(Offered as ECON 108 and STAT 108) This course will provide a rigorous presentation of fundamental statistical principles and ethics. We will discuss standards for relationships between statisticians and policy makers, 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 which 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 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. Fall semester.2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
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 and 2 limited to 18 Amherst College students per discussion section; Section 3 limited to 30 Amherst College students. Spring semester: Limited to 30 Amherst College students. The Department.2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018 and Spring 2019
(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 30 Amherst College students. Fall semester. Professor Sims.2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018 and Spring 2019
This course studies the labor market: forces that change how much people want to work, how easily they find a job, and the determinants of wages. We consider historic trends in the labor market, current conditions, and the role of public policy. We will focus particularly on sources of earnings inequality and changes in earnings and employment over booms and recessions and over workers’ lives.
Requisite: ECON 111 or ECON 111E. Limited to 35 students. Professor Dillon. Fall semester.2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
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 35 students. Professor Debnam. Fall semester.2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
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 2018-19.2018-19: 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. Fall semester. Professor Reyes.2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
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. Omitted 2018-19.2018-19: 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. Professor Ishii. Omitted 2018-19.2018-19: 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.2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
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 2018-19.2018-19: Not offered
In this course, we study the role that financial markets play in allocating savings and investment. The study includes the fundamental pricing of stocks and bonds, the efficient markets hypothesis and the effect of asset prices on firms’ investment decisions. We then turn to derivative securities and how these securities are priced differently, based upon the absence of arbitrage. Finally, we show how the insights from derivative pricing can be incorporated into firms’ investment decisions.
Requisite: ECON 111/111E. Limited to 50 students. Fall semester. Professor Woglom.2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
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. Omitted 2018-19.2018-19: Not offered
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. Spring semester. Professor Barbezat. Omitted 2018-19.2018-19: 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 2018-19. Professor Barbezat.2018-19: 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 J. Reyes.2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018 and Spring 2019
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.2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
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 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Dillon.2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
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. Spring semester. Professor Honig. Omitted 2018-19.2018-19: 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 and spring semesters. Professor Caroline Theoharides.2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018 and Spring 2019
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. Fall semester. Professor Ishii.2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
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 2018-19.2018-19: 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 consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2018-19.2018-19: 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 2018-19. Professor Reyes.2018-19: 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. Fall semester. Professor Ishii.2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
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.2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
One of the rare ideas that most economists agree on is that free trade is good. Why, then, are inefficient policies restricting trade so prevalent? This course will examine the incentives and outcomes of using policy to restrict or promote trade. In doing so, we will look at the link between international trade and growth, development, and labor and environmental standards. We will also consider the incentives to deviate from internationally accepted norms of trade policy through a close study of the dispute resolution mechanism of the World Trade Organization.
Requisite: ECON 300. Limited to 18 students. Professor Knudsen. Fall semester.2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
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 35 students. Fall semester. Professor Honig.2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
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. Professor Georgiou. Omitted 2018-19.2018-19: Not offered
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 the instructor). This course will routinely use multivariable calculus. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2018-19.2018-19: Not offered
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. Professor Blackwood. Fall semester.2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
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 2018-19.2018-19: 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. Professor Baisa. Omitted 2018-19.2018-19: 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. Professor Barbezat. Omitted 2018-19.2018-19: 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. Professor Kingston. Omitted 2018-19.2018-19: Not offered
Independent reading course. Full course.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall and spring semesters. The Department.2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018 and Spring 2019
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.2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
Independent work under the guidance of an advisor assigned by the Department.
Requisite: ECON 498. Spring semester. The Department.2018-19: Offered in Spring 2019