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Courses

The following information is from the 2017-18 Vassar College Catalogue.

Economics: I. Introductory

102a and b. Introduction to Economics 1

Economic forces shape our society and profoundly influence our daily lives. This course introduces students to economic concepts and to how economists think about the world. We explore both basic microeconomics - decision making by individuals and firms - and basic macroeconomics - issues related to coordinating individual activities across an entire economy. Topics will include demand and supply, market structures, GDP, the business cycle, and monetary and fiscal policies. The department.

109 Analytical Methods for Economics 1

A bridge from basic high-school mathematics to the analytical methods essential for intermediate-level work in economics with a focus on the application of those methods. Evsen Turkay-Pillai

 

Prerequisites: ECON 102 and permission of the instructor.

Not open to students who have taken AP or BC calculus or MATH 121.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

120a. Principles of Accounting 1

Accounting theory and practice, including preparation and interpretation of financial statements. Frederick Van Tassell.

Not open to Freshmen.

Economics: II. Intermediate

200a and b. Macroeconomic Theory 1

A structured analysis of the behavior of the national and international economies. Alternative theories explaining the determination of the levels of GDP, unemployment, the interest rate, the rate of inflation, economic growth, exchange rates, and trade and budget deficits are considered. These theories provide the basis for discussion of current economic policy controversies. The department.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 102 and permission of the instructor.

NRO for Seniors Only.

Two 75-minute periods.

201 Microeconomic Theory 1

Economics is about choice, and microeconomic theory begins with how consumers and producers make choices. Economic agents interact in markets, so we carefully examine the role markets play in allocating resources. Theories of perfect and imperfect competition are studied, emphasizing the relationship between market structure and market performance. General equilibrium analysis is introduced, and efficiency and optimality of the economic system are examined. Causes and consequences of market failure are also considered. The department.

Prerequisites: ECON 102, MATH 121, and permission of the instructor. With the instructor's permission, students who have taken ECON 109 may take ECON 201 with concurrent enrollment in MATH 121.

NRO for Seniors Only.

Two 75-minute periods.

209 Probability and Statistics 1

Probability and Statistics introduces basic probability theory, statistical analysis and its application in economics. The objective is to provide a solid, practical, and intuitive understanding of statistical analysis with emphasis on estimation, hypothesis testing, and linear regression. Additional topics include descriptive statistics, probability theory, random variables, sampling theory, statistical distributions, and an introduction to violations of the classical assumptions underlying the least-squares model. Students are introduced to the use of computers in statistical analysis. The department.

Prerequisites: ECON 102, MATH 121, and MATH 126. With the instructor's permission, students who have taken ECON 109 and MATH 121 may take ECON 209 with concurrent enrollment in MATH 126.

NRO for Seniors Only.

Two 75-minute periods.

210a and b. Econometrics 1

Econometrics equips students with the skills required for empirical economic research in industry, government, and academia. Topics covered include simple and multiple regression, maximum likelihood estimation, multicollinearity, heteroskedasticity, autocorrelation, distributed lags, simultaneous equations, instrumental variables, and time series analysis. The department.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 209 or an equivalent statistics course.

215a. The Science of Strategy 1

Strategic behavior occurs in war, in business, in our personal lives, and even in nature. Game theory is the study of strategy, offering rigorous methods to analyze and predict behavior in strategic situations. This course introduces students to game theory and its application in a wide range of situations. Students learn how to model conflict and cooperation as games, and develop skills in the fine art of solving them. Applications are stressed, and these are drawn from many branches of economics, as well as from a variety of other fields. Geoffrey Jehle.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 102.

Spring

220a. The Political Economy of Health Care 1

(Same as STS 220) Topics include the markets for physicians and nurses, hospital services, pharmaceuticals, and health insurance, both public and private; effects of changes in medical technology; and global health problems. A comparative study of several other countries' health care systems and reforms to the U.S. system focuses on problems of financing and providing access to health care in a climate of increasing demand and rising costs. Shirley Johnson-Lans.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 102. Students with a strong quantitative background may enroll with the instructor's permission.

225 Financial Markets and Investments 1

Financial Markets and Investments provides an overview of the structure and operation of financial markets, and the instruments traded in those markets. Particular emphasis is placed on portfolio choice, including asset allocation across risky investments and efficient diversification. Theoretical foundations of asset-pricing theories are developed, and empirical tests of these theories are reviewed. The course introduces valuation models for fixed-income securities, equities, and derivative instruments such as futures and options. Throughout the course, students apply investment theories by managing a simulated asset portfolio. Additional topics include financial statement analysis and performance evaluation measures. Tanseli Savaser.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 102,  ECON 209 or MATH 241.

Two 75-minute periods.

238b. Law and Economics 1

Law and Economics uses economics to analyze legal rules and institutions. The primary focus is on the classic areas of common law: property, contracts, and torts. Some time is also spent on criminal law and/or constitutional law (e.g., voting, public choice, and administration). Much attention is paid to developing formal models to analyze conflict and bargaining, and applying those models to specific cases. Topics include the allocation of rights, legal remedies, bargaining and transaction costs, regulation versus liability, uncertainty, and the litigation process. Time permitting, the course may also include discussion of gun control, the death penalty, federalism, and competition among jurisdictions. Evsen Turkay-Pillai.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 102, and one semester of college-level calculus.

Not offered in 2017/18.

240 U.S. Economic Issues 1

The U.S. economy has dominated the world economy for the last 60 years. With only five percent of the world's population, it consumes roughly 25 percent of the world's resources and produces approximately 25 percent of the world's output. However, U.S. policy makers face substantial challenges in the years to come. The course surveys the causes and possible solutions for numerous issues including increasing international competition for jobs and resources, an aging population, persistent trade and government budget deficits, and rapid growth in entitlement programs. Other topics will be studied based on student interests and as time permits. This course utilizes readings, writing assignments and classroom discussion rather than quantitative problem sets. Robert Rebelein.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 102.

Not open to students who have completed ECON 342.

248b. International Trade and the World Financial System 1

A policy-oriented introduction to basic models of trade adjustment, exchange rate determination and macroeconomics adjustment. These are applied to the principle issues and problems of the international economy. Topics include the changing pattern of trade, fixed and floating exchange rates, protectionism, foreign investment, the Euro-dollar market, the role of the WTO, the IMF and World Bank, the European Community and third-world debt. The department.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 102.

Not open to students who have completed ECON 345 or ECON 346.

261a. Political Economy 1

Political Economy focuses on political strategy, public policy and the private sector and addresses the political, legal and social constraints on economic decision making. While economics typically focuses on strategic interactions in market contexts, e.g., customers, competitors, suppliers, workers---many strategic interactions occur outside of the marketplace. This course uses real world cases to examine strategies in non-market environments. Topics may include: activism, NGOs, the media, lobbying, the US political system, environmental and other regulation, anti-trust, intellectual property, international political economy, IGOs, trade policy, ethics, and corporate social responsibility. Benjamin Ho.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 102.

Not offered in 2017/18.

267b. Environmental and Natural Resource Economics 1

(Same as STS 267) This course examines environmental and natural resource issues from an economic perspective. Environmental problems and controversies are introduced and detailed, and then various possible policies and solutions to the problems are analyzed. Economic analyses will determine the effectiveness of potential policies and also determine the people and entities which benefit from (and are hurt by) these policies. The goal is for students to develop a framework for understanding environmental problems and then to learn how to analyze policy actions within that framework. Topics include water pollution, air pollution, species protection, externalities, the energy situation, and natural resource extraction. Paul Ruud.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 102 and permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

273b. Development Economics 1

(Same as INTL 273) A survey of central issues in the field of development economics. Topics include economic growth, the role of institutions, trade, poverty, inequality, education, child labor, health, the environment, conflict and impact evaluation.  Examples and case studies from Africa, Asia and Latin America provide the context for these topics. Gisella Kagy.
 

Prerequisite: ECON 102.

Two 75-minute periods.

275b. Money and Banking 1

Money and Banking covers the structure of financial institutions, their role in the provision of money and credit, and the overall importance of these institutions in the economy. The course includes discussion of money, interest rates, financial market structure, bank operations and regulation, and the structure of the banking sector. The course also covers central banks, monetary policy, and international exchange as it relates to monetary policy and the banking sector. The ultimate goal is to provide a deeper understanding of the structure of financial markets, the reasons why it is optimal for these markets to be well functioning, and the key barriers to this optimal outcome. Esteban Argudo.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 102.

277a. The Development of the American Economy 1

A survey of economic development in the Americas emphasizing the United States from colonial times through the 20th century. The emphasis is on the use of economic theory and quantitative evidence to explore key questions and themes related to the development of the American economy. Dustin Frye.
 

Prerequisite(s): ECON 102.

Two 75-minute periods.

290a or b. Field Work 0.5

Individual or group field projects or internships. The department.

Prerequisite(s): a course in the department. Permission required. Corequisite: a course in the department. Permission required.

May be elected during the academic year or during the summer.

Unscheduled.

298a or b. Independent Work 0.5 to 1

Economics: III. Advanced

300a. Senior Reseach 0.5

Structured independent work with a faculty advisor designed to result in a paper that can be used as a detailed proposal for the senior thesis.  The paper is typically a literature review and a full description of a theoretical model and/or econometric project (including data) or experimental work required to complete the thesis. Students should seek permission to undertake this course of study from the faculty advisor no later than the beginning of the Fall semester of their Senior year but ideally they will do so during the Spring semester of their Junior year or the summer preceding their Senior year. Required of all students who wish to write a thesis in economics but open to senior economics majors who wish to gain research experience. Students may continue with ECON 301 upon completion of ECON 300 with the approval of the advisor and the department. The department.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 210.

Open to senior majors by special permission of the advisor.

Two 75-minute periods.

301b. Senior Thesis 1

The sequel to ECON 300  leading to the completion of the senior thesis. Students will submit the finished thesis by noon on the fourth Friday after spring vacation and give a half-hour oral presentation of their thesis to the department at the end of the semester. The department.
 

Open to senior majors who have successfully completed ECON 300 and received departmental approval to complete the thesis.

303a. Advanced Topics in Microeconomics 1

This course introduces students to modern theoretical methods in microeconomics and their application to advanced topics not typically addressed in ECON 201. Topics vary from year to year, but typically include: modern approaches to consumer theory, welfare analysis, general equilibrium, and the theory of auctions. Geoffrey Jehle.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 201 and MATH 220  or equivalent, or permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods and one 75 minute lab.

304 Advanced Topics in Macroeconomics 1

This course examines recent theoretical and applied work in macroeconomics, with a special focus on the analytical foundations of modern growth theory. The requisite dynamic optimization methods are developed during the course (this involves the regular use of partial differentiation techniques). Topics include the relationship of education, demographics, institutions and industrial organization with economic growth.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 200, ECON 201, and  MATH 220 or equivalent, or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2017/18.

One 3-hour period.

310 Advanced Topics in Econometrics 1

Analysis of the classical linear regression model and the consequences of violating its basic assumptions. Topics include maximum likelihood estimation, asymptotic properties of estimators, simultaneous equations, instrumental variables, limited dependent variables and an introduction to time series models. Applications to economic problems are emphasized throughout the course. Paul Ruud.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 210 and MATH 220 and MATH 221  or equivalent, or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2017/18.

318b. Urban and Regional Economics 1

(Same as URBS 318) An exploration of the nature and development of urban areas that begins with an examination of the theory of why cities grow and how individuals and firms choose their locations before covering patterns of land use, suburbanization, transportation, education, crime, and housing and their influence the growth of cities. Dustin Frye.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 201 and ECON 209.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

320a. Economics of Inequality and Discrimination 1

An investigation of the extent, causes, and consequences of inequality and discrimination in labor markets. Leading economic theories of inequality and discrimination are covered and related to theories of labor supply and labor demand. Topics include the determinants of wages, labor supply decisions, returns to education, and decisions about family size. An applied approach using econometric techniques to understand the current literature is emphasized. Gisella Kagy.

 

Prerequisite(s): ECON 201 and ECON 210.

Two 75-minute periods.

333b. Behavioral Economics 1

A survey of the empirical and experimental evidence that human behavior often deviates from the predictions made by models that assume full rationality. This course combines economics, psychology, and experimental methods to explore impulsivity, impatience, overconfidence, reciprocity, fairness, the enforcement of social norms, the effects of status, addiction, the myopia that people exhibit when having to plan for the future, and other behaviors which deviate from economic rationality. Benjamin Ho.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 201 and ECON 209.

342a. Public Finance 1

Public Finance considers the effects that government expenditure, taxation, and regulation have on people and the economy. Attention is given to how government policy can correct failures of the free market system. Topics include the effect taxes have on consumption and employment decisions, the U.S. income tax system, income redistribution, budget deficits, environmental policy, health care, voting, and social security. Robert Rebelein.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 201.

Two 75-minute periods.

345b. International Trade Theory and Policy 1

This course examines classical, neoclassical and modern theories of international trade, as well as related empirical evidence. Topics included are: the relationship between economic growth and international trade; the impact of trade on the distribution of income; the theory of tariffs and commercial policy; economic integration, trade and trade policy under imperfect competition. Geoffrey Jehle.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 201.

Not offered in 2017/18.

346b. International Macroeconomics 1

The course is devoted to the problems of balance of payments and adjustment mechanisms. Topics include: the balance of payments and the foreign ex-change market; causes of disturbances and processes of adjustment in the balance of payments and the foreign exchange market under fixed and flexible exchange rate regimes; issues in maintaining internal and external balance; optimum currency areas; the history of the international monetary system and recent attempts at reform; capital movements and the international capital market. The department.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 200 and college-level calculus, or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2016/17.

355a. Industrial Organization 1

This course examines the behavior of firms under conditions of imperfect competition. The role of market power is studied, including the strategies it permits, e.g., monopoly pricing, price discrimination, quality choice, and product proliferation. Strategic behavior among firms is central to many of the topics of the course. As such, game theory is introduced to study strategic behavior, and is applied to topics such as oligopoly pricing, entry and deterrence, product differentiation, advertising, and innovation. Time permitting, the course may also include durable goods pricing, network effects, antitrust economics, and vertical integration. Evsen Turkay-Pillai.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 201 and ECON 209.

367 Comparative Economics 1

A study of different economic systems and institutions, beginning with a comparison of industrialized market economies in the U.S., Asia, and Europe. Pre-perestroika USSR is studied as an example of a centrally planned economy and the transition to a market economy is examined, with additional focus on the Czech Republic and Poland. Alternatives to both market and planned systems - such as worker self-management, market socialism, and social democracy - are also explored with emphasis on the experience of Yugoslavia and Sweden. David Kennett.

Prerequisite(s): at least two units of Economics at or above the 200-level.

Not offered in 2017/18.

382 Economics of Disasters 1

A survey of the frequency, cost, and forms of compensation associated with disasters. A disaster occurs when natural phenomena cause damage, injury or loss of life and assets, environmental degradation, disruption in the livelihoods of individuals and communities, and interruptions in economic and social activity. While disasters are a global occurrence, the primary focus of this course is the experience with disasters in the United States. Risk management and policy discussions related to compensation and mitigation draw upon international best practice. Specific types of catastrophic events examined in the course include hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, drought, wildfires, and geological and man-made disasters.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 201 and ECON 209.

Two 75-minute periods.

383a. History of Economic Thought 1

A survey of the world-wide history of economic thought, from the ancient world to the present. Major contributions to the theories of value, production, and distribution are considered. Influential schools of thought and the technological, ideological and social forces that shaped them are examined concluding with an analysis of the development of modern economic thinking. Philosophical and methodological issues are discussed throughout. Paul Ruud.

 

 

 

Prerequisite(s): ECON 200, ECON 201 and permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

386 The Economics of Immigration 1

This course examines the theoretical and empirical models that economists have developed to study the economic impact of immigration. The course describes the history of immigration policy in the United States and analyzes the various economic issues that dominate the current debate over immigration policy. These issues include the changing contribution of immigrants to the country's skill endowment; the rate of economic assimilation experienced by immigrants; the impact of immigrants on the employment opportunities of other workers in the US; the impact of immigrant networks on immigrants and the source and magnitude of the economic benefits generated by immigration. The course also studies the social and civic dimensions of immigration - how it relates to education, marriage, segregation etc. We compare various cohorts of immigrants who entered the US at different time periods. We also compare generations residing in the US, more specifically immigrants and their children. Sukanya Basu.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 201 and ECON 209.

388 Latin American Economic Development 1

(Same as LALS 388) This course examines why many Latin American countries started with levels of development similar to those of the U.S. and Canada but were not able to keep up. The course begins with discussions of various ways of thinking about and measuring economic development and examines the record of Latin American countries on various measures, including volatile growth rates, high income and wealth inequality, and high crime rates. We then turn to an analysis of the colonial and post-Independence period to examine the roots of the weak institutional development than could explain a low growth trajectory. Next, we examine the post WWII period, exploring the import substitution of 1970s, the debt crises of the 1980s, and the structural adjustment of the 1990s. Finally, we look at events in the past decade, comparing and contrasting the experience of different countries with respect to growth, poverty and inequality. Sarah Pearlman.

Prerequisite(s):   ECON 102.

389b. Applied Financial Modeling 1

Applications of economic theory and econometrics to the analysis of financial data. Topics include the efficient markets hypothesis, capital asset pricing model, consumption based models, term structure of interest rates, arbitrage pricing theory, exchange rates, volatility, generalized method of moments, time-series econometrics. Paul Johnson.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 201, ECON 210 and ECON 225, MATH 126 and MATH 127 or equivalent; or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2017/18.

399a or b. Senior Independent Work 0.5 to 1