Originally Posted: April 29, 2019
Dr. Elizabeth (Beth) Wheaton, 2006 Ph.D. alumna, currently CEO at Equip the Saints and Economics Senior Lecturer at Southern Methodist University, celebrated two important achievements in this academic year. She had her book Economics of Human Rights published in the Fall and this April she was one of the two recipients of the 2019 SMU ALEC PAT “Pretty Amazing Teacher” Award, which honors professors who encourage their students to get the tutoring and academic training they need, challenges students to become better learners, and works in partnership with the SMU ALEC (Althshuler Learning Enhancement Center). We reached out to her about her textbook and she answered our questions as follows.
Q. What is the reason behind creating this book? What motivated you to create this book?
A. I saw an overlap in the needs of several different groups. Students ask me how they can best prepare to change the world. Nonprofit organizations and think tanks ask Equip the Saints (the nonprofit consulting organization I founded) for help with data collection and analysis in areas where social issues and economics connect. National and international organizations, researchers, and activists who find my research ask how they can access necessary research and gain insight.
I wrote The Economics of Human Rights to provide economics (and other) students with the training needed to work in interdisciplinary teams. The textbook teaches students how to view a social issue through the lens of economics and provides the foundational information needed to understand that issue so that they can use their economics skills to complement the world-changing team of which they are a part. Around 75% of the material is accessible to non-economics majors so the textbook can be used in political science, communications, human rights, and other studies.
I also wanted to encourage students to consider choosing economics as a major. Economics provides powerful tools that can be used to create positive change in the world.
Q. Do you think this book will make a difference in how people view human rights? Will they see it in more of an economics aspect? Why do you think discussing the use of economics in human rights is important?
A. I believe this book will make a difference in how people view human rights and how they view economics. I define economics as the science of choice when dealing with scarcity. The basis of each human rights violation is the choices of a person or group. In addition, each human right has multiple parts that are tied to monetary decisions. When we can determine the benefits and costs of perpetrators, victims, and bystanders, we can find ways to create incentives to change those decisions. Changing those incentives could lead to decreased violence and better lives.
Q. How did you first get into economics and why did you choose to major in it in college?
A. I earned a bachelor’s degree in international business and economics at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas and a Masters in international business and trade from Grambling State University. While working for an international finance company, I read about child labor and its ties to the production and consumption in developed countries. I realized that a Masters and Ph.D. in economics would provide me with the skills and status needed to make a real impact in the lives of marginalized people, so I went back to school at Temple University. Read More.