Martha L. Olney's Homepage

Department of Economics
University of California, Berkeley
Office Location:  691 Evans Hall
Phone:  510-642-6083; Fax: 510-642-6615
Mailing Address (click here)

Available for appointments. Email me.

Looking for ways to make a difference?
Check out
Cal's public service center
There are lots of volunteer possibilities
student-initiated community projects
and super alternative-break programs

Struggling with finances? Check Bears for Financial Success


Now retired.

Previously Taught Courses

Related to Teaching

YouTube Videos for Econ 1 Topics

Textbooks by Martha Olney

Errata sheet: Micro/Macro as a 2nd Language

Feature Articles & Podcasts

The Ministry of Being Out (2019)

St Louis Fed:
Women in Economics Podcast (2019)

The Jolly Swagman: The Roaring 20s & The Birth of Consumer Credit (2020)

UCLA Anderson Forecast: Lessons from the 1920s for the Coming Decade (2021)

Essays & Speeches

An Essay on Teaching (1997)

Teaching: A Day in the Life (2003)

Faculty Remarks, LGBTQ Graduation 2011
Faculty Remarks, LGBTQ Graduation, 2014
Last Lecture 2015
Last Lecture 2017
Commencement, Economics, 2017
Last Lecture 2020

About Martha Olney

Working & Published Papers


Brief Bio

From my archives: Words of Inspiration
and Hope (2003)

Go Bears!

There are thousands and thousands of hardworking people who have helped you get to this point, people who are celebrating with you today, who are praying for you every single day, and others who couldn't be here, for whatever reason.  I want you to think of the people who sacrificed for you: family members who worked a third job to get you through, who took on the extra shifts to get you through, who put off doing something important for themselves to get you to this day.

And think about the friends who never got the chance to go to college but were still invested in your success -- friends who talked you out of dropping out, friends who kept you out of trouble so that you could graduate on time, friends who forced you to study when you wanted to procrastinate.

Most importantly, though, think of the millions of kids living all over this world who will never come close to having the chance to stand in your shoes -- kids in New Orleans whose schools are still recovering from the ravages of Katrina; kids who will never go to school at all because they're forced to work in a sweat shop somewhere; kids in your very own communities who just can't get a break, who don't have anyone in their lives telling them that they're good enough and smart enough to do whatever they can imagine; kids who have lost the ability to dream.  These kids are desperate to find someone or something to cling to.  They are looking to you for some sign of hope.

So, whenever you get ready to give up, think about all of these people and remember that you are blessed.  Remember that you are blessed.  Remember that in exchange for those blessings, you must give something back.  You must reach back and pull someone up.  You must bend down and let someone else stand on your shoulders so that they can see a brighter future.

First Lady Michelle Obama, UC Merced Commencement Speech, May 16, 2009 (

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.    -- Ben Franklin

One summer, walking along Telegraph Ave in Berkeley, I crossed paths with a former student.  He had always been a very upbeat and enthusiastic guy.  He had graduated about a year before – near the height of the Silicon Valley boom – and gone directly into a job he enjoyed.  But when I saw him, he looked about as glum as a boy who had lost his puppy.  “Hey, how are you?  What’s up?,” I asked him (in the middle of crossing Durant Avenue!).  He had been laid off and hadn’t had any success yet in finding a new job.  He was terribly depressed, feeling – as I suspect most unemployed folks feel – that he was somehow responsible for being unemployed.  If only he had worked harder, more hours, more diligently.  If only he hadn’t been sick for three days one time.  If only he were smarter.  If only . . .   I listened for awhile and then reminded him of what he’d been taught: unemployment is due to insufficient aggregate demand.  “It’s not about you,” I told him.  “It’s about the economy.”  Yeah, he supposed, but it sure felt as if it was about him.  “But it’s not.  You’re part of the rising unemployment in the Bay Area, and that’s not your fault.”  Yeah, he began to acknowledge, maybe that's right.  He gave me a hug, thanked me, and we went our separate ways.

And that is why I teach economics.

Sometimes it takes big life events for us to really get the little stuff:

During my second month of nursing school, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one:

"What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?"

Surely this was some kind of joke.  I had seen the cleaning woman several times.  She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how would I know her name?

I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank.  Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.

"Absolutely," said the professor. "In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say 'hello'."

I've never forgotten that lesson.
I've also never forgotten her name was Dorothy.

(Taken from a listserve, mid-September 2001)

Webpage prepared by Prof. Martha Olney.
Last updated  2/10/2023
Postal mail address:
Prof. Martha L. Olney
University of California
Department of Economics
530 Evans Hall, #3880
Berkeley CA  94720-3880