(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.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
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: Section 1 limited to 18 Amherst College students per discussion section; Section 2 limited to 25 Amherst College Students. The Department.
Please note: In the Spring semester, section 1 requires students to choose from discussion sections 01, 02, or 03. Section 02 requires discussion section 04.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
(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. Spring semester. Professor Sims.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
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. Omitted 2019-20.2019-20: Not offered
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. Fall and spring semesters. Professor Debnam.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
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 2019-20.2019-20: 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. Fall semester. Professor Reyes.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
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. Spring semester. Omitted 2019-20.2019-20: Not offered
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.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
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.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
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 or equivalent. Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Theoharides.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
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.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
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 30 students. Not available to students who have taken ECON 435. Spring semester. Professor Honig.2019-20: Offered in Spring 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 30 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor White.2019-20: Not offered
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 and spring semesters. Professor Gebresilasse.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
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 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Woglom.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
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.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
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 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Barbezat.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
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: Professors Baisa and Hyman (team teaching). Spring semester: Professor Baisa (one section), Professor Hyman (one section). Limited to 40 students per section.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
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.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
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 and spring semesters. Professor White.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
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.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
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: Professor Sims. Spring semester: Professor Theoharides.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
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. Fall semester. Professor Ishii.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
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 360/361. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Debnam.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
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 2019-20.2019-20: 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.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
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.2019-20: Offered in Spring 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.
Requisite: ECON 300 or 301 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Kingston.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
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.Fall and spring semesters. Professor Theoharides.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
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 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Honig.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
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 2019-20.2019-20: 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. Fall semester. Professor Blackwood.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
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 2019-20.2019-20: 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.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
Independent reading course. Half course.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall and spring semesters.The Department.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
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.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
Independent work under the guidance of an advisor assigned by the Department.
Requisite: ECON 498. Spring semester. The Department.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020