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Economics

Students taking notes in economics class

Economics is more quantitative and theoretically more rigorous than the other social sciences, but it is decidedly more social than scientific in comparison with the natural sciences. In the broadest terms, economics is the study of how society organizes production and distributes what is produced to its members. Modern economics is divided into the two separate branches of microeconomics and macroeconomics. Microeconomics is the study of how individual production and consumption decisions are made and how markets coordinate them. Macroeconomics is the study of how overall output and employment and the price level are determined. Both of these branches of economics aim not only to understand the economy but also to prescribe policies to improve its performance. Ultimately, economics and economists must be judged by the usefulness of economic analysis and the economic policies derived from that analysis. That is our challenge.

At Smith, through both teaching and research, students use economic theory, statistical and experimental methods, and historical and institutional analysis to investigate the behavior of the economy.

News & Events

Annual Economics Lecture - Violence and Economic Growth: How the Past Informs the Present

Lisa Cook, MSU, Tuesday, November 27, 4:30 pm, Seelye Hall Room 201 

 

AEA Summer Program Information Session

Tuesday, November 27, 12-1:00 pm, CC 204

 

Economics Internship Panel

Monday, December 3, 2018, 4-5:00 pm, CC 102
 

 

 

 

Requirements

  • Understand and synthesize the basic concepts of economics
  • Use those economic concepts to solve problems, particularly in the realm of public policy
  • Consider different perspectives in the approach to solving problems
  • Develop critical thinking
  • Conduct independent research
  • Develop an ability for abstract reasoning based on tight, clear logic
  • Develop quantitative skills for data management and systematic empirical analysis
  • Develop a precise writing style
  • Develop a facility for effective oral presentation

Advisers

Randall Bartlett, Deborah Haas-Wilson, Simon Halliday, Roger Kaufman, Maggie Liu, Mahnaz Mahdavi, James Miller, Roisin O’Sullivan, Elizabeth Savoca, Susan Stratton Sayre, Charles Staelin, Vis Taraz, Mariyana Zapryanova, and Andrew Zimbalist

Basis for the major

150 and 153

Requirements

The five courses in the core—150 and 153 or their equivalent, 220, 250 and 253—plus five other courses in economics. Of these latter five, one must be a 300-level course (or honors thesis) taken at Smith (or with prior permission at one of the other colleges in the Five College system) that includes an economics research paper and an oral presentation. 220 may be replaced in the core with either MTH 220 or MTH 291. In the case of MTH 220, the students will be required to take six rather than five economics courses beyond the core. Students who have already taken any of GOV 190, SOC 204, SDS/MTH 201, PSY 201 or MTH 220 may not receive college or major credit for 220. MTH 111 or its equivalent is a prerequisite for 250 and 253. 

Students who pass the department's placement examination in microeconomics or macroeconomics, or who pass the AP examination in microeconomics or macroeconomics with a score of 4 or 5, or who have the appropriate grades in A-level or IB courses in economics, may count this as the equivalent of 150, 153 or both. Course credit toward the major will be granted as long as the overall number of economics credits recorded on the transcript is at least 36. Students with AP, A-level or IB credit are urged to take the placement exams to ensure correct placement.

With prior permission of the instructor, economics credit will be given for public policy and for environmental science and policy courses, when taught by a member of the economics department. Economics credit will not be given for ACC 223.
 
The S/U grading option is not allowed for courses counting toward the economics major. An exception may be made in the case of 150 and 153.
 
Majors may spend their junior year abroad if they meet the college’s requirements. Only 4 semester course credits (and no more than 2 in any one semester) taken by a Smith student outside the five colleges may be counted toward the courses required for the major. This includes courses taken during study abroad or study away, and courses taken in summer school or during a leave of absence from the college. Any course taken for economics credit outside the Five Colleges should normally have prior approval by the major adviser or the department's adviser for study abroad. Economics courses and appropriate statistics courses taken by transfer students before their matriculation to Smith and approved by the department and the college will be counted toward the major as if they had been taken at Smith.

Majors may also participate in the Jean Picker Semester-in-Washington Program, administered by the Department of Government and described under the government major.

Advisers

Randall Bartlett, Deborah Haas-Wilson, Simon Halliday, Roger Kaufman, Maggie Liu, Mahnaz Mahdavi, James Miller, Roisin O’Sullivan, Elizabeth Savoca, Susan Stratton Sayre, Charles Staelin, Vis Taraz, Mariyana Zapryanova, and Andrew Zimbalist

Requirements

Six courses in economics, consisting of 150, 153, 220, and three other courses in economics or 150, 153, a statistics course taken outside of the department, and four other courses in economics. Crediting procedures are the same as for the major.

Director

Elizabeth Savoca

The honors program offers qualified and highly motivated students an opportunity to work independently and on a more intensive basis with a faculty member. Students may pursue one of three paths when writing an honors thesis over the course of the senior year: i) complete a two-semester honors thesis, ii) extend a one-semester 4-credit special studies with one semester of honors thesis work in the following semester or iii) build on a research paper written for an economics seminar course with one semester of honors thesis work in the following semester. For paths ii) and iii), the special studies or seminar must be taken in the first semester of the senior year.

Applying for Honors

The GPA requirement for admission to the honors program is 3.50 or higher in the economics major at the time of application to the honors program.

For the year-long honors thesis option, students are strongly encouraged to talk to faculty members about potential thesis topics throughout their junior year and to submit a proposal to the Department through the Director of Honors during the second semester of their junior year. However, the Department will also consider proposals submitted through the Director of Honors before the Department’s first meeting at the start of the applicant's senior year.

Applications to extend a special studies project or seminar paper with one semester of thesis work will be considered at the last meeting of the first semester or at the first meeting of the second semester of the applicant’s senior year. Students should submit their proposals to the Director of Honors before the department meeting at which their proposal is considered.

Application for admission to the honors program and related instructions are available from the Class Deans' website.

Requirements

  • Basis: ECO 150 and 153, ECO 220 (formerly 190), 250 and 253
  • 3 elective courses in economics for path i), or 4 for paths ii) and iii)
  • ECO 430D in both semesters of the senior year for path i), or ECO 430 in the second semester for paths ii) and iii)

It is highly recommended that honors students take ECO 220 (formerly 190), 250 and 253 before the fall semester of their junior year. Students planning to undertake statistical analyses in their thesis should also take econometrics (ECO 240) before their senior year.

Thesis

The honors thesis is credited as a two-semester course (ECO 430D) receiving a total of 8 credits or as a one-semester course (ECO 430) receiving 4 credits combined with either a 4-credit special studies or a 4-credit economics seminar course. The normal course load is six additional 4-credit courses taken during the senior year. The honors student is encouraged not to take more than these 8 equivalent courses during her senior year so that she will have ample time for her thesis research. Financial support for student research is available. 

Evaluation

Honors students must take an oral examination in economics, with emphasis on its application to the field of the thesis. For May graduates, the oral exam must be administered by the last day of classes of the spring semester, in line with the schedule outlined on the Class Dean's website. For January graduates, departmental deadlines require a final draft of the written thesis be submitted to the thesis advisor by the last day of classes and the oral exam be administered by the last day of the exam period in the fall semester.

Successful honors candidates will be graduated with honors in economics, high honors in economics or highest honors in economics. The level of honors is determined by the student's average grade in courses of her major, by the grade received on her oral honors examination and by the grade received on her written thesis. The grade received on the written thesis is by far the most important indication of the student's probable level of honors award. Most honors students receive honors in economics. Should the honors candidate's performance in the honors program be deemed unworthy of honors but still worthy of course credit, the student will receive a grade determined by her thesis adviser and will simply receive her degree without an honors designation.

Honors projects from past students are posted here.


Courses

Theory

One of the purposes of the major is to help students look critically at the ways in which society organizes and manages resources. Without some framework within which to organize ideas—including dissenting ideas and criticism—analysis becomes aimless, diffuse, and, ultimately, ineffective. No one theory, or category of theory, must be accepted by all economists to be considered adequate to understand the economy; however, an understanding of the main theoretical tenets of modern economics is the touchstone from which almost all development, elaboration and criticism of economic arrangements flow.

Basic Theory

The basic theory is presented in the principles courses, ECO 150 and 153. This theory is developed more rigorously and embedded in more sophisticated economic models in the intermediate theory courses, ECO 250 and 253. Additional theory courses include game theory (ECO 125) and several advanced electives.

Statistics and Mathematics

Since economic knowledge is ultimately drawn from the real world, statistical techniques are an important tool both for gathering information and for testing economic theories against the world they seek to explain. These techniques are taught in our basic statistics course (ECO 220) and further developed in the econometrics course (ECO 240).

Economics has become increasingly mathematical. Calculus I (MTH 111) is strongly recommended as an adjunct to your economics major, and is required for the intermediate theory courses. Students planning to go to graduate school in economics need to take ECO 255 and 240 and at least four additional math courses (as listed below and in the catalogue).

Historical and Institutional Setting

If theory and statistics provide us with tools of analysis, then history and institutional forces provide the setting for economic problems and constraints on their solutions. Without an awareness of these realities, the use of theory, statistics and other sophisticated techniques is likely to lead into blind alleys and unwarranted conclusions. The study of history and institutions in courses such as labor economics, American economic history, economic anthropology, comparative economic systems and economic development, provide the opportunity to go beyond the abstractions of theoretical arguments to the analysis of real problems. Most "applied" courses naturally incorporate elements of history and institutional arrangements, and a few are primarily devoted to this issue. A major adds fundamentally to her comprehension of the subject by being exposed to thinking along these lines.

Empirical and Applied Analysis

In the end, if economics is to be respected it will not be because of the abstract beauty of its theory or the broad sweep of its historical insight. It will be studied and used only if it contributes to the understanding of particular problems. To that end, the economics major will take a number of courses in specific applied areas such as law and economics, urban economics, labor relations, public finance, money and banking, economic development, international trade and finance, economic growth, industrial organization, the economics of education, growth and crisis, and empirical and applied analysis. They use theory and draw on historical insights, but at their core are contemporary, practical, and policy-oriented.

Familiarity can be gained by applying basic tools to several areas, or by taking a sequence of several courses in one area. Both are useful and legitimate approaches to learning about economics and what economists do. Either can provide the student with the experience of applying the tools of economic inquiry. In these upper-level courses, theory, statistics and other tools of analysis are brought to bear on unsolved problems and unsettledquestions, in contrast to the emphasis in the introductory courses on what we already know.

A major curriculum designed in this way can contribute importantly to a student's gaining both competence in the economic way of thinking and confidence in her own knowledge of both its uses and inherent limitations. This is the underlying goal of majoring in economics in a liberal arts college, regardless of the subsequent uses to which it may be put.

ECO 125 Game Theory 
An examination of how rational people cooperate and compete. Game theory explores situations in which everyone’s actions affect everyone else, and everyone knows this and takes it into account when determining their own actions. Business, military and dating strategies are examined. No economics prerequisite. Prerequisite: at least one semester of high school or college calculus. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered each spring 

ECO 127 The Magic of the Marketplace 
An introduction to capitalism. Markets have made the average American richer than any medieval king. Take this course to find out why. Other topics covered include innovation, discrimination, prostitution, environmental economics, international trade, affirmative action, business competition, price gouging, illegal drugs, Internet piracy, baby auctions, inequality and IQ, the stock market, the minimum wage, an economic love story, the economics of government, and why Africa is poor. This course is less mathematical than Economics 150. Open only to junior and senior non-economics majors or minors. A student may not receive credit for both ECO 127 and ECO 150 (or its equivalent), nor for both ECO 127 and ECO 123. (E) {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered in alternate years 

ECO 150 Introductory Microeconomics 
How and how well do markets work? What should government do in a market economy? How do markets set prices, determine what is produced and decide who gets the goods? We consider important economic issues including preserving the environment, free trade, taxation, (de)regulation and poverty. {QS} {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered both fall and spring semesters 

ECO 153 Introductory Macroeconomics 
An examination of current macroeconomic policy issues, including the short and long-run effects of budget deficits, the determinants of economic growth, causes and effects of inflation, and the effects of high trade deficits. The course focuses on what, if any, government (monetary and fiscal) policies should be pursued in order to achieve low inflation, full employment, high economic growth and rising real wages. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered both fall and spring semesters 

ECO 220 Introduction to Statistics and Econometrics 
Summarizing, interpreting and analyzing empirical data. Attention to descriptive statistics and statistical inference. Topics include elementary sampling, probability, sampling distributions, estimation, hypothesis testing and regression. Assignments include use of statistical software and micro computers to analyze labor market and other economic data. Prerequisite: ECO 150 or ECO 153. Students are not given credit for both ECO 220 and any of the following courses: GOV 190, SOC 201, MTH 201, PSY 201 MTH 220. Course limited to 55 students. {M} {QS} {S} Credits: 5 
Normally offered both fall and spring semesters

ECO 240 Econometrics 
Applied regression analysis. The specification and estimation of economic models, hypothesis testing, statistical significance, interpretation of results, policy implications. Emphasis on practical applications and cross-section data analysis. Prerequisites: ECO 150, ECO 153, MTH 111 and either ECO 220, MTH 220 or MTH 291. {M} {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered each academic year 

ECO 250 Intermediate Microeconomics 
Focuses on the economic analysis of resource allocation in a market economy and on the economic impact of various government interventions, such as minimum wage laws, national health insurance and environmental regulations. Covers the theories of consumer choice and decision making by the firm. Examines the welfare implications of a market economy, and of federal and state policies which influence market choices. Prerequisites: ECO 150 and MTH 111 or its equivalent. Enrollment limited to 55 students. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered both fall and spring semesters 

ECO 253 Intermediate Macroeconomics 
Builds a cohesive theoretical framework within which to analyze the workings of the macroeconomy. Current issues relating to key macroeconomic variables such as output, inflation and unemployment are examined within this framework. The role of government policy, both in the short run and the long run, is also assessed. Prerequisites: ECO 153 and MTH 111 or its equivalent. Enrollment limited to 55 students. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered both fall and spring semesters 

ECO 254 Behavioral Economics 
An examination of the combination of economists’ models and psychologists’ understanding of human behavior. This combination fosters new understanding of consumers’ and firms’ decision-making. Topics include decisions motivated by issues of fairness or revenge (rather than self-interest); decisions based on the discounting of future happiness; decisions based on individuals’ incorrect beliefs about themselves (such as underestimating the power of bad habits or cravings). This new understanding has implications for economic, political, legal and ethical issues. Prerequisites: ECO 220 and ECO 250. (E)Credits: 4 
Normally offered in alternate years 

ECO 255 Mathematical Economics 
Review of mathematical techniques required for a rigorous study of economics. Extensive instruction on applications of these techniques to economic problems will be provided. Emphasis will be put on static and dynamic optimization and comparative statics. Applications to microeconomics, macroeconomics, and financial economics will be discussed. The course prerquisites are ECO 250, ECO 253, MTH 211, and MTH 212 or permission of the instructor.{M} {S} Credits: 4 
Expected to be offered in the next 3 years

ECO 256 Topics in Applied Microeconomic Theory 
This course prepares students to understand and construct mathematical models for applied microeconomic analysis. The course covers both mathematical techniques and their economic applications. Emphasis particularly on the use of constrained optimization and comparative statics to undertake positive and normative analysis of selected government policies. Prerequisites: MTH 111, 112, 211, 212 and ECO 250 or permission of instructor.{M} {S} Credits: 4 
Expected to be offered in the next 3 years 

ECO 258 Applied Market Design
In 2012, the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics Sciences was awarded to Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley for their theoretical and practical work on the design of markets. This course provides an introduction to the field of market design, focusing on the functioning of specific markets and market mechanisms. Applications include but are not limited to: auctions, kidney exchange, medical match, school choice, course allocation, and trading on the stock market. In addition, we will study the market design aspects of new technologies that facilitate new types of marketplaces, such as cryptocurrencies and taxi-ride platforms. Prerequisite: ECO 250 or permission of the instructor. {S} Credits: 4
Expected to be offered in the next 3 years

ECO 271 The Economics of Climate Change 
Climate change has been recognized as "the major, overriding environmental issue of our time, and the single greatest challenge facing environmental regulators” by the United Nations Secretary General. In this class we use the tools of economics to analyze and understand the many challenges of climate change. Topics covered include climate damages, market failure and externalities, emissions standards and taxes, cap and trade, discounting, risk and uncertainty, mitigation and integrated assessment models, adaptation, development, and gender. Prerequisites: ECO 220 and ECO 250. (E) {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered in alternate years 

ECO 272 Law and Economics 
An economic analysis of legal rules and cases. Topics include property law, contract law, accident law, criminal law, the Coase theorem and the economics of litigation. Prerequisite: ECO 250. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered in alternate years

ECO 360 Economics of Crime
This course is designed with two central goals. First, use microeconomic and econometric tools to explore and understand crime and incarceration. Relevant topics include but are not limited to: Are criminals rational economic actors? What policies most efficiently mitigate the social costs associated with criminal activity? What role does incarceration play in deterrence incapacitation, and rehabilitation? Second, develop the key tools for economic work including analytical thinking and writing as well as research and presentation skills. {S} Credits: 4
Expected to be offered in the next 3 years  

ECO 362 Seminar: Population Economics 
Topics course. 

The Economics of Aging 
Many countries today face rapidly aging populations. The economic consequences will pose enormous challenges to policymakers. What are the implications of an aging population for the sustainability of pension funds and health care systems? for labor force growth and productivity growth? for savings and asset markets? for the demand for public and private goods? What policy options have economists offered to deal with these issues? In this seminar we study these questions and more from both microeconomic and macroeconomic perspectives. Prerequisites: ECO 250, ECO 253 and ECO 220. Enrollment limited to 15. {S} Credits: 4 
Expected to be offered in the next 3 years 

ECO 363 Seminar: Inequality 
The causes and consequences of income and wealth inequality. Social class and social mobility in the U.S. The role of IQ and education. The distributional impact of technical change and globalization. Is there a “trade-off” between equality and economic growth? The benefits of competition and cooperation. Behavioral and experimental economics: selfishness, altruism and reciprocity. Fairness and the dogma of economic rationality. Does having more stuff make us happier? Prerequisites: ECO 220 and 250. {S} Credits: 4 
Expected to be offered in the next 3 years

PPL 220 Public Policy Analysis 
Analysis of the institutions and processes of public policy formation and implementation. Explores models designed to explain policy and also those whose purpose is to “improve” policy. Develops and uses analytical tools of formal policy analysis. Examines the debate over the possible and proper uses of these analytic tools. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered in alternate years 

ECO 224 Environmental Economics 
The economic causes of environmental degradation and the role that markets can play in both causing and solving pollution and resource allocation problems. Topics include resource allocation and sustainability, cost-benefit analysis, pollution standards, taxes, and permits, public goods and common property resources. Prerequisite: ECO 150. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered each academic year 

ECO 230 Urban Economics 
Economic analysis of the spatial structure of cities—why they are where they are and look like they do. How changes in technology and policy reshape cities over time. Selected urban problems and policies to address them include housing, transportation, concentrations of poverty, financing local government. Prerequisite: ECO 150. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered each academic year 

ECO 234 Partisan Economic Issues 
An analysis of selected microeconomic and macroeconomic issues about which our two political parties disagree. Specific issues include health care; Social Security and other entitlement programs; taxes, government spending and budget deficits; immigration; and the role of government in the economy. Prerequisites: ECO 150, ECO 153 and ECO 220 or its equivalent. Credits: 4 
Normally offered in alternate years 

PPL 250 Race and Public Policy in the United States 
Explanation of current policy issues regarding race. Topics include voting rights, compensation, public and private education, bilingual education and affirmative action in employment. Recommended background: PPL 220 or a course in American government.{S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered in alternate years 

ECO 260 Public Economics 
This course surveys the field of Public Economics (also know as Public Finanace), which explores the reasons for government intervention in the economy, the extent of that intervention, and the response of private agents to the government’s actions.  The central goal of the course is to use microeconomic theoretical tools to explore and understand government intervention in the market and to analyze government expenditure programs and tax policy. Relevant topics include but are not limited to welfare reform, income inequality, education, health care, social security and tax reform.
Prerequisite: ECO 250. Recommended: ECO 220. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered in alternate years 

ECO 263 Labor Economics 
This course applies economic principles and elementary statistics to the study of labor markets. Topics include labor force participation, unemployment, immigration, wage determination, income distribution and labor market discrimination. Students examine the rationale for and consequences of many economic policies such as a statutory minimum wage, unemployment compensation, child care policies and public pension programs. The class investigates these issues through readings of recent economic research and by analyzing labor market data. Prerequisites: ECO 153, 220 and 250. Credits: 4 
Expected to be offered in the next 3 years 

ECO 265 Economics of Corporate Finance 
An investigation of the economic foundations for investment, financing and related decisions in the business corporation. Basic concerns and responsibilities of the financial manager, and the methods of analysis employed by them are emphasized. This course offers a balanced discussion of practical as well as theoretical developments in the field of financial economics. Prerequisites: ECO 250, ECO 220 and MTH 111. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered each fall 

ECO 275 Money and Banking 
An investigation of the role of financial instruments and institutions in the economy. Major topics include the determination of interest rates, the characteristics of bonds and stocks, the structure and regulation of the banking industry, the functions of a modern central bank and the formulation and implementation of monetary policy. Prerequisite: ECO 253 or permission of the instructor. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered in alternate years 

ECO 314 Seminar: Industrial Organization and Antitrust Policy 
An examination of the latest theories and empirical evidence about the organization of firms and industries. Topics include mergers, advertising, strategic behaviors such as predatory pricing, vertical restrictions such as resale price maintenance or exclusive dealing, and antitrust laws and policies. Prerequisite: ECO 250. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered each academic year 

ECO 324 Seminar 
Topics course. 

Economics of the Environment and Natural Resources 
How do we expect competitive markets to allocate natural resources? Will market systems result in excess pollution? Can we improve market outcomes in relation to the environment and natural resources? If so, what are the relative strengths and weaknesses of different approaches? This course examines these issues through discussion of the economic theories of externalities, common property and public goods and their implications for the allocation of resources. We explore these questions by analyzing specific policy issues and debates related to the environment and resource use including: climate change, pollution, biodiversity, energy, sustainability, land use and fishing rights. Through this exploration, we touch upon a number of other theories and techniques including dynamic optimization and intertemporal choice, price vs. quantity regulation, nonmarket valuation, cost-benefit analysis and the use of incentive-based regulation. Prerequisites: ECO 250 and ECO 220 or permission of the instructor. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered in alternate years 

ECO 331 Seminar: The Economics of Sports 
This seminar will explore economic principles behind the operation of the sports industry in the United States and internationally. Specific topics to be covered include: antitrust; athlete compensation; labor market behavior; competitive balance; team value and profitability; economic impact and financing of stadiums; economics of the Olympics and World Cup; and, economic issues in college sports. Prerequisites: ECO 250 and ECO 220.{S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered each spring 

ECO 341 Economics of Health Care 
An examination of current economic and public policy issues in health care. Topics include markets for health insurance, physician services, and hospital services; public policies to enhance health care quality and access; the economics of the pharmaceutical industry; and alternatives for reforming the U.S. health care system. Prerequisites: ECO 250 and 220 or permission of the instructor.  {S} Credits: 4 
Expected to be offered in the next 3 years 

ECO 351 Seminar: The Economics of Higher Education 
An exploration of several of the following topics in the economics of higher education: the economic returns to a college education; the additional economic returns to attending an elite college; the determinants of college admissions; the role of SAT scores in determining performance in college; the construction and effects of the U.S. News rankings of colleges; peer effects in colleges; and the current (and future) crisis in funding higher education. The course emphasizes empirically testing economic hypotheses using several databases. Prerequisites: ECO 250 and ECO 220. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered in alternate years 

ECO 364 Seminar: The Economics of Future Technology 
Brain implants, embryo selection, self-driving cars, nanotechnology, robot nurses, virtual teachers, cognitive enhancing drugs and artificial general intelligences are among the technologies that might have a large impact on our economy over the next few decades. This seminar uses the tools of microeconomics to explore the potential effects of these and other possible technologies and to explain how economic incentives shape the types of technologies businesses develop. Prerequisite: ECO 250. {S} Credits: 4 
Expected to be offered in the next 3 years

ECO 211 Economic Development 
An overview of economic development theory and practice since the 1950s. Why have global economic inequalities widened? What economic policies have been implemented in the developing countries of Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East in search of economic development, what theories underlie these policies, and what have been the consequences for economic welfare in these regions? Topics include trade policy (protectionism versus free trade), financial policy, industrial development strategies, formal and informal sector employment, women in development, international financial issues (lending, balance of payments deficits, the debt and financial crises), structural adjustment policies and the increasing globalization of production and finance. Prerequisites: ECO 150 and ECO 153. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered each academic year 

ECO 219 The Chinese Economy 
This course offers an analysis of the recent development of the Chinese economy, its rapid transformation in the post-Mao period, and the implications of this transformation for the welfare of Chinese households. Topics to be discussed include economic reform, trade liberalization, demography, inequality, health and environmental challenges. Fundamental topics in principles of economics will be covered in an intuitive way through topics pertaining to China. Course performance will be assessed through participation, in-class quizzes, literature critiques, and a final paper plus presentation. Prerequisite: ECO 150 and ECO 153. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered each academic year 

ECO 226 Economics of European Integration 
Why would countries give up their own currencies to adopt a common new one? Why can citizens of Belgium simply move to France without any special formalities? This course investigates such questions by analyzing the ongoing integration of European countries from an economic perspective. While the major focus is on the economics of integration, account is taken of the historical, political and cultural context in which this process occurred. Major topics include the origins, institutions and policies of the European Union, the integration of markets for labor, capital and goods and monetary integration. Prerequisites: ECO 150 and 153. Enrollment limit of 36. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered in alternate years 

ECO 295 International Trade and Commercial Policy 
An examination of the trading relationships among countries and of the flows of factors of production throughout the world economy. Beginning with the theories of international trade, this course moves on to examine various policy issues in the international economy, including commercial policy, protectionism and the distribution of the gains from trade, multilateral trade negotiations, preferential trade agreements, the impact of transnational firms and globalization, immigration, and trade and economic development. Prerequisite: ECO 250. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered each academic year 

ECO 296 International Finance 
An examination of international monetary theory and institutions and their relevance to national and international economic policy. Topics include mechanisms of adjustment in the balance of payments; macroeconomic and exchange-rate policy for internal and external balance; international movements of capital; and the history of the international monetary system: its past crises and current prospects; issues of currency union and optimal currency area; and emerging markets. Prerequisite: ECO 253. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered each spring 

ECO 311 Seminar: Topics in Economic Development 
Topics course. 

The Political Economy of Development in Africa 
Since postcolonial times, Africa has seen both hope and despair for its development. This seminar explores the roles of many factors in the development of African states and the uplifting from poverty of individual Africans. In particular, we look at infrastructure and investment; health and education; trade; finance and markets; the choice of policy; and the effects of institutions, governance and politics. We also try to make sense of the differences and the similarities among the various paths to development in Africa. Prerequisites: ECO 250 and ECO 253; Recommended: ECO 211 or ECO 213. {S} Credits: 4
Normally offered in alternate years 

The Economic Development of India 
This seminar applies and extends microeconomic theory to analyze selected topics related to the India’s economic development. Throughout the course an emphasis is placed on empirically testing economic hypotheses using data from India. In particular, the following topics are explored, with reference to India’s growth and development: education, health, demographics, caste and gender, institutions, credit, insurance, infrastructure, water and climate change. Topics and assignments may be changed in response to the class’s particular interests. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered in alternate years 

ECO 319 Seminar: Economics of Migration 
Who migrates? Why do they move? Where do they leave from and move to? What are the economic impacts? This course offers an overview of historical and current migration patterns, and examines the main theories and empirics behind the economics of migration -- its causes and consequences. The course concludes with a discussion of the policy implications, drawing examples from internal migration reform in China and current immigration policy debates in the U.S. Prerequisite: ECO 250, 253 and 220. {M} {S} Credits: 4 
Expected to be offered in the next 3 years 

ECO 375 Seminar: The Theory and Practice of Central Banking 
What role do central banks play in the management of short-run economic fluctuations? What has driven the recent global trend towards more powerful and independent central-banking institutions? This course explores the theoretical foundations that link central bank policy to real economic activity. Building on this theoretical background, the monetary policy frameworks and operating procedures of key central banks are then examined. Much of the analysis focuses on the current practices of the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, with a view to identifying the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two institutions. Prerequisite: ECO 220, ECO 253 and a course in either international finance or money and banking such as ECO 275 or ECO 296. {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered in alternate years 

ECO 395 Seminar: Topics in International Trade 
The globalization of the world economy has contributed to both boom and crisis. This seminar explores selected topics relating to the increased openness of national borders to the flow of goods and services, labor and real capital. For 2017, the seminar will pay special attention to the impact of globalization on income inequality and national identity. In particular, we will examine whether international trade, immigration and emigration play a significant role in the growth of income inequality, both within and among nations, over the past several decades and, if they do, what, if anything, might be done to attenuate or reverse these trends? Prerequisites: ECO 250, and one 200-level course in international economics or the equivalent.  {S} Credits: 4 
Normally offered in alternate years 

ECO 396 Seminar: International Financial Markets 
This seminar focuses on four aspects of international financial markets: (1) International Portfolio Diversification with an emphasis on the role of the emerging economies; (2) Global Financial Crises and their impact on the economy; (3) Global Economic Imbalances provides an analysis of comparison of saver economies such as China, Germany and Japan with that of the borrowing economies such as the United States; (4) The Foreign Exchange Market focuses on currency crises and international disputes about China’s exchange rate policy. In studying each topic, both theoretical frameworks and empirical analyses are considered. Prerequisites: ECO 265 and ECO 296; Recommended: ECO 240. {S} Credits: 4
Normally offered in alternate years

Cross-listed Course
With prior permission of the instructor, economics credit will be given for Public Policy, Environmental Science and Policy, and for Middle East Studies courses when taught by a member of the economics department.
MES 220 The Arab Spring: Economic Roots and Aftermath
An exploration of the economic dynamics underlying the Arab Spring and the economic dimensions of the aftermath in the period since 2010. Considering the interaction between economic factors, on the one hand, and socio-political forces, on the other hand, as well as the global context and international pressures on the Arab region, we use a wide range of scholarly and other sources to examine and compare the developmental experience of various countries from North Africa and Egypt to the Levant, Iraq and the Arab Gulf. A previous course in Middle Eastern economics, politics, history or culture recommended, but not required. {H} {S} Credits: 4
Normally offered in alternate years

 

Study Abroad or Away

Adviser: Mahnaz Mahdavi 

A junior year abroad information session for economics majors is held annually in October.

Majors in economics who wish to study abroad or away for a semester or a year are strongly urged to take, at a minimum, the five required courses for the major—150, 153, 220, 250 and 253—at Smith by the end of their sophomore year.

Only courses taught by an economist will be considered for economics credit. The major adviser and the study abroad adviser must both sign the final plans of study before the student submits an application to the Office for International Study.

Opportunities for Economics Majors

There are many opportunities available to economics majors. Contact the Office for International Studies for all current available programs. Opportunities available to economics majors include the Jean Picker Semester-In-Washington Program, open to Smith junior and senior government majors and to other Smith juniors and seniors with an appropriate background in the social sciences.

Samuel Bowles Prize

This prize is awarded to majors in the graduating class for the most distinguished paper in economics. Submissions are due by the last day of classes and should be emailed (preferred) or given to Sherry Wingfield, Wright Hall 225. Questions should be directed to the chair of the department, Andrew Zimbalist.

Sidney S. Cohen Prize

This prize is awarded for outstanding work in the field of economics.

Larry C. Selgelid Memorial Prize

This award is given to a Smith senior for the greatest contribution to the Department of Economics.

To learn more about academic prize competitions, see the Dean of the College website.

 

What can I do with a major in economics?

Individuals with training in economics are well prepared for a variety of careers. In most cases, the rigor and precision of technical training in economics will give the graduate a competitive advantage. In virtually all fields, the ability to write clearly and convincingly is a major asset. Majors are strongly urged to take courses that will develop their writing skills both within and outside the economics department.

Perhaps the most important aspect of planning an economics major involves keeping a number of options open. Specifically, flexibility depends on your having taken the basic courses early in the major. Economics 220 (formerly 190), 250 and 253 should all be taken as early as possible. In addition, we recommend Math 111 (Calc. I), taken early for economics majors. For certain career paths, additional math is a necessity, typically through Linear Algebra, and taking it would certainly add to your options in this respect.


Career Paths Related to Economics

Professional Economist

To be considered a professional economist, students must go on to graduate training leading to the M.A. or (more likely) the Ph.D. Economists are employed in academia, business and government, but their basic training almost always involves graduate school in economics. Students contemplating graduate school in economics should see their adviser and check the catalogs of a variety of schools to determine their entrance requirements. Your adviser will nearly always recommend more math. You are advised to master the material in ECO 255 and 240 as well as MTH 111, 112, 211, 212, 280 and 281. Aside from these suggestions, no other courses specifically must be taken, although you might take a number of more advanced, somewhat technical, courses to see if you enjoy doing what economists do.

Graduate Business School (M.B.A.)

Individuals contemplating administrative or business careers should seriously consider obtaining advanced training in business. In virtually all instances your employment opportunities will be enhanced if you do this.

Preparation for business school includes attention to economic theory, as well as to mathematics and statistics. You should plan to take calculus early in your career, and while it is somewhat less essential than for those pursuing a doctorate, taking math through linear algebra and econometrics is helpful. Taking "business type" courses, such as accounting and finance, may certainly help inform you about some of the subjects you will take in business school and the things you might be dealing with in a business career. Although an accounting course is offered at Smith (ACC 223), it does not count toward the course requirement for the major.

Business schools vary. Some are quite quantitative or theory oriented, others less so. Note, however, that if you choose a course of study that avoids quantitative studies and math, you tend to reduce your options, while if you do stress these areas, you can still go to a nontechnical business school if you wish.

Finally, note that an M.B.A. is useful training for many nonbusiness jobs, such as administrative positions in nonprofit institutions (e.g., health, the arts, government). It will therefore often be a prelude to many of the careers noted as follows.

Public Policy (Master of Public Policy)

Public policy programs are generally similar to business school programs, but with a greater emphasis on roles of government, the economy and on the tools of public policy analysis. As with master's programs, there is a range of emphasis on quantitative content.

Law (J.D. or L.L.B.)

Especially useful for law school are courses developing analytical skills (theory). There is less emphasis on specific quantitative skills, although law training is becoming increasingly quantitative at the best schools. Courses in government regulation, law and labor law might be of special interest, but are in no sense an absolute requirement. Some accounting could be useful to you. Courses dealing with government or the sociology of crime might be useful adjuncts.

Labor Relations (M.A.)

A general major with attention to the labor and industrial relations courses—both in the economics department and in other departments (e.g., sociology and history)—is the best preparation for these programs.

Governmental (Federal)

In Washington, you will find opportunities for employment with both the legislative and executive branches of the government. Openings in the offices of senators and congressmen are not frequent, but they do exist. The greater number of possibilities occur within the various congressional committees. Those committees from the House of Representatives that hire a good number of economists include: Ways and Means, Education and Labor, Banking and Currency, Interstate and Foreign Commerce, Appropriations and Agriculture; and these from the Senate: Finance, Labor and Public Welfare, Banking and Currency, Interstate and Foreign Commerce, Appropriations and Agriculture and Forestry. Executive departments that hire economists, some of them in fairly large numbers, include (but are not limited to): the departments of State, Treasury, Labor, Health, Education, and Welfare, Commerce, Agriculture and Defense.

Other agencies and arms of the executive branch of government that hire economists are: the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Trade Commission, and the other regulatory commissions such as the C.A.B., L.C.C., F.C.C., F.P.C., the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Central Intelligence Agency, Council of Economic Advisers, International Cooperation Administration. Field courses depend on the agency or office you are concerned with (e.g., money and macro for the Federal Reserve System), but in every case you should have a strong grounding in quantitative and writing skills. Much of your work is likely to involve research and report preparation, in which these skills will be essential.

Governmental (State and Local)

Many of the comments described in the federal government fields hold here as well. State and local governments have many different offices and agencies.

Quantitative and writing skills are again of primary importance. In addition, courses in the regional or urban economics area, and in public finance, would be a plus.

Secondary Education

An economics major can be certified to teach social science at the high school level with a few additional courses, including a practicum in education. Check the education department section in the Smith College catalog for courses.

International Organizations

These include the U.N., O.E.C.D., L.L.O., World Bank, L.M.F., and many, many others. Important courses include international trade and finance and economic development, as well as a good preparation in quantitative skills. Other courses in specific areas of interest (labor, agriculture, comparative systems, area studies) can also be helpful.

Private Business

Here the possibilities are so widespread that enumeration is impossible. Preparation would be similar to that for those going on to graduate business school, except that somewhat more attention should be given to immediately marketable skills. Even so, most businesses are looking for bright, trainable people who have exhibited the capacity for hard work, regardless of the particular courses they have taken.

Private Research and Consulting

A number of firms employ people to undertake economic research. They include Data Resources, Charles River Associates, RAND, and many others.

Courses in regional and urban, public finance, land use, and econometrics are useful since many of these firms' contracts fall in these areas.

Other Fields

There are many fields in which some undergraduate economics training is useful, including medicine and public health, environmental studies, social work and international relations.

Contact

Economics

Wright Hall 225
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3503

Administrative Assistant:
Sherry Wingfield

Course and credit questions should be directed to the chair of the department, Andrew Zimbalist.

Individual appointments may be arranged directly with the faculty.