Courses

ECON 150 Applied Principles of Economics

What is economics? This course is intended for students who want to answer that question through exposure to the basic principles of economics. Students apply these principles to a variety of topics selected by the instructor, which may include climate change, income inequality, pandemics, patents, trademarks and copyrights, poverty, and social media. The course is also intended for prospective majors and prepares students for a wide range of core and upper-level elective economics courses.

ECON 216 Central Banking and the College Fed Challenge

Central banks play a critical role in modern economies, including conducting monetary policy and regulating many financial markets. This course examines the structure and practice of central banks such as the Federal Reserve. Special attention is paid to the motivation behind and implementation of monetary policies. The course fields a team of five to ten students to represent Bates at the College Fed Challenge in Boston during the semester, a competition in which groups of students make a presentation about monetary economics and field questions from economists. Prerequisite(s): ECON 103 or 150.

ECON 221 The World Economy

Trends and patterns in international trade and finance are discussed in relation to topics such as trade and growth, tariffs and trade restrictions, economic integration, and international economic cooperation and policy. Not open to students who have received credit for ECON 334 or s20. Prerequisite(s): ECON 103, 150 or 270.

ECON 222 Environmental Economics and Policy

The preservation of environmental quality and the struggle of people to improve their economic circumstances are often in conflict. This course explores the economic basis of environmental problems and examines alternative policies aimed at reducing environmental degradation. Among the topics are the deficiencies in the market system and existing property-rights system that contribute to environmental problems, cases where public intervention offers the potential for improvement, cases amenable to market-based approaches, and the public-policy tools available to promote environmental goals. Prerequisite(s): ECON 101, 150, or 260.

ECON 223 Law and Economics

This course introduces the use of economic methods to examine laws and legal institutions. The fundamental concepts of economics-scarcity, maximization, and marginal analysis-are used to predict the effect of legal rules on behavior, and to evaluate how well a particular rule achieves its intended end. At another level, civil law may be viewed as another system of resource allocation and wealth distribution, as the legal system is often used to craft a remedy when markets fail in their allocative role. Topics may include property law, contract law, accident law, family law, criminal law, and copyright and trademark law. Prerequisite(s): ECON 101, 150, or 260.

ECON 231 Money and Magic: Anthropological Exploration of Contemporary Capitalism

This course examines the more magical and relational aspects of contemporary economy, markets, and capitalism. First, students examine ideas often taken for granted about nature, humans, and nonhumans that shape cultural understandings of “economy” in American capitalism. Then they explore economic practices, ideal subjects, and the production of economic “others” in contemporary capitalism(s) around the world, past and present. Through readings and use of various media (film, TikTok, Twitter, etc.) students explore how economy is cultural, relational, and ultimately a bit “magical.”

ECON 246 Understanding Poverty: Introduction to Development Economics

This course provides an introduction to development economics and the issues that it attempts to address. The United Nations reports that one in every nine people globally suffered from hunger in 2019. The number of people living in extreme poverty stood at 736 million in 2015, down from nearly 2 billion in 1990. Why are some countries richer than others? What are the policies that help people transition out of poverty and increase their standard of living? Prerequisite(s): ECON 101.

ECON 250 Statistics

Topics include probability theory, sampling theory, estimation, hypothesis testing, and linear regression. Prospective economics majors should take this course in or before the fall semester of the sophomore year. Recommended background: ECON 101, 103, or 150.

ECON 255 Econometrics

Topics include multiple regression using time series and cross-sectional data, simultaneous equation models, and an introduction to forecasting. Prerequisite(s): ECON 250 and MATH 105, 106, 205, or 206.

ECON 260 Intermediate Microeconomic Theory

Compares models of perfect competition and market failure, with emphasis on the consequences for efficiency and equity. Topics include consumer choice, firm behavior, markets for goods and inputs, choice over time, monopoly, oligopoly, monopolistic competition, externalities, and public goods. Prerequisite(s): MATH 105, 106, or 205. Recommended background: ECON 101 or 150.

ECON 270 Intermediate Macroeconomic Theory

This study of national income determination includes movements involving consumption, saving, investment, demand for money, supply of money, interest rates, price levels, wage rates, and unemployment. Monetary policy, fiscal policy, inflation, and growth models are considered. Prerequisite(s): MATH 105, 106, or 205. Recommended background: ECON 103 or 150.

ECON 284 The Political Economy of Capitalism

Political economy studies the market and the state as interrelated institutions. This course examines capitalism within its political context from two complementary perspectives. Students examine the historical evolution of social scientific thinking about the economy, in the process identifying some of the central critiques and defenses of capitalism as a system of social organization. Then they consider political economy topically, addressing a series of policy challenges thrown up by capitalism and considering multiple perspectives on how those challenges should be diagnosed and addressed.

ECON 304 Macroeconomic Finance

This course studies the interaction between macroeconomics and financial markets. The course begins with a modern perspective on money and banking, and then uses this foundation to examine a variety of financial market features that influence macroeconomic performance and policies. The majority of the long run analysis focuses on the relationship between financial development and economic growth. Short run topics include the link between investment and monetary policy, the effect of housing market features on macroeconomic volatility, borrowing and access to credit, and financial market imperfections. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255 and 270.

ECON 305 International Financial Stability

Global financial stability is an essential requirement to ensure sustainable world economic growth and the successful development of emerging markets. This course provides an in-depth understanding of the mechanisms and institutions that rule our international financial system. First, students take a historic look at the evolution of the international monetary system during the last century. Then they study recent failures of the system leading to global financial crises. Special attention is paid to currency, debt, and balance of payments crises. Finally, they review current policy challenges faced by developed and developing nations. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255 and 270. Recommended background: ECON 221.

ECON 306 Economics of Strategies in Firms and Markets

This course investigates the economics of strategies between and within firms. Students consider the applications of game theory in the realm of business practices, including basic principles of game theory, applications of game theory in business practices, and the empirical realities of business organizations. Major topics include monitoring and incentivizing employees, trust and cooperation within groups, patent races and patent adoption, and communications within and across organizations. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255 and 260.

ECON 307 The Economics of Pandemics

This course studies individuals’ behavior using epidemiological models and tools from microeconomics. The course begins with the SIR model to analyze determinants of the spread of contagious diseases. Concepts from health economics are introduced to examine the welfare effects of pharmaceutical and nonpharmaceutical interventions. The main analysis of pharmaceutical intervention will focus on the economics of drugs and vaccines development and their effect on achieving herd immunity. The analysis of nonpharmaceutical interventions focuses on the effect of social distancing behavior (in the case of respiratory diseases) and public campaigns (in the case of HIV) on disease spread and economic outcomes. The course also considers the effect of economic policies on the spread of diseases and economic outcomes. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255 and 260.

ECON 308 Women and Economic Development

On which margins do differences in women’s and men’s access to or participation in economic activities persist in low- and middle-income countries? Which policies have been successful at closing those gaps, and why? In this course, students begin by exploring gender gaps in economic development access and outcomes, why these gaps matter, and an economic basis for why some of these gaps might occur. Students then examine policies that might close or widen these gaps, and empirical evaluations of such policies using economic principles. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255 and 260.

ECON 309 Economics of Less-Developed Countries

The course examines the causes of the poverty of nations, various potential paths to economic growth, and the effects of policies of the rich countries on less-developed countries. Included are such topics as industrialization, the “green revolution,” population growth, environmental degradation, trade policies, debt, multinational corporations, and foreign aid. The development of individual countries is examined in light of the great diversity of experiences among developing economies. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255, 260, and 270.

ECON 311 Public Economics

An analysis of basic issues in the field of public finance. The course covers a wide range of topics, including the welfare implications of expenditure and taxation policies of governments, the economic rationale of governmental provision of goods and services, fiscal institutions in the United States, efficiency and distributive aspects of taxation, effects of taxation on household and firm behavior, intergovernmental fiscal relations, and the public debt. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255 and 260.

ECON 313 A Tale of Two Recessions: 2008 and 2020

This seminar examines the events of the 2008 recession, as well as its causes and aftermath. Special attention is paid to the housing bubble that preceded the recession, how the crisis in the housing sector spread to the rest of the economy, and the response of monetary, fiscal, and regulatory policies. The seminar focuses both on refining students’ theoretical and empirical skills, and on applying them to recent macroeconomic events. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255 and 270.

ECON 315 Energy Economics

In this course students develop and use tools of economic analysis to understand contemporary policy issues related to energy. This course focuses on the relationship among economics, science, technology, and energy in the public policy process. Students examine the political economy of global climate change to study this relationship. The goal is to establish a reasonable basis for understanding the science and politics of global climate change. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255, 260, and 270.

ECON 316 Fat Tails and Tipping Points: Climate Economics and Policy

The course explores the economic causes and consequences of human-induced climate change-the “mother of all externalities”-and potential solutions. Particular attention is paid to low probability/high damage events (fat tails), tipping points and the estimation of damages from climate change. Students use the tools of economics to understand evaluate the effectiveness, costs, and benefits and distributional consequences of policies designed to reduce climate change. Students investigate the role of adaptation and innovation as potential climate solutions and evaluate the equity implications of climate impacts and climate policy. Only open to juniors and seniors. Prerequisite(s): ECON 250, 255, and 260.

ECON 318 Advanced Macroeconomics

Theories and empirical studies of business cycles: fixed-investment behavior, inventory activity, and monetary fluctuations. The course examines recent work on inflation, expectations, economic growth theory, and techniques in current use for forecasting general economic activity. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255 and 270.

ECON 325 Prices, Property, and the Problem of the Commons

An analysis of water resources and fisheries economics. Topics include water allocation, scarcity and pricing, water rights, cost-benefit analysis, valuation, water markets, and problems related to common-property resources such as underground aquifers and fisheries. Economic incentives for pollution control including tradable pollution permit programs for water quality maintenance are also covered. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255 and 260.

ECON 335 Health Economics

The health care industry represents a rapidly growing proportion of government expenditures and the U.S. economy as a whole. This course offers theoretical and empirical analyses of health care markets and individual decisions with respect to health and health care. These issues require special consideration due to asymmetric information in insurance markets and the physician-patient relationship; uncertainty in health shocks and expenditures; and interactions among health care providers, insurers, employers, and public health insurance programs. The class considers these issues primarily in a microeconomic framework and explores econometric techniques commonly used in the study of health and health care. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255 and 260.

ECON 339 Industrial Organization

Theories of the firm are used to explain the organization of economic activity across markets and within firms. The effects of pricing behavior, merger activity, advertising, and research and development on efficiency and social welfare are examined. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255 and 260.

ECON 341 Time Series Econometrics

This course examines the theory and application of time series econometrics. The course considers issues related to time series data including stationarity, lag structure, and endogeneity, as well as estimation techniques such as vector autoregressions, maximum likelihood, and Bayesian approaches. The course’s applications primarily are related to the estimation of macroeconomic models and forecasting macroeconomic policy changes. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255 and 270.

ECON 343 International Finance

A study of the macroeconomics of international economics. The course covers topics in international finance and open-economy macroeconomics, including foreign exchange markets, exchange rate determination and regimes, purchasing power parity, balance of payments, the international capital market, and financial globalization. This course is designed to help students understand the main implications of increasing integration of the world economy. Students learn fundamental theories in the analysis of international macroeconomics, review related empirical evidence, analyze current international macroeconomics issues, and evaluate policy options. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255 and 270.

ECON 348 Urban Economics

Microeconomic tools are applied to analyze cities. Among the topics are the spatial structure of cities, trends in urban development in the United States, urbanization and African development, industrial and residential location choices, rent control, housing subsidies, squatter settlements, racial segregation, and urban finance. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255 and 260.

ECON 360 Independent Study

Students, in consultation with a faculty advisor, individually design and plan a course of study or research not offered in the curriculum. Course work includes a reflective component, evaluation, and completion of an agreed-upon product. Sponsorship by a faculty member in the program/department, a course prospectus, and permission of the chair are required. Students may register for no more than one independent study per semester. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255.

ECON 368 Big Data and Economics

Economics is at the forefront of developing statistical methods for analyzing data collected from uncontrolled sources. Since econometrics addresses challenges in estimation such as sample selection bias and treatment effects identification, the discipline is well-suited for the analysis of large and unsystematically collected datasets. This course introduces statistical (machine) learning methods, which have been developed for analyzing such datasets but which have only recently been implemented in economic research. The course also explores how econometrics and statistical learning methods cross-fertilize and can be used to advance knowledge in the numerous domains where large volumes of data are rapidly accumulating. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255 and ECON 260 or 270.

ECON 372 Experimental Economics

This course presents the methodology of experimental economics, and the various findings obtained by analyzing markets, human rationality, and human social behavior. Throughout the course students participate in a range of classroom experiments and propose their own experimental design. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255 and 260 or 270.

ECON 373 The Economics of Crime, Punishment, and Rehabilitation

This seminar explores a rational choice basis for understanding criminal behavior. Rather than framing the behavior of individuals involved in crime as fundamentally different from our own, students consider how environmental, economic, and legal constraints and incentives lead to criminal activity that is individually rational. Students examine empirical evidence of the effectiveness of justice reforms and use it to further understand the role of rational choice in criminal behavior, along with its limitations. Students also engage in community partnerships to directly observe the legal environment and better connect theoretical applications to the institutional and cultural setting. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255 and 260.

ECON 456 Senior Thesis Seminar

Building on experience from previous economics courses, students in this course produce new independent research. They consider advanced topics in fields related to the instructors’ expertise. Prerequisite(s): two 300-level economics courses.

ECON 457 Senior Thesis

Prior to entrance into ECON 457, students must submit for approval a thesis proposal based on work done in a nonintroductory course. Students enroll in ECON 457 in the fall. Honors thesis writers enroll for both ECON 457 and ECON 458. Prerequisite(s): at least two 300-level economics courses.

ECON 458 Senior Thesis

A continuation of ECON 457 and designed for students completing an honors thesis. Students must submit for approval a thesis proposal based on work done in a nonintroductory course. Prerequisite(s): ECON 457 and at least two 300-level economics courses.

ECON S11 In Search of Higher Ground: Sea-Level Rise, Coastal Flooding and the Future of the Eastern Seaboard

Climate change, increased storm frequency and intensity, and sea-level rise have created an urgent need for adaptation planning for many communities along the U.S. eastern seaboard. In this course students examine adaptation strategies and vulnerability assessments to understand social and economic vulnerability and the complexities of coastal retreat. Utilizing climate adaptation planning tools, mapping technology, and on-the-ground observation, students examine adaptation strategies including managed retreat, buyouts, living shorelines, and green infrastructure. Students consider the current and future role of FEMA’s national flood insurance program as a major mechanism for incentivizing resilient or reckless coastal development. Based in experiential learning, students engage in discussions with experts, practitioners, and residents in highly vulnerable coastal areas in Maine, as well as a ten-day trip to coastal communities in Virginia and North Carolina. Prerequisite(s): ECON 101 or 222, or ENVR 209. Recommended background: ECON 250 or other statistics course.

ECON S50 Independent Study

FYS 481 Truth

Two neutron stars colliding 130 million years ago confirmed Einstein’s gravity theory. Does confirmation mean Einstein’s theory is true? How is truth defined within the many truth and reconciliation commissions around the world? What promise of truth lies within historical archives? Within documentaries? Within fiction? How can we speak truthfully about unspeakable acts? This seminar joins thinkers modern and ancient drawn from many disciplines to explore what is meant by “truth,” how people form ideas about what is true, why people care greatly about truth, and how social forces influence what people think is true.

FYS 525 Wars, Plagues, and Revolutions: How Economies Respond to Crisis

This seminar examines how economies adapt when confronted with the onset of different types of crises, including wars, plagues, and revolutions, and how these emergencies continue to have economic impacts even after they end. Is it true that periods of crisis often lead to periods of greater economic equality? Under what conditions do wars generate higher economic growth, either while ongoing or in their aftermath? Students are exposed to a variety of writing modes including scholarly, journalistic, fiction, and propaganda, while examining how different writing techniques apply to each.

FYS 544 The Study and Practice of Human Cooperation

Why are some people willing to sacrifice to improve the well-being of strangers? How can we motivate others to engage in prosocial behavior? Is cooperation always a good thing? In this course, students engage in both the study and the practice of prosocial behavior through lectures, multidisciplinary reading selections, class discussion, service to others, and a range of assignments designed to explore different ways of knowing and communicating. Students examine prosocial behavior through research questions, methodologies, and findings from economics, psychology, neuroscience, sociology, anthropology, evolutionary biology, environmental studies, and political science.