Economics Department

Professors: Geoffrey A. Jehle (Chair), Paul A. Johnson a, David A. Kennett ab, Alexander M. Thompson III (Dean of Studies); Associate Professors: Lawrence A. Herbst ab, Shirley B. Johnson-Lans b, Christopher P. Kilby, William E. Luntb; Assistant Professors: Sean M. Flynn, Alan C. Marco a, Robert P. Rebelein, Jonathan C. Rork;Adjunct Assistant Professor: Elias Khalil; Adjunct Lecturer: Frederick Van Tassell III.

Requirements for Concentration: at least 11.5 units of graded economics credit normally composed of Economics 100, 101, 200, 201, 209, and 6.5 other graded units (excluding Economics 120) at least three of which must be at the 300-level and must include either Economics 301 or 305a/306b. Credit for Economics 305 cannot be used to satisfy the requirements for the concentration unless Economics 306 is also taken. At least 6 units must be taken at Vassar including 2 at the 300-level. Students must also complete at least 1 unit of college level calculus such as Mathematics 101, 121, or equivalent. Students are strongly encouraged to complete this requirement early in their college careers. With the exception of Economics 120, majors may not elect the Non-Recorded option. All exceptions to the normal program require special permission from the department chair.

Requirements for Departmental Honors: To be eligible for departmental honors, students must take the Senior Seminar in Economics, and must perform work of a high standard in the seminar and in their other courses. 

It is strongly recommended that all students intending to spend junior year abroad take Economics 200, 201, and 209 by the end of their sophomore year. 

Economics and Your Career–A Guide to Designing Programs of Study in Economics at Vassar recommends sequences of study for students planning to work right after graduation, and for those planning to attend graduate or professional schools. It is available in the department office.

Senior-Year Requirement: Economics 301 or Economics 305a/306b.

Advisers: The department.

Correlate Sequence: The economics department offers a correlate sequence which designates coherent groups of courses intended to complement the curricula of students majoring in other departmental, interdepartmental, and multidisciplinary programs. Four options are currently available within the correlate sequence in economics:

International Economics, coordinated by Mr. Rebelein.

Political Economy, coordinated by TBA.

Public Policy, coordinated by Mr. Rork.

Quantitative Economics, coordinated by Mr. Lunt, a; Mr. Johnson, b.

Courses within each option should be chosen in consultation with the coordinator of that sequence. Students pursuing the correlate sequence in economics are required to complete a minimum of six units in economics, including at least one at the 300-level and Economics 100 and Economics 101. At least four units must be taken at Vassar. Additional requirements for each of the options are detailed in Correlate Sequences in Economics , available in the department office.


I. Introductory

 
100a and b. Introduction to Macroeconomics
(1)
An introduction to economic concepts, emphasizing the broad outlines of national and international economic problems. Students learn the causes and consequences of variations in gross national product, unemployment, interest rates, inflation, the budget deficit, and the trade deficit. The course also covers key government policy-making institutions, such as the Federal Reserve and the Congress, and the controversy surrounding the proper role of government in stabilizing the economy. The department.
 
101a and b. Introduction to Microeconomics
(1)
An introduction to economic concepts emphasizing the behavior of firms, households, and the government. Students learn how to recognize and analyze the different market structures of pure competition, oligopoly, and monopoly. The course also covers theories of how wages, interest, and profits are determined. Additional topics include the role of government in regulating markets, determinants of income distribution, and the environment. The department.
 
120a. Principles of Accounting
(1)
Accounting theory and practice, including preparation and interpretation of financial statements. Mr. Van Tassell.
       Open to all classes.
 
130a. Markets, Institutions, and the State
(1)
What role should the state play in the market-coordinated economy? Are formal and informal institutions crucial to the functioning of markets? Is the state simply a policeman or is it necessarily the “grand entrepreneur”? To answer these questions, we need to identify different issues: Does the market promote efficiency? Does it generate a fair distribution of income? Is it crisis-prone? Does it necessarily enhance economic growth and prosperity? If not, can the state correct the problems; or would the intervention of the state create even bigger problems? What light do the current experiences of economic restructuring in the Soviet block countries shed on these questions? To explore these fundamental issues we examine the original texts by Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Commons, Joseph Schumpeter, John Maynard Keynes, John Kenneth Galbraith, Milton Friedman, Friedrich vonHayek, and James Buchanan. Mr. Khalil.
       Open to freshmen only.
 

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, exchange rates, and trade and budget deficits are considered. These theories provide the basis for discussion of current economic policy controversies. The department.
       Prerequisites: Economics 100.
 
201a and b. 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: Economics 100 or 101.
 
204a. Gender Issues in Economics.
(1)
(Same as Women’s Studies 204) An analysis of gender differences in education, earnings, employment and the division of labor within the household. Topics include a study of occupational segregation, discrimination, the role of “protective legislation” in the history of labor law, and effects of changes in the labor market of the U.S. We also study the economics of marriage, divorce, and fertility. A comparison of gender roles in other parts of the world is the final topic in the course. Ms. Johnson-Lans.
       Prerequisite: Economics 101.
 
209a and b. Probability and Statistics
(1)
This course is an introduction to 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. No prior experience with computers is assumed. The department.
       Prerequisites: Economics 100, 101 or permission of instructor.
 
210a or b. Econometrics
(1)
This course 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. Extensive use is made of the computer, although no prior experience with computers is assumed. The department.
       Prerequisites: Economics 209 or an equivalent statistics course. Recommended: Economics 100, 101.
 
215b. 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 abstract games, and develop skills in the fine art of solving games. Applications are stressed, and these are drawn from many branches of economics, as well as from a variety of other fields. Mr. Jehle.
       Prerequisites: 100 or 101.
 
218a. Urban Economics
(1)
(Same as Urban Studies 218) The focus is on the city, in determining its costs and benefits as well as location and land use. We explore policy issues specific to local governments in urban areas, including: zoning, housing and segregation, poverty, homelessness, transportation, education and crime. Mr. Rork.
       Prerequisite: Economics 101
 
220a. The Political Economy of Health Care
(1)
Economic models are applied to the contemporary problems of financing and providing health care in a climate of increasing demand and rising costs. Topics include the role of health care insurance, both public and private; and the effects of changes in medical technology; the age distribution of the population; and market structure in the health care industry. A comparative study of several other countries’ health care systems are included. Ms. Johnson-Lans.
       Prerequisite: Economics 101 or permission of instructor.
 
225a and b. Financial Markets and Investments
(1)
This course 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. The department.
       Prerequisites: Economics 100 and 101. Students with strong quantitative backgrounds can enroll with instructor permission.
       Recommended: Economics 201 and Economics 209
 
238b. Law and Economics
(1)
This course 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. Mr. Marco.
       Prerequisite: 101
 
248a. International Trade and the World Financial System
(1)
A policy-oriented introduction to the theory of international trade and finance. The course introduces basic models of trade adjustment, exchange rate determination and macroeconomics adjustment, assuming a background of introductory economics. 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. Mr. Rebelein.
       Prerequisites: Economics 100 and 101. Not open to students who have completed Economics 345 or 346.
 
267b. Environmental and Natural Resource Economics
(1)
(Same as Science, Technology, and Society 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. The department.
       Prerequisite: Economics 101 or permission of instructor.
 
268a. Economic Development in Less Developed Countries
(1)
Analysis of the central issues in economic development including growth, structural transformation, inequality, and the standard of living. The course begins with a survey of current conditions (per-capita income, productivity, inequality, poverty, health, and education) in less developed countries. The history of development theory from the 1940s to the present and the evolution of development theory from “big push” to “export-led growth” are reviewed with examples from the three focus countries. This sets the stage for exploring current topics including household decision-making in agriculture, migration, fertility, and the role of the state, politics, and international aid. The department.
       Prerequisites: Economics 100 and 101.
 
288a. Economic Development in Less Developed Countries
(1)
(Same as International Studies 288) An examination of the plight of the less developed countries, the relationship between the developed and developing countries, and alternative paths of development. While the central theme is based on elementary economic theory, we emphasize the human dimensions of development through the use of films and novels from developing countries, as well as economic texts. The goal is to give a better sense of how three-fourths of the world's people live as well as their varied attempts to deal with such problems as poverty, inequalities, powerlessness and environmental degradation. Ms. Floro.
       Prerequisites: Economics 100 and 101.
       Two 75-minute periods.
 
289b. Political Economy of Globalization
(1)
(Same as International Studies 289) We examine the consequences of economic globalization from a variety of theoretical perspectives. Topics include: competing theories of globalization's effects; an assessment of the extent of globalization; the effects of economic integration on economic growth and the distribution of income; and the ways in which globalization might alter the balance of power between and among workers, communities, governments and corporations. The course also considers a number of "applied" topics including the North American Free Trade Agreement, the International Monetary Fund and debates over "sweatshop labor." Mr. Koechlin.
       Prerequisites: Economics 100 and 101.
       Two 75-minute periods.
 

III. Advanced Courses

 
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 Economics 201. Topics vary from year to year at the discretion of the instructor, but typically include: modern approaches to consumer and producer theory, economics of uncertainty, general equilibrium theory, and welfare analysis. Mr. Jehle.
       Prerequisites: Economics 201 and one year of calculus, or permission of instructor.
 
[304b. Advanced Topics in Macroeconomics]
(1)
This course examines some recent theoretical and applied work in macroeconomics. Topics vary from year to year but are likely to include consumption, investment, economic growth, and new-Keynesian models of fluctuations. The requisite dynamic optimization methods are developed during the course. Mr. Johnson.
       Prerequisites: Economics 200, 201, 209, and Mathematics 121 or equivalent, or permission of instructor. Economics 210 recommended.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
310a. 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. The department.
       Prerequisites: Economics 210 and one year of calculus. Mathematics 221 recommended.
 
320b. Labor Economics
(1)
An examination of labor market theories. Topics include demand and supply for labor, a critical analysis of human capital and signaling theory, the hedonic theory of wages, theories of labor market discrimination, unemployment, and union behavior. Institutional differences between labor contracts in the U.S., the U.K.,and E.U. countries and public policy with respect to such things as minimum wages, fringe benefits, unemployment insurance, and welfare reform are also addressed. The department.
       Prerequisite: Economics 101, 201 and 209.
 
342b. Public Finance
(1)
This course considers the effects that government expenditure, taxation, and regulation have on people and the economy. Attention is given to how government policy can correct the many 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, military spending, environmental policy, health care, education, voting, social security, and the U.S. “safety net.” Mr. Rork.
       Prerequisite: Economics 201; 209 recommended.
 
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. Mr. Jehle.
       Prerequisite: Economics 201.
 
346b. International Monetary Theory and Policy
(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, particularly the Eurodollar market. Mr. Rebelein.
       Prerequisite: Economics 200.
 
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. Mr. Marco
       Prerequisites: Economics 201, Calculus
 
[367b. 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. The department.
       Prerequisites: at least 2 units of Economics at or above the 200-level.
 
368b. American Economic History
(1)
This course covers the history of the U.S. economy from colonial times to the present with a focus on the application of economic analysis to historical issues. Topics include the economic factors in the drive for independence, westward expansion, the American growth record and its determinants, the economics of slavery and regional divergence, the Great Depression and World War II, and the Modern Era. The department.
       Prerequisite: at least 2 units of Economics at or above the 200-level, or permission of the instructor. Economics 209 is strongly recommended.
 
369a. Political Economy of Development Aid
(1)
Modern foreign aid reached its high point early in its history with the Marshall Plan. Since that time, foreign aid has frequently failed to live-up to expectations. One important reason for this poor record is that donors actually pursue a number of competing objectives including promoting their own geopolitical and commercial objectives. The situation is further complicated by the domestic political economy of aid allocation which can lead to time inconsistent policy, agency problems in bilateral and multilateral aid bureaucracies, and the distorting effects of competition under imperfect information. This course examines foreign aid using a variety of economic approaches and tools. We consider both humanitarian and economic rationale for aid. Starting with the history and institutions of foreign aid, we delve into current policy and academic debates including agency problems, conditionality, selectivity, and the international public goods role of aid. A recurring theme is how political and economic objectives of aid donors and recipients influence the development effectiveness of aid. Mr. Kilby.
       Prerequisites: Economics 201 and 209.
 
370b. History of Economic Thought
(1)
A systematic study of the development of economic thought from early times to the present; emphasis is placed on the study of European and American economists of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries; the political, social, and cultural context of the development of economic thought is highlighted. Mr. Khalil.
       Prerequisites: Economics 100, 101, and 2 units of 200-level work in Economics.
       One 2-hour period.
 
371a. Alternative Economic Theories and Perspectives
(1)
This course develops the theoretical foundations of alternative schools of economic thought (e.g. Marxist, post-Keynesian, Institutionalist, and Austrian) and applies them to theoretical and policy issues. From these theoretical perspectives the course then reexamines “structural adjustment” policies in the Third World, free trade, consumer theory, the principles of economic growth, the operation of theory of financial markets, and the contemporary resurgence of “neoliberal” economic policies both here and abroad. Mr. Khalil.
       Prerequisites: Economics 201 or 200.
 
388b. Topics in Feminist Economics
(1)
An examination of various feminist economic models and empirical studies with special emphasis given to those with an economic development focus. Topics include analysis of feminist models of the household and intrahousehold decision making, integration of gender in macroeconomics, measurement issues of paid and unpaid work, time use data and other gender-related statistics, womens participation in economic development, gendered effects of development strategies, savings and credit, gender budget initiatives and related social policy issues. Ms/ Floro
       Prerequisites: Economics 204.
       One 2-hour period.
 

IV. Senior Courses

 
301a or b. Senior Exercise in Economics
(1/2)
Students enrolled in this course undertake the structured analysis of an article-length work from the economics literature under the supervision of a department member. This opportunity for substantive culminating work in economics is intended to deepen the student’s understanding of their discipline and encourages the student to draw together elements of four years’ education in economics. The department.
       Prerequisites: Economics 200, 201, 209.
 
305a/306b. Senior Seminar in Economics
(1/2, 1)
Students must write an independent research paper on a topic to be agreed upon with the seminar instructor. These topics should be discussed with the instructor prior to registration. For any credit for the major, students must complete both 305a and 306b. For majors only.
       One 2-hour period.
       V. Other
 

V. Other

 
290a or b. Field Work
(1/2 or 1)
Individual or group field projects or internships. One-half unit for 60 hours of work. The department.
       May be elected during the college year or during the summer.
       Prerequisite or corequisite: a course in the department. Permission required.
       Unscheduled.
 
298a or b. Independent Work
(1/2 or 1)
 
399a or b. Senior Independent Work
(1/2 or 1)