Six economics-related newsletters you should read in 2022
If you like Full Stack Economics, you'll probably enjoy these newsletters as well.
Full Stack Economics has had a good year. When we launched in August we had 750 readers inherited from my previous newsletter. As I write this we have more than 4,000 readers. We are thrilled to have each and every one of you.
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Alan had a baby in November and has been on paternity leave for much of the last six weeks. But he’ll be back in the saddle in the new year, and we’ve got big plans for the coming months.
The last year wasn’t just a good one for our little venture, it was a banner year for independent newsletters more broadly. A bunch of great newsletters were created in 2021, while others enjoyed rapid growth. The outlook for online journalism has looked grim for most of my career, so the success of so many reader-supported newsletters is a welcome dose of good news.
I thought it would be fun to close out the year by recommending six of my favorite newsletters focused on economics and related topics. If you enjoy Full Stack Economics, I bet you’ll enjoy these other publications too.
Slow Boring by Matt Yglesias
When Matt and I worked together at Vox.com, he put me and most of our colleagues to shame with his prodigious output. Since he left Vox last year, he has maintained a high level of productivity, writing a meaty post for his newsletter, Slow Boring, almost every weekday.
Matt has a knack for spotting emerging policy problems early. He was one of the first writers to recognize that excessive housing regulation was driving up rents in major cities. As early as 2009, he argued that the recovery was being held back by too-tight monetary policy. At Vox he wrote a great piece arguing that American democracy is heading toward a constitutional crisis. This was in 2015, before it was clear that Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee in 2016. American democracy hasn’t collapsed yet, but after the events of January 6, his argument seems even more compelling.
While Matt has long been a partisan Democrat, he’s also one of the most independent thinkers in the pundit game. Some of his work in the Substack era has been trying to talk sense into a liberal establishment that has lurched to the left in recent years. He has argued that the key to winning elections is to appeal to persuadable swing voters—especially to the kind of older, working-class white voters who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and Donald Trump in 2016. This should be common sense but it seems to have eluded a lot of people on the left. Matt was an early and forceful critic of the movement to defund the police, pointing out that there’s strong empirical evidence that larger police forces reduce crime.
Noahpinion by Noah Smith
Noah is a former economics professor who became a full-time columnist for Bloomberg in 2016. He left Bloomberg this year to focus on his newsletter, Noahpinion. Like Matt he’s astonishingly prolific, publishing several insightful posts a week on a wide range of topics.
Noah lived in Japan for several years, and some of the most interesting writing focuses on the economics and culture of Asian countries:
Here’s a deep dive into the strong performance of Bangladesh’s economy over the last 40 years.
Here’s an explainer on the flourishing of Taiwan.
Here’s a post arguing that China, not the United States, has driven international tensions that could lead to a second cold war. And here’s an article about China’s decision to declare war on its own tech sector.
Here’s an explainer on South Korea’s rise as a cultural superpower.
Noah also has plenty of insights on other topics, including the US economy, the COVID pandemic, and the negative impact of Twitter on public discourse.
Apricitas by Joey Politano
While Matt and Noah are well-known, Joey is a rising star. Once a week, his newsletter offers an in-depth look at data relating to the US or global economy. His work has already inspired one Full Stack Economics post and I expect to continue relying on his insights in 2022.
Last month, for example, he walked through the turmoil in the automotive industry. He explained how the industry over-reacted to the brief downturn in automotive demand in the first months of the pandemic. Then it was caught flat-footed when demand roared back in the second half of 2020. The result: soaring auto prices in 2021.
Back in August, Joey did a great explainer on the structural problems with the eurozone. The eurozone splits financial sovereignty between the European Central Bank (which has the power to print euros) and national governments (which issue and repay debt). As he explains, that division of labor is a recipe for the kind of financial crises we saw in 2012.
Uphill by Haley Byrd Wilt and others
A lot of newsletters are long on opinion and short on reporting. But Uphill, anchored by Haley Byrd Wilt, covers Capitol Hill in depth. Here, for example, is a look at important provisions of the Build Back Better legislation that haven’t attracted much press coverage. Wilt has extensively covered efforts to hold the Chinese government accountable for human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang province.
Uphill is part of the Dispatch, a newsletter venture launched by a group of conservative journalists, including Jonah Goldberg and David French, in 2019. I like the Dispatch’s Trump-skeptical brand of conservatism, and I’m also inspired by their success at building a multi-author newsletter business. While there are a lot of great solo newsletters out there, I think the best journalism is often a team effort.
ParentData by Emily Oster
Most of the newsletters I read are about national or global issues beyond my personal control. ParentData, a newsletter by economist Emily Oster, is different: it provides parents with advice for practical problems they face. Lately, a lot of ParentData posts have focused on COVID-19, including pieces on vaccine safety, masking, and school shutdowns. But she also writes about a range of other parenting issues, including allowances, screen time, and sleep training.
While there are lots of parenting advice columns out there, Oster’s trademark is heavy reliance on empirical research to answer these kinds of questions. While she’s not trained in public health or pediatrics, her background as an economist gives her expertise in reading and synthesizing empirical research. And she writes in a clear, accessible style that helps parents quickly absorb the information they need to make informed decisions.
Money Stuff by Matt Levine
None of the newsletters I’ve recommended so far are funny. So you might want to subscribe to Money Stuff, a finance newsletter by Matt Levine, to add a dose of levity to your economics reading.
Levine’s basic method is to find ridiculous things happening in the finance world and wisecrack about them. And a lot of ridiculous things have happened in the last year. Probably the most ridiculous was the rise of GameStop stock earlier this year, and Levine wrote a lot of articles about that. Other frequent topics this year included Donald Trump’s new media company, Elon Musk’s tweets, and non-fungible tokens.
But don’t be fooled by all the wisecracks: Levine is a former Goldman Sachs banker with deep knowledge about financial markets. For example, he wrote the best explainer I’ve read on payment for order flow, an arrangement where retail trading platforms accept payment from middlemen who execute trades on behalf of their users. That practice probably sounds shady to you—it sounded shady to me when I first heard about it. But Levine convincingly argues that the practice is good for retail customers.