economics that relies on ...
  5. Economics

    Economics is a branch of social science focused on the production, ...
  6. Finance

    Finance is a term for matters regarding the management, creation, ...
Trading Center