They have short ears and a short tail. Their fur is yellowish brown with paler sides and white underparts. They are 18 cm long with a 4 cm tail and weigh about 50 g.
These animals are found in damp tundra or moist meadows, usually near water. They make runways through the surface growth in warm weather and tunnel through the snow in winter. They feed on grasses, sedges and seeds.
Female voles have three to six litters of three to nine young in a shallow burrow. The vole population in a given area can vary greatly from year to year.
They are active year-round. They also dig underground burrows where they store seeds and roots, especially licorice root, for the winter. The species epithet "oeconomus" refers to this "economical" behaviour.