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: Section 01-02 limited to 20 Amherst College students per discussion section; Section 03 limited to 25 Amherst College students per discussion section; Section 04-05 limited to 20 Amherst College students per discussion section. To increase engagement, students in 111 will be assigned to cohorts in which they will work for problem sets and small-group discussions. The Department.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2021
(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. Two 80-minute and one 50-minute lecture/discussions per week.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 Amherst College students. Professor Sims. Omitted 2020-21.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2021
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 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Debnam Guzman.2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
This course uses economic models and tools to analyze environmental and natural resource problems such as climate change, air and water pollution, depletion of renewable and non-renewable resources, and land-use change. The frameworks studied include market failure due to externalities or public goods situations, the cost-effective allocation of pollution control, cost-benefit analysis, firm decision-making in response to regulations, and the management of renewable and non-renewable resources. We will also seek to understand and generate environmental policy solutions from an economic standpoint.
Requisite: ECON 111 or 111E. Limited to 30 students. Professor Sims. Omitted 2020-21.2020-21: 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 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Reyes.2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
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 assignments that ask students to engage technical problems and conduct economic analyses, students will be asked to write analytical papers and participate actively in the discussion of current economic research and public policy.
For Fall 2020, the class will be offered in a hybrid format with synchronous in-person class meetings as well as complementary online elements. Any in-person class meetings will be made accessible to students learning remotely, and students may enroll in the class whether they are learning remotely or are learning on campus.
Requisite: ECON 111/111E. Recommended: any one of Microeconomics (ECON 300/301), Econometrics (ECON 360/361), or Statistics (MATH 130). Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Reyes.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
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. Spring semester. Professor Hyman.2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
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.
January-term courses will be offered remotely.
Requisite: ECON 111 or equivalent. Limited to 30 students. January term. Professor Kingston.2020-21: Offered in January 2021
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.2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
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.
For Fall 2020, the class will consist of a combination of asynchronous lectures and synchronous class meetings with additional material and discussion.
Requisite: ECON 111/111E. Limited to 50 students. Not available to students who have taken ECON 435. Fall semester. Professor Honig.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
Students will delve into the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) macroeconomic programming and policy framework, which is used in the regular policy dialogue of the IMF with developing countries and in the construction of IMF-supported economic adjustment programs. Students will learn how this framework is used to (i) assess macroeconomic developments and (ii) achieve macroeconomic targets over the short-term as well as the medium term so as to correct or avoid macroeconomic imbalances. The course aims to teach students how to use the framework themselves, so that they can simulate and assess the work of IMF economist teams and country authorities. The course will cover in detail the four main macroeconomic sectors and the interrelations among them and will develop the flow of funds account, highlighting both accounting and behavioral relationships. 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. The course will build, as appropriate, on concepts covered in the introductory course on economics. Students will use real world examples to study the issues most relevant to developing economies and will also examine critical perspectives of the framework and the IMF’s approach in general. The course aims to expose students to practical and tractable policy-relevant economic modeling by exploring a model that is widely used around the world. This course may be particularly useful both to 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.
For Fall 2020, the class will consist of a combination of asynchronous lectures and synchronous class meetings with additional material and discussion.
Prerequisite: ECON 111. Limited to 30 students. Fall Semester. Visiting Lecturer Andreas V. Georgiou.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
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 25 students. Fall and spring semesters. Professor White.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
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 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Gebresilasse.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2021
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, Professor Hyman: Limited to 25 students. Fall semester, Professor Baisa: Limited to 30 students. Spring semester, Professor Baisa: Limited to 50 students.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2021
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. Limited to 20 students. Professor Baisa.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
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.
For Fall 2020, Tuesday and Thursday lectures will be on-line, and Friday discussions will be sections of 20-25 students in person.
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 and spring semesters. Professor White.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2021
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.2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
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.
For the fall semester, this course will be taught online only. (Some in-person small group work may take place if possible.)
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 Theoharides. Spring semester: Professor Theoharides and Professor Gebresilasse.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2021
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.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
Behavioral economics is a young field which attempts to improve upon existing economic models and their attendant welfare implications by expanding the economists' toolkit to include insights from psychologists, sociologists, and other social scientists. This course offers an advanced overview of behavioral economics with special attention to the role of social preferences. At the core of the course is a focus on the theory and research methods underlying cornerstone findings in behavioral economics (e.g. loss aversion, the endowment effect, time inconsistency). Students will read and discuss current topics in behavioral economics research and complete an independent research project.
Requisite: ECON 300/301. Limited to 15 students. Professor Debnam Guzman.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2021
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. Spring semester. Professor Reyes. Omitted 2020-21.2020-21: 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 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Ishii.2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
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.
January-term courses will be offered remotely.
Requisite: ECON 300/301 (Microeconomics) and ECON 360/361 (Econometrics) or Consent of Instructor. Limited to 15 students. January term. Spring semester. Professor Reyes.2020-21: Offered in January 2021, Spring 2021
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. Fall semester. Professor Hyman.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
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.
For Fall 2020, the class will consist of asynchronous remote video lectures.
Requisite: ECON 300 or 301 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 40 students. Fall semester. Professor Kingston.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
In this course, we will explore the determinants of educational acquisition in developing countries. We will begin by discussing human capital theory. We will then explore a number of key determinants of educational outcomes in developing countries, such as educational infrastructure, teacher quality, conditional cash transfers, anti-child labor programs, and peer effects. The course will also include a module comparing the key questions in the economics of education facing developed versus developing countries. The purposes of this course are to deepen understanding of the determinants of educational investments and to build experience with using empirical research to expand knowledge in this area. To that end, much of the course will focus on careful reading of empirical journal articles, discussion of the various econometric techniques used, and causal identification. The course is built around student development of an original paper that expands our empirical understanding of the determinants of educational investments in a low-income economy context.
Requisites: ECON 300/301 and ECON 360/361. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Theoharides.2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
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 consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Honig.2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
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.
January-term courses will be offered remotely.
Requisite: ECON 360/361. Limited to 15 students. January term. Professor Blackwood.2020-21: Offered in January 2021
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 15 students. Professor Baisa. Omitted 2020-21.2020-21: Not offered
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. Professor Barbezat. Omitted 2020-21.2020-21: Not offered
Many challenges arise from the interaction between human desires and what is available. Economics is the study of these challenges. In this course, we will examine the many ways in which human beings have articulated this interaction and the responses that they have provided. We will examine the intellectual history of how humans have conceived and managed scarcity on personal (microeconomic) and societal (macroeconomic) levels over time all over the globe.
Requisite: ECON 300 or 301 and 330 or 331. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Barbezat.2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
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. Professor Kingston. Omitted 2020-21.2020-21: Not offered
Independent reading course. Full course.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall and spring semesters. The Department.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2021
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.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
Independent work under the guidance of an advisor assigned by the Department.
Requisite: ECON 498. Spring semester. The Department.2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021