Subodh Mathur Ph.D. Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Book Cover for Core Economics by Subodh Mathur

Core Economics

by Subodh Mathur, Ph.D. Economics, MIT

Core Economics is in the same genre as Professor Levitt’s Freakonomics and Professor Chang’s Economics: The User’s Guide. The focus is on the economics of real-world issues, with minimal jargon and mathematics. The difference is that Core Economics reflects the author's 35 years of worldwide practitioner experience in applying economic concepts to formulate real-world projects and schemes.

Order the book


Subodh MathurSubodh Mathur has a Ph. D. in Economics from MIT. He has taught graduate and undergraduate economics in the United States, and supervised many Economics doctoral dissertations. For more than 30 years, he has been a self-employed consultant, with occasional bouts of teaching graduate courses in Economics. Dr. Mathur has worked with various teams of professionals from several fields in applying economic concepts to solve real-world problems in the US, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

I was born in Alwar, a small town in India. My parents moved around Rajasthan until we reached Jaipur in 1958. I graduated from high school in Jaipur. After that, I got my BA and MA degrees in Economics from Delhi University. Then, I went back to Jaipur to teach at Rajasthan University. It was a fun time, with Professor Raj Krishna as the Head of the Economics Department.

After that, I got my Ph. D. in Economics from MIT, and became a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Economics at the American University (AU), Washington, DC. Here, I taught mainly graduate courses and supervised a large number of doctoral dissertations. But I soon realized that my comparative advantage was in applying economic concepts in the real world, not is academic research. So, I left AU in 1998, and became a self-employed consultant.

But, the teacher in me would not quit. Strangers told me I talked like a professor. The people I worked with would often say, “But, this will not work in the real world.” So, I returned to AU after nearly twenty years as an adjunct professor. This time, I would not teach students in the Economics Department. I wanted to teach economics to graduate students outside the Economics Department.

Which I did. Enjoyed it thoroughly.

Of course, this did not pay my bills. I became a long-standing short-term consultant for the World Bank in Washington, DC. I also worked for several US agencies. In recent years, I have been working as an economist who estimates the economic damages in cases of injury or wrongful death. And I am looking for something new to do – but as an economist.

About the book

The book focuses on the core ideas and principles in economics and their applications. This makes it easy to see how economics works in real life.

I have worked in Washington, DC, and I have worked in remote villages in Asia and Africa. Not alone. As a part of a team of professionals from various disciplines. Here I learned how to discuss economic concepts in jargon-free language, and they taught me how things work in the real world.

And, then I went back to university teaching. With a difference. Instead of teaching mathematical courses in the Economics Department, I asked to teach students who were not going to be economists.

I felt that standard economics textbooks were not suitable for these students. So, I wrote my own lectures from scratch to suit their needs. The look and feel of my lectures were quite different from that of any standard economics textbook. I truly enjoyed this experience. More importantly, I became fully convinced that it was not a good idea to use standard economics textbooks to teach economics to students who were not interested in becoming economists.

I thought about turning my lectures into a book. But, instead of doing this, I went back to applied work. It was an exciting assignment!

In 2019, Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies’ Energy, Resources and Environment group selected me to teach a course, beginning in January 2020. I was thrilled. I cleared my work plan for January-May 2020so that I could concentrate on my students.

But the course was canceled just a few days before it was to begin. That opened up a big gap in my work schedule.

So, I thought of writing the book I had been thinking about for many years. How long could it take to convert the lecture notes I had written into a book?

Not so fast. When I looked at my notes, I saw that they were designed to be delivered in a classroom for a conventional degree course.

By now, I no longer wanted to focus on college courses. Instead, I wanted to take the first step in formulating a new learning/teaching paradigm aimed at people outside the classroom.

I knew there had been a huge increase in online teaching. Good, but I never found it to be a new learning paradigm. Apart from logistical adjustments, the online courses were being taught in the same way as the established classroom courses. This way, the students would feel that they were getting the same hallowed course.

This online approach did work for some students. Good. We need to reach as many students as possible.

However, it could not reach people who wanted to learn without becoming students. I felt that there was an increasing number of people worldwide who had already finished their formal education, but wanted to learn some more outside their field.

I had been writing on economic issues on various online professional crowd-sourcing sites. The people who read me did so because they wanted to learn more about the economic world. So, I decided to write a book for them. This book.

I wrote a couple of chapters and posted them online. I liked the reaction I got. So, I decided to write this book. It’s not a textbook. Not even close. It has none of the formalisms of a textbook. Instead, the book is a bit like a chat with my readers.

What the book has is the core ideas and principles in economics. With plenty of real-world examples and applications so that people can see how economics works in real life.

I responded to the coronavirus stay-at-home restrictions by spending more and more of my time writing this book. When I had written about 65,000 words (around 200 pages), I had not yet reached the halfway point. Some of my advisers felt that I had already covered a lot of ground, and I should publish it.

How could I publish half a book? No conventional publisher would take it. But, thanks to new technology, we don’t have to follow the old rules. Instead, I decided to call it Volume I and distribute it as an e-book. And keep writing the rest in Volume II.

I was able to find a convenient dividing point between Volume I and Volume II. There’s more than enough in Volume I to give a reader a good idea of what economics is about, and how economists analyze the economy.

So here we are. You are reading Volume I. It has three sections. Section I, consisting of Chapters 1-3, is a broad introduction to economics. Section II, consisting of Chapters 4 and 5, covers financial markets. In particular, this section covers the bond market, which rarely makes it into economics textbooks, even though it now has a prominent role in the economy. Section III, consisting of Chapter 6-9, covers unemployment, inflation, GDP, poverty, and inequality. The focus is on what these variables mean in the real world.

The book has plenty of charts based on real-world data. These charts have not been produced by graphics professionals. Instead, they are straight out of commonly used spreadsheet software. Nor have the fonts and formats been designed by experts. All of this takes time, but I didn’t want to delay the book. And all of this takes money, which increases the book’s price. I didn’t want this either.

I decided to focus hard on the content and speed of delivery. If you are reading this, the delivery part has been fulfilled. I hope you enjoy reading this book and learn from it.

Please write to me at if you have any comments. And, let me know if you find any typos or other mistakes. I will write them up on the Errata section of this companion website

Book Reviews


This book is Volume I. It has three sections:

Volume II, in the works, will cover macroeconomic schools of thoughts, microeconomics and its application to various sectors, international economics, and econometrics.

Read excerpts from each chapter:


Corrections to the published text will be listed here.

Contact Information

author Book author: Subodh Mathur, Ph.D.

phone Phone: (301) 538-4363

email Email: