Economics is usually divided into two main branches:
Microeconomics, which deals with the behavior and interaction
of individual agents and firms.
Macroeconomics, which examines an economy as a whole with
a view to understanding the interaction between economic aggregates
such as income, employment and inflation.
Attempts to join these two branches or to refute the distinction
between them have been important motivators in much of recent
economic thought, especially in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Today, the consensus view is arguably that good macroeconomics
has solid microeconomic foundations i.e. its premises have
support in microeconomics.
Within these major divisions there are specialized areas
of study that try to answer questions on a broad spectrum
of human economic activity (see below). There are also methodologies
used by economists whose underlying theories are important.
The most significant example may be econometrics, which applies
statistical techniques to the study of economic data.
There has been an increasing trend for ideas and methods
from economics to be applied in wider contexts. Since economics
analysis focuses on decision making, it can be applied (with
varying degrees of success) to any field where people are
faced with alternatives - education, marriage, health, public
policy, voting theory etc. Public Choice Theory studies how
economic analysis can apply to those fields traditionally
considered outside of economics. The areas of investigation
in Economics therefore overlap with other social sciences,
including political science and sociology.