2020 HUEA/HER International Essay Contest

The 2020 International Essay Contest is sponsored by the Harvard Undergraduate Economics Association (HUEA) in conjunction with the Harvard College Economics Review (HCER). This essay competition is open to high school students of any year and is a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate an accomplished level of writing and understanding of economic theory. Through the contest, student competitors hone their academic and professional skills and exhibit their knowledge to future employers and academic programs. 

Competitors must construct a convincing argument using economic theory and real-world examples. Winning essays will be published in the Harvard Economics Review and will be available for the greater Harvard community to read. Essays should focus on argumentation supported with facts and references, although data-based support is also welcome.


Entrants must choose one of the four prompts and write a response to it with a strict limit of 1500 words. Submission must be via the HUEA website and entrants are limited to submitting one essay with only the first submission being considered. Each essay submission will have a $20 reading fee which should be paid upon submission of the essay. The deadline for submitting the essay is 11:59pm EST December 1st, 2020. ​


The essays will be judged by the boards of the HUEA and HCER, with the top 10 submissions being adjudicated by the esteemed Harvard professor and 2016 Economics Nobel Prize winner Oliver Hart.

Entry Requirements

Entry is $20 and is open to high school students from any country and any school. Please reach out to our team if you have questions regarding submissions.

Submission Instructions

1. Pay the reading fee at the top of this page, using Paypal or Venmo. If Venmo, format your payment details as "Firstname Lastname, your@email.com, 2020 HUEA Essay Contest"

2. Register and submit your essay in the box "Submit your essay here"

3. Note: You will not receive confirmation of receipt of essay. We will email you if it is missing.


Each essay should address only one of the questions in your chosen subject category, and must not exceed 1500 words (not counting diagrams, tables of data, footnotes, bibliography or authorship declaration). Please submit your essay in pdf format. The title of the pdf attachment should read Last Name_First Name_Question Number (e.g. Smith_John_2). ​


The top three winning essays will be published (with the author’s permission) on the Harvard Economics Review online Publications. 

A finalists list of the top 10 submissions will be published online and adjudicated by 2016 Economics Nobel Prize Winner Oliver Hart.​


A further 20 names will receive honors of “Highly Commended” and their names will be published online

The judges' decisions are final.

Key Dates

11:59pm EST 1st October 2020 – Essay titles released

11:59pm EST 1st December 2020 – Essay deadline

February – Highly Commended and Finalists notified

March – Winners notified, results published on the website

2020 Essay Questions

  1. The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has massively disrupted global markets, policy decision making, and day-to-day human experience. In what ways has the pandemic impacted markets? How have your economic relationships, and market interactions been impacted? What policy work is needed to combat the economic stress? How will markets, trade, and decision making be impacted after the pandemic is resolved?

  2. Traditional economic theory tells us individuals use rational calculations to make rational decisions. However, recent behavioral economics research suggests actors in markets do not always make rational decisions. In what ways can people make suboptimal decisions? What are the implications of these decisions? How can markets or governments correct for these inefficiencies? 

  3. Secular stagnation describes a prolonged period of low economic growth. Many economists believe the United States is currently facing (and will continue to face) secular stagnation. Why has secular stagnation occurred in the United States? Is secular stagnation permanent? How can the United States increase its growth over the long term?

  4. The advancement of technology, artificial intelligence, and robot techniques will rapidly change the labor market as we know it. Many workers are predicted to be permanently displaced. What are the implications of this rapid increase in technological innovation? What can be done to meet the needs of the millions of displaced workers?

Terms and Conditions


  • The word limit of 1500 must be strictly adhered to. Any words past the limit will be truncated. This limit excludes references, footnotes, titles, headers and footers.

  • Essays must be written only by the entrant who declared they wrote it, and any outside assistance must be declared in the submission form.

  • Only your first submission will be accepted. Any further submissions will not be read.

  • References must be included, and any plagiarism will lead to disqualification.

  • References must be in Chicago or APA format. 

  • The only accepted document formatting is PDF. Any other format will not be accepted, nor will refunds be given to those who do follow this rule.

  • No refunds are granted.

  • Grades 9-12 are permitted.

  • The essay must not be entered in any other competition nor be published elsewhere.

  • No individual feedback of essays will be granted.

  • The decisions made by the HUEA, HCER and by the final round of adjudication are final.

  • All winners agree to their names being published on the HUEA website.

Past Winners

Past winners can be found on the Harvard Economics Review website. The 2019 winning essay can be found here.

2020 Harvard Undergraduate Economics Association