Description of Course Goals and CurriculumThis course is an exploration of how economic theory can be applied to public issues. This course mainly involves applying welfare economics and basic microeconomic theory to a variety of US-centric social issues, such as : healthcare, crime, financial regulation, pollution, and education. These applications of economic theory are supplemented with relevant readings which provide context to the social issues, and the economics of historical solutions. The course begins with a brief overview of welfare economics, then goes through each social issue individually.
Learning From Classroom InstructionThe course is not math-intensive, and is instead mostly conceptual. In order to demonstrate a mastery of the concepts, students require a method to explain what they know. When taking the course, it is crucial to take the economic theory being learned, and then demonstrating it graphically. Thus when taking notes, it is important to not only record equations and qualitative information such as names of relevant government programs for healthcare and their costs, but also including a graph showing how an event affects social welfare.
Learning For and From AssignmentsEach problem set has a relevant set of readings attached to it. In order to prepare for the problem set, the readings are crucial to the majority of the problem set. Furthermore, most problem sets have a section that involve a direct application of economic theory for a given scenario. Generally, the relevant method for these problems can be found in lecture notes for the weeks surrounding the problem set. An important take-away from each problem set are the methods used to solve the number/graph based questions. If a student has a trouble with these questions, the precept following the problem set goes over these sections in details. It is crucial to understand these types of questions as over a third of the examinations involve very similar questions. While the exam questions won't be exactly like these problem set questions, they will be similar enough that an understanding of the problem set questions, and a capacity to do them serves as more than enough preparation for a large portion of the examinations. Another important take-away are the readings. Generally, the readings will fall into one of two categories. Critical readings, and relevant, but not as important, readings. A decent chunk of exam questions involve critical readings, but the questions associated with these readings have generally been discussed at length in class and in precept. They are general in nature, and involve explaining the argument of the reading, or something not dissimilar to a summary. As for the other type of readings, they appear mostly in the multiple choice sections of exams. The difficulty of these questions come from being able to identify the author and the main point of the article, as the authors for these readings are a little more obscure. In order to prepare for assessments, going through the practice examination and previous problem sets is extremely useful. Furthermore, memorizing important facts and government programs is critical as these cannot be deduced or derived intuitively at the time of examination. Moreover, a solid understanding of all of the readings is required to succeed in the course.
External ResourcesFor the paper section of the course, a useful external resource is the folder of successful papers from previous semesters. The paper section is rather short, and mostly depends on a student's capacity to develop an economic argument that uses the methods learned in class.
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course SelectionThe course requires ECO 100 and ECO 101. Knowledge of basic calculus can be useful as it allows for shortcuts to certain types of problems. An example shortcut would be using calculus to determine the slope of a demand curve without having to rely on using a graph and ruler to derive the slope.