Queen's University

Economics: a sexy science?

Can an economics book be fun, sexy, and a good read? This alumna author definitely thinks so.

Marina Adshade, MA’00, PhD’04, remembers the final exams of the first term of her doctorate clearly. “Not only do I remember the building,” she says, reaching back 14 years, “I remember the room.”

On the second floor in Dunning Hall, Adshade nursed her three-week-old son Duncan while she wrote. Six months later she went back to classes. “The Economics Department was phenomenal,” says Adshade. Allan Head and Bev Lapham, married professors in the Department, let her leave Duncan with their nanny.

Prof. Marina AdshadeProf. Marina Adshade

At the time, Adshade knew that completing a PhD as a single parent was uncommon. During her graduate studies, she looked at US census data to discover how many women had both given birth and completed a PhD. Not surprisingly, none. That didn't deter her. She had already followed an unconventional path to academia, a story she tells, in part, as Jane in her recent and highly successful book, Dollars and Sex: How Economics Influences Sex and Love.

Like the fictional Jane, Adshade did not finish high school and at age 17 ran away from home. She worked as a chamber maid and lived in a seedy hotel in Vancouver, skirting numerous dangers, including being courted by a pimp. A year later, after returning to Ontario to seek refuge at her sister's, she married and had a daughter. When her repeatedly unemployed husband decided to return to school, Adshade announced she would too. She was 27. Her daughter was less than a year.

By 1997, when she started her MA at Queen's, Adshade was a single mother whose focus of study was women in the workplace, a topic that she says requires a discussion of sex and love. This theme has underscored all her work. When set with the task of increasing enrollment in economics courses at Dalhousie, Adshade suggested an undergraduate course called “The Economics of Sex and Love,” a precursor to her book.

“Everything that happened to me at Queen's laid the ground work for my career,” says Adshade, who now teaches in the School of Economics at the University of British Columbia. Her writing appear in The Globe and Mail, The Washington Post, The Sunday Times, and other well-known publications.

Dollars and Sex

Her daughter is now 20. At 14, Duncan is barely able to acknowledge that she wrote a book. “Possibly because of the topic,” she says. “The book is fun and racy but academically it is very rigorous and that comes from my training at Queen's.” Adshade says the Economics Department is like family. “I hope that the department feels they can take some credit for the book because they can definitely can.”

Queen's Alumni Review, 2013 Issue #3Queen's Alumni Review
2013 Issue #3
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Last updated at 10:33 am EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
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