Kate Stirling

Kate StirlingProfessor, Economics

Starting college, I never dreamed I’d become an economist, but my academic advisor suggested I enroll in an economics class.  I loved it!  Shortly thereafter, I changed my major and ultimately the course of my life.  Economics fascinates me for so many reasons, at so many levels.  I love the “science” aspect of it: the hypotheses and modeling of human behavior, but the “social” aspect also means we consider how people’s lives are affected: whether they have sufficient means to meet their needs or, at the other end of the economic spectrum, whether marginal utility declines with very high incomes. 

I am fortunate that I have had the opportunity to share my enthusiasm for economics with undergraduates at the University of Puget Sound since arriving here in 1984, having pursued my Master’s and Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Notre Dame.  Despite our relatively small size, we have a terrific economics department, representing all major fields, our particular interests, and a wide range of differing economic views and perspectives.  Despite our divergent opinions, we have enormous respect for one another.  This creates a great learning environment for both our students -- majors and non-majors alike.  Our students report how much they appreciate our accessibility, our collegiality, and our openness, both to them and one another.  The University of Puget Sound is really a great place to live and learn. 

Like most faculty members here, I teach a wide range of courses, from introductory economics, to macroeconomic theory, to the senior seminar (where majors undertake their theses projects).   I also get to teach two courses in my areas of specialization: Gender and the Economy, and the Economics of Happiness.  The former reflects where I spent most of research life, in particular studying low-income mothers and their children.  More recently, I have shifted to the study of the “economics of happiness,” where I am investigating the Easterlin hypothesis, asking whether this might be explained due to changes in the family budget over time.  Merging my two interests, I am also currently conducting a study of changes in well being among low-income women, in particular whether mindfulness training might help moderate the stress of poverty.   My interest in this area recently took me to the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, where instead of Gross Domestic Product, they measure well being utilizing Gross National Happiness.  My most recently published paper is “Buddhist wisdom as a path to a new economic enlightenment,” in the Journal of Management Development (Vol. 33, No. 8/9 2014).

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about the university, our department, my teaching, or my research.  Best contact is to email me at stirling@pugetsound.edu.