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Economics

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2022-23

108 Statistical Ethics and Institutions

(Offered as STAT 108 and ECON 108) This course will provide a rigorous presentation of fundamental statistical principles and ethics. We will discuss standards for relationships between statisticians and policymakers, researchers, the press, and other institutions, as well as the standards for interactions between statisticians and their employers/clients, colleagues and research subjects. The course will explore how the interplay of institutions (e.g., organizations, systems, laws, codes of professional ethics) and the broader sociopolitical culture affect the production of reliable, high quality statistics. Students will also explore the implications of statistical principles and ethics for the operation of national, regional, and international official statistical systems. In addition, we will investigate the proper place of official statistics within a government system that operates with separate branches. Students will gain a strong foundation in international statistical principles and professional ethics as well as an understanding and the tools to assess the quality of the statistics they use. The course is designed to make students responsible and effective supporters of reliable, high quality statistics in their professions. Students will particularly learn how to assess the quality of official statistics produced by governments and how to identify areas for improvement. Examples, case studies, readings from statistical practice, and discussion will provide a full appreciation of real world applications. The course is also intended for non-majors interested in an introduction to quantitative social science and the use of data in public policy.

Limited to 30 students. Visiting Scholar Andreas Georgiou.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

111 An Introduction to Economics

A study of the central problem of scarcity and of the ways in which the U.S. economic system allocates scarce resources among competing ends and apportions the goods produced among people. Two 80-minute and one 50-minute lecture/discussion per week.

Requisite for all other courses in Economics.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

111E, 230 An Introduction to Economics with Environmental Applications

(Offered as ECON 111E and ENST 230) An introduction to the core theories and measures of markets and the current economic system. We study both microeconomics, which addresses the central problem of resource scarcity and how markets for individual goods and services function, and macroeconomics, which addresses the economy as a whole and key aggregate measures such as unemployment and inflation. Econ 111E covers the same material as ECON 111 but with special attention to the relationship between economic activity and environmental problems, including market failures, and to the application of economic tools to analyze environmental issues. A student may not receive credit for both ECON 111 and ECON 111E. Two 80-minute and one 50-minute lecture/discussions per week.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 Amherst College students. Spring semester. Professor Sims. 

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023

111F Intro to Economics Discussion

Discussion for ECON 111. 

A study of the central problem of scarcity and of the ways in which the U.S. economic system allocates scarce resources among competing ends and apportions the goods produced among people. Two 80-minute and one 50-minute lecture/discussion per week.

Requisite for all other courses in Economics.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

205 Pluralist Economics

Mainstream economics is fundamentally neoliberal, employing narratives of meritocracy to explain, normalize, and justify racial capitalism and the inequality and exploitation it inevitability produces.  Pluralist economics provides alternative explanations and understandings, directly challenging the conceptualizations, models, methods, values, topics, and pedagogy of economic practice.  This sophomore seminar engages students in an exploration of pluralist economics. Examples of pluralist approaches include: feminist economics, critical race theory, stratification economics, Marxist economics, cooperative economics, behavioral economics, institutional economics, and abolition economics.  Given the interweaving of mainstream economics, capitalism, and white supremacy, this engagement with pluralist approaches entails an uncovering of and challenge to racist capitalist logics that are central to both economics and the economy.  Together, we will endeavor to build a thoughtful, creative, and flexibly pluralist approach to our work as economic thinkers.

Spring semester. Professor Reyes

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023

207 Economics and Psychology

This course introduces the field of behavioral economics, which incorporates insights from psychology into economics with the aim of improving human welfare. Behavioral economics studies how individuals actually make decisions, which may deviate from the way "rational actors" are modeled in terms of making decisions in classical economics. Motivated by non-fiction readings and academic articles, we will use behavioral economic frameworks to characterize this actual decision-making and to explore its consequences for markets and for policy. Topics covered include prospect theory, frameworks for intertemporal choice, the importance of framing and defaults, subjective well-being, and "nudges."

Requisite: ECON 111 or ECON 111E. Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Debnam Guzman. 

 

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023

211 AntiRacist AntiEconomics

Economics is an ideology whose primary act of meaning-making is its self-presentation as objective social science. Through its graceful yet pernicious definitions of efficiency, value, competition, property, rights, and freedom, economics simultaneously hides and implements its oppressive neoliberal ideology. This class rejects this economics. In its place, guided by anti-racist principles, we work to develop a new economics with new definitions, new methods, and new frameworks. To do this, we must first characterize and understand the fundamental and fundamentally intertwined structural racism, patriarchal oppression, and violent distortion of both mainstream economic practice and American capitalism. We will then endeavor to rebuild, drawing on radical thought within economics (stratification and feminist economics) together with complementary justice-oriented work from related disciplines (sociology, social anthropology, political science, law, and critical race theory). Ultimately, our goal is to work towards an AntiRacist AntiEconomics. This course is numbered 211 to signify that it is a radical reintroduction to economics, a reconstructionist reprise of 111.

Requisite: ECON 111/111E. Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Reyes.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023

218 The Economics of Inequality in the United States

The United States is in an unprecedented period of rising inequality. This course begins by examining the history of inequality in the U.S. since the start of the twentieth century. It then uses cutting-edge and detailed national data to document and explore the current state of inequality and intergenerational mobility in the U.S. We consider inequality by various metrics, such as race, gender, and geography, and in various outcomes, such as income, wealth, health, educational attainment, and incarceration. The course then examines determinants of inequality, and finally, investigates policy solutions to inequality. Throughout the course, economic models related to inequality are both presented and critiqued. Finally, special attention is paid throughout the course to causal inference, and to students honing their skills at understanding the intuition behind commonly used research methods to estimate causal effects.

Requisites: ECON 111/ECON 111E. Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Hyman. 

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

220 Public Choice

The state plays a large role in the economy, employing a substantial fraction of the labor force, producing and consuming a wide variety of goods and services, building infrastructure, taxing economic activity, enforcing contracts, redistributing wealth, regulating industries, and so on. Therefore, the allocation of society’s resources - the subject matter of economics - depends crucially on how political decisions are made. This course is an introduction to rational-choice and game-theoretic analysis of collective decision-making in the public sphere: voting systems and democratic governance; legislative bargaining and policymaking; the role of interest groups and collective action; corruption, rent seeking and government failure; constitutional change; and the economic analysis of law.

Requisite: ECON 111 or equivalent. Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Kingston.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023

224 Introduction to Economic Networks

The modern era has seen an explosive growth in the interconnectedness of individuals and groups. From social networks facilitating the decentralized exchange of enormous amounts of information to the increasingly complex patterns of loans among financial institutions, the ties that connect agents are an important factor to consider for nearly any policy maker. Networks, collections of objects which are connected by links, have become increasingly prevalent in modern economic research due, in part, to their ability to bridge microeconomic behavior and aggregate patterns in a population. A departure from more traditional applications of networks as modeling physical systems to a more abstract framework capturing the relationships between autonomous agents adds a layer of complexity to the analysis that is well-suited for tools from economics, and in particular game theory. Broadly speaking, this course will explore how the structure of connections between individuals affects, and is affected by, the economic incentives of those individuals. We will begin with an introduction to graphs, and then turn to specific applications of networks within economics. We will discuss networked markets featuring intermediaries between buyers and sellers, the structure of information networks and internet economics, applications to sponsored search, centrality measures for influence, and end with models of cascades and innovation in networks and how the structure of a network affects the likelihood of a cascade.

Requisite: ECON 111/111E or equivalent. Limited to 30 students. Fall and spring semesters. Professor Porter.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

225 Industrial Organization

This course examines the determinants of and linkages between market structure, firm conduct, and industrial performance. Some of the questions that will be addressed include: Why do some markets have many sellers while others have only a few? How and why do different market structures give rise to different prices and outputs? In what ways can firms behave strategically so as to prevent entry or induce the exit of rival firms? Under what circumstances can collusion be successful? Why do firms price discriminate? Why do firms advertise? Does a competitive firm or a monopoly have a greater incentive to innovate? In answering these and other questions, the consequent implications for efficiency and public policy will also be explored.

Requisite: ECON 111/111E. Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Ishii. 

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023

250 Money, Banking, and Economic Activity

In this course, we study the role played by money, banking, and financial markets in the modern economy, with a particular emphasis on how financial intermediation facilitates exchange and how financial conditions promote (or inhibit) economic activity. Specific topics include stock and bond markets, financial institutions and banking regulation, central banking and monetary policy, international finance, and financial crises. We will learn the channels through which financial markets can affect employment, output, and inflation, and we will assess the effects of various policies on financial markets and broader economic conditions.

Requisite: ECON 111/111E. Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor White. 

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

262 Development Economics

This course surveys major topics in the study of economic development. We will examine economic issues pertinent to developing countries through a discussion of economic theory and a review of empirical evidence. The topics covered will include economic growth, structural change, education, health, migration, gender, institutions, aid, and industrial policy. Using publicly available data, students will work on an empirical report identifying key development issues in a country of their choice and analyzing policy recommendations. Through lectures, discussions and the empirical project, the course aims to equip students with the tools they need to understand the various aspects of the development process and to evaluate policy options.

Requisite: ECON 111/ECON 111E. Limited to 30 students.Fall semester. Visiting Professor Yusuf. 

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

271 Economic History of the United States, 1600–1860

The economic development of the United States provides an excellent starting point for an understanding of both this nation’s history and its current economic situation. We begin with the colonial period and the creation of the nation and end with the Civil War and the breakdown of the Union. Throughout we provide an economic reading of the events and try to explain the conflicts and resolutions in economic terms.

Requisite: ECON 111/111E. Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Barbezat. 

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

290, 390, 490, 490H Special Topics

Independent reading course. Half course.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall and spring semesters.The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020

300 Microeconomics

This course develops the tools of modern microeconomic theory and notes their applications to matters of utility and demand; production functions and cost; pricing of output under perfect competition, monopoly, oligopoly, etc.; pricing of productive services; intertemporal decision-making; the economics of uncertainty; efficiency, equity, general equilibrium; externalities and public goods. A student may not receive credit for both ECON 300 and ECON 301.

Requisite: MATH 111, or equivalent and at least a "B" grade in ECON 111/111E or a "B-" in ECON 200–290, or equivalent.

Fall semester: Limited to 40 students. Professor Reyes

Spring semester: Limited to 40 students. Professor Hyman.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

301 Advanced Microeconomics

This course covers similar material to that covered in ECON 300 but is mathematically more rigorous and moves at a more rapid pace. A student may not receive credit for both ECON 300 and ECON 301.

Requisite: At least a "B" grade in ECON 111/111E or a "B-" grade in ECON 200–290, or equivalent, and MATH 211 or equivalent, or consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Ishii.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023

330 Macroeconomics

This course develops macroeconomic models of the determinants of economic activity, inflation, unemployment, and economic growth. The models are used to analyze recent monetary and fiscal policy issues in the United States, and also to analyze the controversies separating schools of macroeconomic thought such as the New Keynesians, Monetarists and New Classicals. A student may not receive credit for both ECON 330 and ECON 331.

Requisite: Math 111 or equivalent and at least a "B" grade in ECON 111/111E or a "B-" in ECON 200–290, or equivalent. 

Limited to 40 students. Fall and spring semester. Professor White.

 

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

331 Advanced Macroeconomics

This course covers similar material to that covered in ECON 330 but is mathematically more rigorous and moves at a more rapid pace. A student may not receive credit for both ECON 330 and ECON 331.

Requisite: At least a "B" grade in ECON 111/111E or a "B-" grade in ECON 200–290, or equivalent, and MATH 121 or equivalent, or consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Blackwood.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023

360 Econometrics

A study of the analysis of quantitative data, with special emphasis on the application of statistical methods to economic problems. A student may not receive credit for both ECON 360 and ECON 361.

Requisite: MATH 111, or equivalent and at least a "B" grade in ECON 111/111E or a "B-" in ECON 200–290, or equivalent. Fall and spring semesters.

Fall semester: Limited to 40 students. Professor Sims.

Spring semester: Limited to 40 students. Professor Sims and Professor Debnam Guzman.

 

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

361 Advanced Econometrics

This course studies the specification, estimation, and testing of econometric models based on the maximum likelihood and method of moments principles. It builds from mathematical statistics and utilizes matrix algebra, the rudiments of which will be introduced in the course. The course will also review applications of econometric models to various areas of micro and macroeconomics. A student may not receive credit for both ECON 360 and ECON 361.

Requisite: At least a "B" grade in ECON 111/111E or a "B-" grade in ECON 200–290, or equivalent, and MATH 211 or equivalent, and STAT 111 or STAT 135 or equivalent. Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Ishii. 

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

414 Urban Economics

Much of urban economics focuses on the origin and development of cities. But, more generally, urban economics is the study of the role of location/space in the decision-making of households and firms. Among the topics that may be addressed in the course are (1) modern trends in urban development, such as suburbanization and gentrification; (2) agglomeration of economic activities, such as advertising in Manhattan and hi-tech in Silicon Valley; (3) provision of local public goods, such as K-12 education and mass transit; and (4) housing policy and land use regulation, such as low income housing and zoning. The course combines relevant economic theories and models with discussion of current policy issues.

Requisite: ECON 300 or 301. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Ishii. 

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

416 Economics of Race and Gender

(Offered as ECON 416, BLST 416 and SWAG 416) Economics is fundamentally about both efficiency and equity.  It is about allocation, welfare, and well-being.  How, then, can we use this disciplinary perspective to understand hierarchy, power, inequity, discrimination, and injustice?  What does economics have to offer?  Applied microeconomics is a fundamentally outward-looking and interdisciplinary field that endeavors to answer this question by being both firmly grounded in economics and also deeply connected to sociology, psychology, political science, and law.  In this class, we will employ this augmented economic perspective to try to understand the hierarchies and operation of race and gender in society.  We will read theoretical and empirical work that engages with questions of personal well-being, economic achievement, and social interaction.  Students will have opportunities throughout the semester to do empirical and policy-relevant work.  Each student will build a solid foundation for the completion of an independent term paper project that engages with a specific economic question about racial or gender inequity.

Requisite: ECON 300/301 (Microeconomics) or consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Reyes. 

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

419 Education and Inequality in the United States

Education is one of the most promising ways to fight inequality, yet inequality in educational attainment is rising in the United States. This course focuses on understanding inequality in education in the U.S., and whether and how education reform can reduce it. The course begins with a brief overview of the historical and current relationship between educational attainment and inequality in the U.S. We then study the empirical economics literature examining whether prominent education policies and reforms reduce inequality in educational attainment. We examine topics in: 1) early childhood education, such as Head Start and universal preschool; 2) K-12 education, such as school finance reform, desegregation, and student-teacher race match; and 3) postsecondary education, such as affirmative action in college admissions, simplifying the college and financial aid application process, and financial aid during college. Throughout the semester, students learn commonly used empirical microeconometric research methods to identify causal impacts, and then employ these tools in their own empirical research paper.

Requisites: ECON 360/361. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Hyman. 

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023

420 Game Theory and Applications

Game theory analyzes situations in which multiple individuals (or firms, political parties, countries) interact in a strategic manner. It has proved useful for explaining cooperation and conflict in a wide variety of strategic situations in economics, political science, and elsewhere. Such situations can include, for example, firms interacting in imperfectly competitive markets, auctions, arms races, political competition for votes, and chess. This course will provide an introduction to the tools and insights of game theory. Though mathematically rigorous, emphasis will be on applications rather than on formal theory.

Requisite: ECON 300 or 301 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Kingston.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

450 Monetary Theory and Policy

The way a society creates and distributes money has a large impact on people’s income, wealth, employment opportunities, and financial security more generally. In this course, we will study modern monetary institutions and their impact on the economy. We will use both empirical and theoretical frameworks to address questions like: What causes inflation? How do interest rate changes affect employment? and How should policymakers decide what actions to take? We will examine the operational aspects of modern central banks as well as how and why the banks have evolved over time. We will also assess central bank tools to address inequality and climate change. Students will read research papers, follow current policy debates and decisions, and engage in independent research projects.

Requisite: ECON 330/331, ECON 360/361. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor White.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023

453 Economics of Entrepreneurship

This course explores the economic importance of entrepreneurship, with a focus on recent empirical findings. We will study the roles entrepreneurs play in innovation, economic growth, and rising living standards, as well as determinants of entrepreneurial success such as finance, geography, and entrepreneur characteristics. The course will also cover implications for policy and explore recent patterns in entrepreneurial activity in the United States. Students will become familiar with key research findings on entrepreneurship, conduct research utilizing publicly available data on firms and workers, and identify real-world examples of course concepts.

Requisite: ECON 360/361. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Blackwood. 

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

471 Economic History Seminar

Robert Lucas famously claimed: “the consequences for human welfare involved in questions … [of long-run economic growth] … are simply staggering: Once one starts to think about them, it is hard to think about anything else.” This is a seminar in which we will start thinking about the why, how, and where long-run economic global growth occurred, or tragically did not occur. Through this inquiry students will learn why Lucas made this dramatic claim.

For most of human history, median per capita incomes all over the planet were relatively similar and stable. This began changing radically, only for some, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

In this seminar, we will describe and begin to explain this long-run economic process that brought us to the contemporary global economy. We will first examine the long swing of the stable Malthusian equilibrium briefly described above by delving into hunter/gatherer societies, ancient agrarian societies and the agriculturally based economies that developed though the fifteenth century. We then will turn to the long process of breaking this Malthusian equilibrium and examine the economic growth that really first occurred in Northern Europe and England. Finally, we will analyze the modern period of increased economic growth in certain parts of the world and the lack of that growth in others, resulting in the incredible global inequality during and after the  nineteenth century.

Requisite: ECON 300/301 and ECON 330/331. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Barbezat. 

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023

479 Institutions and Governance

All economic activity is embedded in a framework of institutions including both formal laws and contracts, and informal norms and conventions. Institutions constrain individual behavior and thereby affect resource allocation, income distribution, learning, and economic growth. This course introduces recent approaches to the study of institutions in economics and political science. Particular emphasis will be placed on recent applications to economic history and development, and to theories of institutional stability and change.

Requisite: ECON 420 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Kingston. 

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023

498 Senior Departmental Honors Seminar

The senior departmental honors seminar is a workshop that supports the first half of senior thesis work in economics. Students learn research methods and engage with economic research via close reading, structured writing, empirical analysis, theoretical reasoning, and active participation in discussion. Students develop and refine their own research proposals, so that by the end of the semester each student’s proposal clearly states a research question, places that question into context, and outlines a feasible approach. By the end of the semester, students will be deeply into the research, analysis, and writing process for a well-designed honors project.

Requisites: An average grade of B+ or higher in Economics 300/301, 330/331, and 360/361; successful completion of one 400-level economics class. Fall semester. Professor Hyman.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

499 Senior Departmental Honors Project

Independent work under the guidance of an advisor assigned by the Department.

Requisite: ECON 498. Spring semester. The Department.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023