Andrew Oswald,
Professor of Economics and Behavioural Science

CV and Research History


Research History

Andrew Oswald has worked on seven main areas (trade unions, labour contracts, the wage curve, entrepreneurship, home ownership and unemployment, the consequences of high oil prices, and the economics of happiness and mental health).
The first area -- stemming from his 1980 Oxford doctorate -- was how to write down mathematical models of trade union behaviour. In the late 1970s, such research was unconventional. However, this work was to become standard in modern textbooks. It included a 1982 paper, in the Economic Journal, which was the first to propose the idea of a 'utilitarian' trade union model. Later in the 1980s, he worked on theoretical aspects of labour contracts, with papers in the 1986 American Economic Review and the 1984 Quarterly Journal of Economics. A 1993 paper in Labour Economics argued that last-in-first-out layoff rules means that union indifference curves are locally horizontal. Then began a strand of empirical work on labour markets -- particularly the then-unconventional book The Wage Curve (with Blanchflower), published by MIT Press in 1994. This documented the discovery of a power law -- with an exponent of approximately -0.1 -- linking wages to the local unemployment rate. Unusually for that era, it used data on 5 million randomly sampled workers around the world; this went on to win Princeton's Lester Prize. Replications of the wage-curve finding have been found in large numbers of nations. Other research on wage formation demonstrated the importance of rent-sharing in the labour market (Quarterly Journal of Economics 1992, Quarterly Journal of Economics 1996). The fourth strand of work was on entrepreneurship. This led in particular to a 1998 paper in the Journal of Labor Economics with the title "What makes an entrepreneur?". This has become a standard reference in university and business-school courses. It is the most-cited paper of all time in JOLE. Other work was on the idea that high rates of home ownership lead to a high rate of unemployment (in the 1997 Journal of Economic Perspectives) and that oil price shocks are a key driver of movements in unemployment (in the 1998 Review of Economics and Statistics). The final theme is what is now called the economics of happiness. This was probably thought the most unusual work of all -- insofar as anyone paid attention -- by economists in the early 1990s when the work began. It suggested ways to estimate 'happiness' and job-satisfaction regression equations. Today the area is one of the fastest growing within social science. The key papers include articles in the 1994 and 1997 Economic Journal, the 1996 Journal of Public Economics, the 1996 Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, the 2001 American Economic Review, and the 2004 Journal of Public Economics. A paper in Science, in 2010, showed that across the states of the USA there is a match between subjective well-being scores and objective measures.


Andrew Oswald is a Visiting Fellow at IZA in Bonn and a Professor of Economics at the University of Warwick. He serves on the board of editors of Science. Previously at Oxford and the London School of Economics, with spells as Lecturer, Princeton University (1983-4); De Walt Ankeny Professor of Economics, Dartmouth College (1989-91); Jacob Wertheim Fellow, Harvard University (2005); Visiting Fellow, Cornell University (2008). He is an ISI Highly-Cited Researcher.