The Influence of Sherlock Holmes

August 01, 2019

Carmen Reinhart

Sherlock Holmes is one of Carmen Reinhart’s big heroes, which may not be much of a surprise given the way she tackles her economics research.

In a recent Women in Economics podcast, Reinhart—the Minos A. Zombanakis professor of the International Financial System at the Harvard Kennedy School—explained that she approaches problems with a detective’s frame of mind.

“One of the things that I like about the way I approach it is that there is a puzzle,” Reinhart said, “and there is a way in which one can—through a broad use of data, cross country, long history, recurring patterns—throw light on those puzzles.”

Reinhart is widely known for her bestselling book This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, co-authored with Kenneth Rogoff, whom she had been working with since 2001. She had been working on issues related to financial crises for years, but the book helped the detective in her. “I think the book helped me understand a lot of puzzles that were in the back of my mind,” Reinhart said.

In the podcast, Reinhart also discussed her journey to where she is today, which took her to the International Monetary Fund, the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and Bear Stearns as the investment bank’s chief economist. Her advice to women looking to get into economics is to simply do what any good economist would do, whether it’s in academia, policy or the private sector.

“I think to really have a strong commitment to what you’re doing is critical,” she said. “I would say that also applies if you were male, but I think that kind of commitment and self-confidence is very important in succeeding in the profession.”

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