Economics Department

Requirements for Concentration: at least 11 units of graded economics credit normally composed of either Economics 100 and 101 or Economics 102; Economics 200, 201, and 209; and at least three units at the 300-level (excluding Economics 120).  Students may not elect the NRO in any economics course after they have declared their major in Economics.  At least 6 units must be taken at Vassar including 2 at the 300-level. Students also must 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.  Please note that calculus is a prerequisite for 201.

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

Advisers: The department.

Correlate Sequences: The economics department offers correlate sequences which designate coherent groups of courses intended to complement the curricula of students majoring in other departmental, interdepartmental, and multidisciplinary programs. Three areas of concentration are currently available for students pursuing a correlate sequence in economics:

International Economics coordinated by Mr. Kennett.

Public Policy coordinated by Mr. Rebelein.

Quantitative Economics coordinated by Mr. Ruud.

Courses within each area should be chosen in consultation with the coordinator of that sequence.

Students pursuing a correlate sequence in economics are required to complete a minimum of six units in economics, including either Economics 100 and 101, or Economics 102; either Economics 200 or 201; and at least one at the 300-level.  At least four units must be taken at Vassar and a maximum of two may be taken using the NRO. Additional requirements for each of the options are detailed in Correlate Sequences in Economics, available in the department office and on the department website.

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 perfect 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.

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.

Two 75-minute periods.

112a. Pre-Modern Economic Growth: the West and the Rest, 1000-1900 (1)

This course surveys long-term processes of growth and development in pre-modern Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa. The course raises fundamental questions about the nature of pre-industrial societies and what enables some to achieve sustained economic growth. First, it discusses global patterns of economic development and how economic historians measure living standards in the past. Second, it addresses current debates over the “Great Divergence”—that is, the rise of Western nations relative to those in Asia during the pre-industrial period. Finally, it focuses on the economic development of Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa before the twentieth century. Questions addressed include: “Why and when did China fall behind Europe?” “Why did Britain industrialize first?” “How important is slavery and colonialism in explaining the delayed industrialization of Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa?” Throughout the course students debate the importance of different economic and social factors in stimulating economic growth. Ms. Jones.

Open only to freshmen; satisfies college requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar.

Two 75-minute periods.

120a. Principles of Accounting (1)

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

Not open to Freshmen.

II. Intermediate

Courses numbered 200 and above are not open to freshmen in their first semester.

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.

Prerequisites: Economics 100 and 101, or 102.

NRO for Seniors Only.

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 101 or 102, and one semester of college-level calculus.

NRO for Seniors Only.

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. The department.

Prerequisite: Economics 100 or 101 or 102 or permission of the instructor.

NRO for Seniors Only.

210a and 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. Ms. Pearlman, Mr. Ruud.

Prerequisite: Economics 209 or an equivalent statistics course.

Recommended: Economics 100, 101, or 102.

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. Mr. Jehle.

Prerequisite: Economics 100 or 101 or 102.

220a. The Political Economy of Health Care (1)

(Same as Science, Technology, and Society 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. Ms. Johnson-Lans.

Prerequisite: Economics 101 or 102. Students who have not taken Economics 101 but have strong quantitative backgrounds may enroll with the instructor's permission.

225b. 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. Ms. Pearlman.

Prerequisite: Economics 100 and 101, or 102. 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. Ms. Turkay-Pillai.

Prerequisite: Economics 101 or 102.

240a. 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. Mr. Rebelein.

Prerequisite: Economics 100 or 102.

Not open to students who have completed Economics 342.

248a and b. 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. Kennett, Mr. Islamaj.

Prerequisites: Economics 100 and 101, or 102.

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

261. Political Economy (1)

The course 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. Mr. Ho.

Prerequisite: Economics 101 or 102.

Two 75-minute periods.

Not offered in 2013/14.

267a. 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. Mr. Ruud.

Prerequisite: Economics 101 or 102, or permission of the instructor. Economics 209 recommended.

273b. Development Economics (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 273) A survey of central issues in the field of Development Economics, this course examines current conditions in less developed countries using both macroeconomic and microeconomic analysis. Macroeconomic topics include theories of growth and development, development strategies (including export-led growth in Asia), and problems of structural transformation and transition. Household decision-making under uncertainty serves as the primary model for analyzing microeconomic topics such as the adoption of new technology in peasant agriculture, migration and urban unemployment, fertility, and the impact of development on the environment. Examples and case studies from Africa, Asia, Latin America and transition economies provide the context for these topics. Ms. Jones.

Prerequisites: Economics 100 and 101, or 102.

275a. 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. Ms. Pearlman.

Prerequisites: Economics 100 and 101, or 102.

290a or b. Field Work (1/2)

Individual or group field projects or internships. The department.

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

Prerequisite or corequisite: a course in the department. Permission required.


298a or b. Independent Work (1/2 or 1)

III. Advanced

300a. Senior Thesis Preparation (1/2)

This course consists of independent work with a faculty advisor and includes preparing a detailed proposal for a senior thesis paper and researching and writing two introductory chapters. These typically consist of a literature review and a full description of any theoretical model and/or econometric project (including data) that forms the core of the proposed thesis. Students should approach a proposed advisor at the beginning of the semester (or, if possible during the Spring semester of the Junior year or summer preceding the Senior year) to gain permission to undertake this course of study. Students may continue with Economics 301b upon completion of Economics 300a, conditional on approval of the advisor and the department. The department.

Open to senior majors by special permission of the advisor.

301b. Senior Thesis (1)

This course builds on the work completed in Economics 300a. Students are expected to submit the finished paper by spring vacation. They are asked to give a half hour oral presentation of their thesis to the department in the early part of the b semester. This presentation enables thesis writers to benefit from comments received at the presentation in preparing the final thesis drafts. The department.

Open to senior majors who have successfully competed Economics 300a.

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, 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 Math 122 or equivalent or permission of the instructor.

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. Mr. Sá.

Prerequisite: Economics 200, 201 and Math 122, or equivalent or permission of the instructor.

One 3-hour period.

Not offered in 2013/14.

310b. 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. Mr. Ruud.

Prerequisite: Economics 210 and Math 122 or equivalent. Mathematics 221 recommended.

320a. Labor Economics (1)

An examination of labor markets. 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. Comparative labor markets in the U.S., the U.K., and other E.U. countries and public policy with respect to such things as minimum wages, fringe benefits, unemployment insurance, and welfare reform are also addressed. Ms. Johnson-Lans.

Prerequisites: Economics 201 and 209.

333a. Behavioral Economics (1)

This course surveys the extensive empirical and experimental evidence documenting how 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 what we would expect if people were fully rational. Mr. Ho.

Prerequisite: Economics 200 or 201.

342. 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 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. Mr. Rebelein.

Prerequisites: Economics 201 and Math 122 or equivalent.

Not offered in 2013/14.

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 Finance (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. Mr. Islamaj.

Prerequisite: Economics 200, 248, and college-level calculus, Economics majors or permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

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. Ms. Turkay-Pillai.

Prerequisite: Economics 201, Math 122 or equivalent.

367a. 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. Mr. Kennett.

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

374a. The Origins of the Global Economy (1)

(Same as Asian Studies 374) This course examines the long-run evolution of the global economy. For centuries the world has experienced a dramatic rise in international trade, migration, foreign capital flows and technology, culminating in what is today called "the global economy." How did it happen? Why did it happen to Europe first? In this course, we examine the process of economic development in pre-modern Europe and Asia, the economic determinants of state formation and market integration, the causes and consequences of West European overseas expansion, and the emergence and nature of today's global economy. Ms. Jones.

Prerequisites: Economics 200 and 209.

384. The Economics of Higher Education (1)

This seminar explores the economics of colleges and universities, with a particular focus on contemporary policy issues. Course materials apply economic theory and empirical analysis to selected policy issues, including tuition and financial aid, the individual and societal returns of higher education, and academic labor markets. The course also introduces students to the financial structure and management of colleges, including funding sources, budget processes, and policies and issues regarding the finance of higher education. Ms. Hill.

Prerequisites: Economics 201 and 209.

Not offered in 2013/14.

386b. 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. Ms. Basu.

Prerequisites: Economics 201 and 209. Economics 210 recommended.

388a. Latin American Economic Development (1)

(Same as Latin American and Latino/a Studies 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. Ms. Pearlman.

Prerequisites: Economics 100 and 209 or equivalent.

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. Mr. Johnson.

Prerequisites: Economics 201, 210 and 225, Math 122 or equivalent ; or permission of the instructor. Math 220, 221 recommended.

399a or b. Senior Independent Work (1/2 or 1)