Aine McCarthy

The economics major is worth the challenge to gain the skillset and economic perspective that is both highly valued by the job market and critical for a changing world.

Assistant Professor of Economics Aine McCarthy


Assistant Professor



What three words would you use to describe Lewis & Clark?

Engaging, Challenging, Fun

You just received a very large—$1.5M!—grant from USAID. What will you be studying?

Yeah! We are super excited about this incredible opportunity to better understand the effect of school-based health interventions in student learning in Sierra Leone. In conjunction with the Ministry of Health in Sierra Leone, my colleagues and I will be conducting a randomized control trial to measure the effect of free eyeglasses (some that are custom-made, and some that are ready-made) on mathematics and reading education for middle school students. We’ll be using this really innovative education assessment that is conducted one-on-one (rather than a paper exam), so that we will be able to precisely measure changes in student learning. We’re also going to explore the effect of vision correction on student mental health, specifically depression, confidence and anxiety.

What got you interested in school-based health interventions?

I’m super interested in health and education globally, and this fun project brings together my interests. Visual impairment affects children in a number of ways—cognitive development, educational attainment, employment, long-term earnings and well-being! Early detection is critical to delivering cost-effective interventions, such as providing glasses. Sierra Leone, as elsewhere in Africa, currently lacks school vision screening and students have very limited access to eyeglasses. We’re excited to partner with the Ministry of Health to uncover supportive evidence of the educational benefits of eyeglasses.

Most people wouldn’t think of the effect of eyeglasses on learning as an economics topic. What’s the connection?

Yeah, I actually think most people would be surprised to know the range of economics research out there! I study international economic development, which means my research uses data analysis to make empirically informed policy recommendations about poverty, health, education, and family planning. I explore individual and family decision-making under limited resources, and the policies and programs that might alleviate the burden of poverty.

What do you enjoy most about Lewis & Clark students?

I love their curiosity, engagement, and joy of learning. They come to class because they truly enjoy learning and that is an inspiration.

How does Lewis & Clark prepare students interested in economics to pursue a career and/or advanced studies after graduation?

The toolkit that economics majors and minors acquire are highly valued in the job market. In L&C’s economics department, we teach students skills in analytics, modeling, data analysis, and critical writing that can be extremely useful in long-term careers. I have alumni who are doing a huge variety of things—many of them applying those sought-after data skills to the topics they find most interesting. For example, one of my students works with housing and GIS data to help Portland solve its homelessness issues; another student is pursuing a PhD in economics at UC-Davis; and another student works in internet security for a software company.

What sets L&C’s economics department apart from other small liberal arts colleges?

We have a small but fierce department here and, as a faculty, we are so dedicated to our students’ success. It’s not the easiest major in the world, but it is worth the challenge to gain the skillset and economic perspective that is both highly valued by the job market and critical for a changing world.