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Has the ‘dismal science’ grown more crucial now that economists fulfill many roles?

Practitioners move beyond theory, number crunching to serve members and be public face of group

Dec. 18, 2015
By William Ehart

Harry Truman famously pined for a one-armed economist who wouldn’t keep saying, “On the other hand.”

Today, with data crucial to cutting through political rhetoric, more and more associations are hiring economists—especially those who can juggle many roles: lobbyist, member services provider, nondues revenue generator, and communicator.

“Any medium or large-size association that doesn’t have a need for an economist would be unique simply because of the diversity of tasks economists take on at associations,” said Tom Beers, executive director of the National Association of Business Economics.

Though NABE’s membership was once almost exclusively composed of corporate practitioners, association economists are now a big component, he said.

It’s a long way from the more theoretical focus of economics in decades past, said Beers, former chief economist of the $3 million-revenue Manufactured Housing Institute.