The Mercatus Center at George Mason University is the world’s premier university source for market-oriented ideas—bridging the gap between academic ideas and real-world problems.

As a university-based research center, the Mercatus Center trains students, conducts research of consequence, and persuasively communicates economic ideas to solve society’s most pressing problems and advance knowledge about how markets work to improve people’s lives.

Our mission is to generate knowledge and understanding of the institutions that affect the freedom to prosper and to find sustainable solutions that overcome the barriers preventing individuals from living free, prosperous, and peaceful lives.

Since 1980, the Mercatus Center has been a part of George Mason University, located on the Arlington and Fairfax campuses.

Click here for our history and timeline.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Mercatus Center?

The Mercatus Center is a university-based research center dedicated to bridging the gap between academic research and public policy problems.

What does “Mercatus” mean and how is it pronounced?

Mercatus is a Latin word for “market.” It is pronounced mer-KAY-tus.

What does the Mercatus Center do?

Mercatus researchers conduct research, work with students to apply ideas to problems in the world, and make research findings available to the media, policymakers, and the general public to connect academic learning with real-world practice.

As the name implies, Mercatus research focuses on how markets solve problems.

Mercatus scholars conduct their own research in an effort to determine which institutions—markets, governments, civil society, or combinations of the three—promote the best social outcomes.

The Mercatus Center’s “economic toolkit” draws from the work of Nobel laureates Friedrich A. Hayek, Ronald H. Coase, Douglass C. North, Elinor C. Ostrom, and George Mason University’s own James M. Buchanan and Vernon L. Smith.

What is the relationship between the Mercatus Center and George Mason University?

The Mercatus Center is one of over 90 centers at George Mason University and is led by a faculty director who reports to the provost. As an independent 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, the Mercatus Center does not receive any financial support from George Mason University or the state of Virginia. Mercatus is the largest supporter of graduate education at George Mason University, supporting more than 65 graduate students in the 2018-2019 school year. Throughout its nearly 40 years at George Mason University, Mercatus has helped attract more than a dozen faculty members, including two economists who received the Nobel Prize in Economics while at Mason.

Who runs the Mercatus Center?

The Mercatus Center is led by a faculty director who is appointed by the provost of George Mason University. Tyler Cowen, the Holbert L. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mason University, is the current faculty director of the Mercatus Center.

What does the Mercatus Center offer to students? 

The Mercatus Center supports students interested in understanding social change and applying economics to solve problems in the world. Our fellows work closely with Mercatus scholars, enjoy access to our rich network of affiliated faculty, participate in sponsored conferences, seminars, workshops, and readings groups, and become actively involved in a learning environment where they can grow as scholars and policy practitioners. 

How is the Mercatus Center funded?

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization and is supported by foundations (63%), individuals (36%), and businesses (1%) from around the country. The Mercatus Center does not receive financial support from George Mason University or any federal, state, or local government.

How can I make a donation to the Mercatus Center?

Visit our donation page to learn about the many ways to support the Mercatus Center.

Why should I donate to the Mercatus Center?

The Mercatus Center relies on the generosity of supporters who value economic research that speaks to real-world problems.

The Mercatus Center brings good ideas from scholars around the world to people in government. More than 30 percent of our budget supports George Mason University professors and the students who have the potential to become tomorrow’s economics professors and policy experts.

Your generosity today can help the Mercatus Center work to bring about a freer, more prosperous, and more peaceful society. Your support will help us inject sound economic thinking into policy debates at both the federal level and the state level.

Does the Mercatus Center do directed research or research for hire?

Mercatus scholars do not do directed research or research for hire. Researchers select their own projects and are committed to the highest standards of academic quality and credibility for their research procedures and products.

We ensure our standards through peer review, rigorous internal review, and a transparent process for selecting and undertaking research projects.

The credibility of the research any organization produces stands on its quality, reliability, and integrity. The Mercatus Center strictly adheres to a stated policy regarding independence of research.

Contact Us

Phone Numbers

Main phone: 703-993-4930
Toll-free phone: 1-800-815-5711
Media queries: 703-993-4881
Fax: 703-993-4935


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General inquiries: mercatus@mercatus.gmu.edu
Media/PR: Kate De Lanoy, kdelanoy@mercatus.gmu.edu, or media@mercatus.gmu.edu
Donations: Neil Eckard, neckard@mercatus.gmu.edu

Mailing Address

Arlington Campus:

Mercatus Center
George Mason University
3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201

Fairfax Campus:

4400 University Drive
Mason Hall D101
Fairfax, VA 22030