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 semester: Sections 1-3 limited to 18 Amherst College students; Sections 4-7 limited to 25 Amherst College students. Professors Barbezat, Dillon, Ishii, Kingston, and Woglom. Spring semester: Limited to 30 Amherst College students. Professors Baisa, Barbezat, and Kingston.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017
(Offered as ECON 111E and ENST 230) A study of the central problem of scarcity and of the ways in which micro and macro economic systems allocate scarce resources among competing ends and apportion goods produced among people. Covers the same material as ECON 111 but with special attention to the relationship between economic activity and environmental problems and to the application of micro and macroeconomic theory tools to analyze environmental issues. A student may not receive credit for both ECON 111 and ECON 111E.
Requisite: Consent of instructor. Two 80-minute and one 50-minute lecture/discussion per week. Limited to 25 Amherst College students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Sims.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017
This course will introduce students to the field of behavioral economics, which combines insights from psychology with the tools of economics. We will review some of the major findings in behavioral economics, and try to understand their implications for market outcomes and government policies. In doing so, we will review both academic papers as well as popular non-fiction in the field.
Requisite: ECON 111/111E. Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2017-18.2017-18: Not offered
Students in this course will explore society’s use of the natural environment as a component of production and consumption. The allocation of exhaustible and renewable resources and the protection of environmental quality from an economic standpoint will be examined. Public policy avenues for controlling natural resource management and the environment will also be explored. Case studies include air pollution and acid rain, depletion of the ozone layer and the greenhouse effect, the solid waste crisis, and deforestation, among others.
Requisite: ECON 111/111E. Admission with consent of instructor. Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2017-18.2017-18: Not offered
Inequality is arguably one of the primary issues of our time. In this course, we will focus on understanding the particular manifestations of inequality in health and individual well-being that derive from inequality in environmental conditions. We will start with the canonical models of public economics, studying the role of government and paying particular attention to how failures of standard assumptions of rationality, perfect information, and perfect competition will lead to inefficiencies and inequities. We will then apply these modes of analysis to the following topic areas: a) poverty, inequality, meritocracy, and systemic racism; b) environmental inequality and environmental justice; c) health inequality and the cross-generational perpetuation of disadvantage. Lastly, we will consider the potential of public policy to improve societal well-being by targeting these inequities.
Requisite: ECON 111/111E. Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Reyes.2017-18: Not offered
Health care poses many pressing questions: Why do we spend so much on health care? Does this spending actually produce better health? How do health care institutions function? What is the appropriate role of government? How are we to judge the efficiency and equity of health care policy? By applying economic analysis to health, health care, and health care markets, health economics provides insight into these questions. In the first section of this course, we will assess the role of health care in the economy and apply economic models to the production of health and health care. In the second section of the course, we will study the structure of health care markets and the roles of key institutions. In the third section of the course, we will investigate the role of government and use our acquired knowledge to understand and evaluate health care policy and reform. Throughout this analysis, we will pay careful attention to the nature of health care markets, the anatomy of market failures, and the implications for public policy. Empirical results, current issues, and public policies will be discussed throughout the course. In addition to technical problems and economic analyses, students will be asked to write analytical papers and participate actively in the discussion of current economic research and public policy.
Requisite: ECON 111/111E. Recommended: any one of Microeconomics (ECON 300/301), Econometrics (ECON 360/361), or Statistics (MATH 130). Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Professor Reyes.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017
International migration is a key labor market alternative for many individuals, especially for those from developing countries. This course focuses on the economic underpinnings of the migration decision that culminates in individuals leaving their home country for work abroad. We will begin the course by examining the question of why people migrate. In the second section, we will focus on the effects of migration on migrant-sending developing countries. In the third section, we will examine the impacts of migration on migrant-receiving countries. Through lectures, discussion, debates, and written policy briefs, we will use economics as a toolbox for analyzing the complex issues of migration policy.
Requisite: ECON 111/111E. Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Theoharides.2017-18: Not offered
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 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 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 50 students. Spring semester. Professor Ishii.2017-18: Not offered
This course uses microeconomic analysis to examine economic relationships among countries. Issues addressed include why nations trade, the distributional effects of trade, economic growth, factor mobility, and protectionism. Also included are discussions of the special trade-related problems of developing countries and of the history of the international trading system.
Requisite: ECON 111/111E. Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Professor Knudsen.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017
This course uses macroeconomic analysis to examine economic relationships among countries. Issues addressed include foreign exchange markets, the balance of payments, and the implications of openness for the efficacy of various macroeconomic policies. Also included are discussions of the special macroeconomic problems of developing countries and of the history of the international monetary system. Not open to students who have taken ECON 435.
Requisite: ECON 111/111E. Limited to 50 students. Omitted 2017-18.2017-18: Not offered
This course surveys the recent wave of financial globalization and assesses both its merits and potential risks. In particular, we will examine the most important potential benefit of financial globalization, an increased rate of economic growth that can be a powerful tool in alleviating poverty. We will analyze the theoretical arguments for a growth-enhancing effect of globalization and discuss the empirical evidence. We will then turn to the most important potential drawback: the risk of a devastating financial crisis, particularly in emerging market economies that have only recently opened to international capital movements. Throughout the course we will emphasize the conditions and policies under which financial globalization is likely to be successful. The course will conclude with an analysis of the effect of financial globalization, as well as increased trade openness, on inflation and the conduct of monetary policy.
Requisite: ECON 111/111E. Limited to 50 students. Consent of the instructor required for students who have taken ECON 435. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Honig.2017-18: Not offered
An introduction to the historical experience and current economic problems of developing countries, and survey of theories of economic growth and development. Topics will include economic growth, health, education, urbanization, corruption, technology, aid, gender and institutions. The course will throw light on market failures in developing countries and show how we can use the tools of economics to understand these problems and to evaluate policy options.
Requisite: ECON 111/111E. Limited to 50 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Singh.2017-18: Not offered
This course studies the monetary systems that facilitate exchange. Such systems overcame the limitations of barter with commodity monies such as gold, and gradually evolved into financial intermediaries that issue paper notes and bank deposits as money. Intermediaries in markets for insurance, debt, and equity are studied too. Also, the effects of financial markets on aggregate economic activity and the level and term structure of interest rates are studied. Not open to students who have taken ECON 423.
Requisite: ECON 111/111E. Limited to 50 students. Fall semester. Professor Woglom.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017
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 35 students. Fall semester. Professor Barbezat.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017
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 reconstruction period after the Civil War and end with the Civil Rights Era and the War on Poverty. 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 35 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Barbezat.2017-18: Not offered
In the Declaration of Independence, the Founders called the “pursuit of happiness” an “inalienable right,” yet both psychologists and economists have noted that we do not well understand the determinants of the attainment of happiness or contentment. In this course, we will examine the literature on well-being in both micro- and macroeconomic contexts. We will review the neoclassical model of utility maximization and contrast it to other modes of understanding how and why people make the decisions they do, as they pursue their happiness. On the macroeconomic side, we will attempt to understand what factors (e.g. growth, unemployment, inflation) seem most important for policy-makers to focus on in order to sustain their citizens' well-being. The course will also include opportunities for students to examine their own consumption decisions and assumptions about the attainment of happiness.
Requisite: ECON 111/111E. Not open to students who have taken ECON 425. Limited to 50 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Barbezat.2017-18: Not offered
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. Limited to 50 students. Fall semester: Professor Baisa. Spring semester: Professor Singh.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017
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. Fall semester. Professor Baisa.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017
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 50 students. Fall semester: Professor Dillon. Spring semester: TBA.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017
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. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Honig.2017-18: Not offered
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. Limited to 50 students. Fall semester: Visiting Professor Knudsen. Spring semester: TBA.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017
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 (previously MATH 130) or STAT 135 or equivalent. Spring semester. Professor Ishii.2017-18: Not offered
Behavioral economics is an active research field, drawing together people from psychology, economics, political science, and management, among other fields. Economic theory is based on the idea that economic agents are rational and investigates the implications of such rational behavior. Empirical research has revealed discrepancies between derived "optimal" strategies and the actual behavior of decision makers in domains as varied as labor supply, asset allocation, retail markets and credit card usage. Based on these empirical findings, behavioral economics questions the assumption of perfect rationality and uses insights from psychology to improve theoretical and empirical predictions of standard economic theory. This course aims to introduce students to this rapidly emerging and important field.
Requisite: ECON 300/301 and Math 121. Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2017-18.2017-18: Not offered
The course aims to study the latest research on topics in development economics. It will focus on both randomized experiments as well as some of the classic microeconomic empirical papers on topics such as health, education, corruption, labor, microfinance and social capital. Students will be required to read and comment on published or working papers every week. Class participation and peer discussions will be incentivized. The final project will involve each student answering a question in development economics employing empirical analysis on micro-level data sets already available.
Requisite: ECON 360/361 or permission of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Singh.2017-18: Not offered
The field of applied microeconomics (“applied micro”) is a fundamentally outward-looking branch of economics. Applied microeconomists take economic theories and methodologies out into the world and apply them to interesting questions of individual behavior and societal outcomes. This upper-level seminar will start with an overview of the field and its methodologies, followed by foundational material in econometric identification and behavioral economics. We will then address substantive areas such as environmental economics, the fetal origins hypothesis, antisocial behavior, economics of crime, and the economics of gender, race, and inequality. Specific topics will vary from year to year. Most of the course will be devoted to close reading of research papers, including discussion of the relative merits of particular theoretical and empirical methodologies. Students will participate actively in class discussion, make oral presentations, evaluate empirical data, and write analytical papers.
Requisite: ECON 300/301 (Microeconomics) and ECON 360/361 (Econometrics). Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Reyes.2017-18: Not offered
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 30 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Ishii.2017-18: Not offered
This is an upper-level seminar in social policy which examines a number of social programs in the United States, including Medicaid, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Temporary Aid to Needy Families. The seminar will introduce you to the operation of these programs and will teach you how to use economic and econometric tools to evaluate them. Most of the course will be devoted to close reading and discussion of research papers, including discussion of the relative merits of various empirical and econometric techniques. Students will be asked to participate actively in class discussion, to make oral presentations, to evaluate empirical data, and to write analytical papers. Throughout the course, we will think broadly about the goals of social policy, always keeping the canonical tradeoff between efficiency and equity at the forefront. We will also consider the practical challenges faced not only by policymakers in designing effective policies but also by scholars in evaluating the effectiveness of those policies.
Requisite: Microeconomics (ECON 300/301) and Econometrics (ECON 360/361). Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Reyes.2017-18: Not offered
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 40 students. Fall semester. Professor Kingston.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017
A study of the role of financial markets in the efficient allocation of resources. We look at how financial markets: (1) enable the transfer of resources across time and space; (2) facilitate the reduction and management of risk; and (3) provide information about the future, which is important to public policymakers as well as private firms and individuals. The financial theories studied include: (1) the theory of present discounted values; (2) the capital asset pricing model; (3) the efficient markets hypothesis; and (4) the Black-Scholes model for the pricing of contingent claims.
Requisite: MATH 211 AND ECON 300 or 301; or consent of instructor. Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Woglom.2017-18: Not offered
A seminar in international macroeconomics, with an emphasis on emerging market economies. We will read and discuss empirical research papers. Topics covered will include financial globalization, banking and currency crises, exchange rate regimes, dollarization, and institutions and governance.
Requisite: ECON 330/331, or ECON 235/237 with permission of the instructor. Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Professor Honig.
2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017
Students will learn how to use the International Monetary Fund’s macroeconomic programming and policy framework both to diagnose and to correct macroeconomic imbalances. The course will cover the four main macroeconomic sectors (real, fiscal, external, and monetary/financial) and the interrelations among them, highlighting both accounting and behavioral relationships using a detailed country case study. We will study the main macroeconomic policy tools available to country authorities and the quantitative effect of policies on the macroeconomic sectors. We will also discuss structural policies and their interaction with macroeconomic policies. Students will use real world examples to study the issues most relevant to emerging markets and developing economies and examine critical perspectives of the framework. The course is geared to both those who may be involved in the future in policy making, policy implementation, or in advising/assisting policy makers, and to those who may become involved in policy analysis for international organizations, research bodies, the press, etc.
Requisite: ECON 330/331. Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Georgiou.
2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017
Information frictions are important for a wide variety of questions in macroeconomics and public finance. This course will develop tools from information economics and apply them, primarily to macroeconomic problems. We will study situations in which adverse selection, moral hazard, limited commitment, and strategic behavior create impediments to trade and prevent private markets from achieving efficient results. Applications can include credit constraints, default and collateral, bank runs, labor market contracts, unemployment, time inconsistency, and social insurance.
The approach of the course is rigorous and analytical, focusing both on providing students with very general modeling skills and on applying these skills to specific economic questions. Requirements will include solving analytical problem sets, as well as reading and discussing theoretical research papers. The course is especially suitable for students interested in mathematical modeling in economics and students considering doing research in economics.
Requisite: ECON 300/301, ECON 330/331, and MATH 211 (or MATH 121 with consent of instructor). This course will routinely use multivariable calculus. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2017-18.2017-18: Not offered
The macro-labor field focuses on understanding the causes and consequences of variation in employment and income across individuals and over time. Understanding labor market behavior is crucial for some of the most pressing policy questions facing the aggregate economy, including redistribution, social insurance, the minimum wage, and stabilization policy. This course will cover topics of recent interest in macro-labor. Our goal throughout will be to use economic theory to interpret both long-term trends and recent events in the economy, and to draw conclusions for policy. Specific topics may include the unemployment experience of the Great Recession, causes and consequences of rising wage inequality, worker reallocation, and the effects of technological change on the labor market. Readings will consist of academic articles, survey publications, popular press articles, and lecture notes provided by the instructor. Students will be asked to write a paper analyzing a labor market-related policy question of their choice.
Requisite: ECON 300/301. Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2017-18.2017-18: Not offered
Mechanism design uses game theory to design systems, institutions, and mechanisms to achieve desired outcomes. We will study the theory of mechanism design and how it is used to design auctions, tax schemes, and matching mechanisms. The course will approach these issues from a theoretical perspective and also examine real-world applications. Examples will include how Google sells advertising space, how medical students are matched to residencies, and how governments sell bonds. Students will read and discuss current research on these topics and also complete an independent research project related to the course material.Requisite: ECON 301 or 420, MATH 211. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Baisa.2017-18: Not offered
We will begin by examining contemporary growth and development models and then apply them to the sweep of global economic history over the past 300 years. The course is a seminar, so students will be assessed on their close reading and their responses to articles and books assigned in the course. Students will engage directly with economic history issues and will produce an original piece of research by the end of the course.
Requisite: ECON 300 or 301 and 330 or 331. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Barbezat.2017-18: Not offered
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.2017-18: Not offered
Independent Reading Course. Full course.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall and spring semesters.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017 and Spring 2018
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 Reyes.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017
Independent work under the guidance of an advisor assigned by the Department.
Requisite: ECON 498. Spring semester.2017-18: Not offered