Blog Post

Principles of Economics

Every problem in economics mostly belongs to the case of either optimization or equilibrium. Economic agents follow the optimization process when they make their decisions. As a consequence of this, each economic agent finds the most efficient solution under the given constraints. Because of the scarcity, most of the optimization problems in economics are the constrained optimization. Because the process of optimization depends on the assumption that every economic agent is rational, the equilibrium that can be reached by the interaction among economic agents, also heavily depends on the rationality. In other words, rationality is one of the key assumptions in economics.

In economics, all the economic agents try to maximize what they wish for but to minimize what they are averse to. The optimization includes both the maximization and minimization so we can achieve our goal. Especially, in microeconomics, the individual economic agent has the distinctive goal of the optimization. The reason why individual consumers participate in the market is to maximize their utility. In addition, the market demand can be derived from the aggregation of each individual utility maximizing behavior. It’s not surprising that we can apply this logic to the firm’s supply side.

One of the most important concepts in economics is the equilibrium. The equilibrium quantity and price in market theory, as well as GDP and the general price level in macroeconomics, are the phenomena from the concept of the equilibrium. The optimization of each individual can be realized in the market and as a consequence we can observe the equilibrium. Intuitively, the equilibrium is the balanced state in the market under the fighting among all different forces.


What is economics anyway?

Recently, some questions that are popular among most economists are as follows:

– What is the main reason we experienced the worst recession in 2008?
– Why are some countries richer than others dramatically?
– What is the culprit of the income or wealth inequality within a country?
– How do the robots, full automation, and artificial intelligence change the workforce? How about the change of the structure of the population?

However, the interest of economists is not limited only to these kinds of topics. Most people think that economists think all about the money but economics is a broader subject that we can take advantage of by studying it.

There are a few different aspect to describe what economics is. First of all, some economics textbooks say that it is the study about scarcity. Others define that it is the study of how we allocate resources efficiently. Sometimes, we think that economics is simply the study of the decision-making process. It seems that a subtle nuance difference among them but fundamentally they covers the similar situation with different perspectives.

We have always located the situation to make a choice in our daily lives and try to do our best every time. The reason comes from the fact that our wants are unlimited but our resources are limited to the contrary. Everybody cannot live forever, only have 24 hours per day, and has a limited amount of income. In this perspective, all the former description of economics share some similarities or connections even though each one sounds far different from others.

Teaching Statement

My approach to teaching and enthusiasm is motivating my students to study Economics with great excitement and interest. My teaching style was largely influenced by the professor who taught “Public Economics” in my junior year in college. He encouraged me to think critically with challenging subject inside and outside of the classroom. While taking his course, I discovered my passion and interest in Economics. His enthusiasm for Economics finally made me continue my study and pursue a teaching career in Economics.

I have been teaching various courses and levels of students, from a theory based highly structured topic, such as Intermediate level of Microeconomics and Macroeconomics to Principles of Economics, as well as practical quantitative ones like Econometrics, Statistics and Mathematics. However, regardless of the topic, my main goal is the same as each class should be interesting and meaningful. Sometimes I succeed and other days I fail but I learn a lot every time how to make it interesting. On the other hand, each student need to adopt critical thinking and analytical skills for the future in the long run. I have been striving to balance these two aspects.

When I was a teaching assistant at the University at Buffalo, my first job was helping a professor who taught Principles of Economics in a large lecture hall. He always gave special importance to the personal attention and student engagement. His approach helped a lot about how to manage a class of hundreds when I taught students in a large lecture hall. I moves around the class so that I can take an attention and hear every student easily, as well as addresses them more personally with students’ names. Even though I teach in small class size now, I am always aiming to engage the students with these methods.

As the Roman philosopher Seneca said, “While we teach, we learn,” I encourage my students to work together in small group not only for studying but problem sets in class. Students can learn the concept in detail by teaching other classmates. In my Business and Economic Statistics course, I developed a group project where students test their own hypothesis using the statistical model discussed in class.

I encourage my students to ask any questions at any time and I confirm that my answer is enough to remove any doubts because I believe that efficient communication is important in the welcoming class to boost the learning process. I induce students to find the answer of their own questions by following the relevant series of questions and real life examples. By doing so, they will develop their intuitions and skills of critical thinking and they derive the right conclusion even though they forget the specific concepts.

I am always open to adjust the level by listening to the opinion from students. I cannot find easy answer for setting up the proper level of difficulty for the class in order not to make average students either bored or totally lost. From time to time, I spend enough time to go over practice questions especially difficult to understand for students. In addition, I am not limiting to my office hours during the designated time but extending to online virtual office hours for the students not available during regular hours. I can help them by using online chatting software, video conference, as well as social network services. Before each exam, I upload the practice exam to build up rational expectation.

To sum up, I stay enthusiastic and eager to supply the education at a unique and effective level. My teaching perspectives can be summarized as follows: First, I do my best to balance both skills of critical thinking and enjoying the topic for each student. Second, I make an effort to boost the learning process with efficient communication in welcoming class.


My name is Sang-Yong Oh and I am from South Korea. I have a PhD degree in Economics from University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.

My main research area is Empirical Analysis on International Trade. One of my papers investigates the Vertical Specialization in East Asian Country, especially among China, Japan, and South Korea. In the paper, I focus on the industrial structure among those countries by using International Input-Output Table. Moreover, in order to have better understanding of the relationship between the US and East Asian Economy, I introduced the data to the modified Hecksher-Ohlin-Vanek model.

Another paper investigates the incentives to merge in the online search engine industry in South Korea. I develop a two-sided market model to estimate the network externality in the market and to analyze the effect on the two-sided market structure.

In the process of my research, I have learned the theoretical and empirical literature in not only International Trade but Industrial Organization, especially about the relationship among the US and East Asian countries. I have been practicing various econometric skills while dealing with large datasets. To sum up, my research interests stays in International Trade, Empirical Industrial Organization, and Applied Microeconomics.

I have been teaching all of core courses in Economics. I have been teaching the Principle of Microeconomics, the Principle of Macroeconomics, Intermediate Microeconomics, Intermediate Macroeconomics, Econometrics, Business and Economics Math, and Business and Economics Statistics as well. I also have experienced various schools such as University at Buffalo, Buffalo State College, and Bloomsburg University. I am interested in teaching International Trade, Econometrics, Industrial Organization, Applied Microeconomics, Principles of Economics, Statistics.

Youth Unemployment

Youth unemployment is not only of huge problem by itself but also affects the inequality issues between generation. Since the global crisis in 2007, youth unemployment has surged. According to OECD database, there were 51.5% increase in Spain, 50.1% in Greece, 42.3% in Italy, 33.4% in Portugal and 28.8% in the Slovak Republic.

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Figure 1.5 shows the summary of each country. However, sometimes only unemployment rate doesn’t indicate the reality well. Another measure of the unemployment issue was developed, which is the NEET rate. It can be defined the proportion of people who are neither employed nor in education or training. This has increased in most of the OECD countries since 2007. Especially, Countries such as Greece, Ireland, Italy, Slovenia and Spain, have been suffering of the huge increases in the NEET rate.

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Figure 1.6 shows the NEET rates in OECD Countries. Comparing with Figure 1.5, we can see some countries that has high share of youth population inactive. For example, Turkey, Mexico and Korea. This phenomenon can be explained by the culture differences among countries. For example, in Turkey, Mexico, and Korea, a great number of young women don’t want to be employed and raising a family at the same time.

The leaking intellectual property

It has been a while to dispute the benefit of higher education in the U.S. One group insited that it is not fair that the colleges in the U.S. give scholarships to the foreign students during the training period such as their Ph.D program. Since they will return to their home land after getting the degree, the real impact of the education transfer to the foreign countries instead of staying in the U.S.

However, the others think the real adventage belong to the U.S. because of the competition among the students from all over the world. This high level of competition ultimately give a rise to innovate, invent and develop new technology. In addition, the beneficiaries will have a favor of maintaining the good relationship with the U.S. so they will support the U.S. politically too. Especially, in the long run, they think this policy will help the U.S.

Today, I read this article in economist, “Whose brains are draining?” This graph directly shows the negative relationship between each contry’s level of wealth and the level of intellectual property. In other words, as the level of wealth is high, the leakage of intellectual propery is low. Even though there is some outliers in this observation, it is unambiguous that the small coutry that has high GDP per capita doesn’t have the system to accomodate the innovative brain.

In sum, it is really interesting to find out that the correlation between GDP per capita and the drainage of the intellectual property. As we try to broaden our perspective as focusing unlimited competition without any border of country, there is not that much issue the loss of the intellectual property. Do we still need to worry about the losing the competition as the country level like Olympics or World cup?