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Bard College Catalogue 2020-21
Sanjaya DeSilva (director), Kris Feder, Liudmila Malyshava, Michael Martell, Aniruddha Mitra, Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, Pavlina R. Tcherneva, Leanne Ussher, L. Randall Wray
The basic methodological approach of economics is to analyze the ubiquitous problem of human choice among alternative uses of limited resources. Economics examines how decisions are influenced by incentives, opportunities, and resource constraints, and explores the interacting consequences of those choices in our private and public lives.
The Bard Economics Program emphasizes the policy applications of economic theory at the local, national, and global levels. A wide range of courses in economic theory, applied economics, quantitative research methods, economic history, and economic thought are regularly offered. For students who wish to pursue a career in the financial world, Bard offers a five-year program leading to a BS degree in economics and finance and a BA degree in any other program.
Three economics courses are required for Moderation, including Economics 100 and two 200-level courses. At Moderation students identify an area of focus and discuss their preliminary ideas for the Senior Project. Graduation requirements include: (1) the theory sequence (Principles of Economics, Intermediate Microeconomics, and Intermediate Macroeconomics); (2) Introduction to Econometrics; (3) a course in economic history; (4) a course in economic thought; (5) at least four electives at the 200 level or above in economics, two of which must be at the 300 level (students with joint majors or interdisciplinary concentrations may replace one 300-level elective with two 300-level courses in a related discipline); (6) Calculus I (Mathematics 141) or the equivalent is a prerequisite for Economics 201 (Calculus II, Mathematics 142, is recommended); and (7) the Senior Project.
Recent Senior Projects in Economics
- “An Analysis of the Real Estate Market in China”
- “Cryptocurrencies: A Currency at All or a Speculative Investment for the Future?”
- “Examination of United States Housing Data and the Racial Wealth Gap: Case Study of Westchester County, New York”
- “Once We Were Warriors, Now We’re Unemployed,” a solution for New Zealand’s persistent unemployment
Students usually begin their study of economics by taking Principles of Economics (Economics 100). The 200-level courses typically assume knowledge of introductory theory and are of special interest to students in political studies, historical studies, sociology, philosophy, human rights, global and international studies, social policy, and environmental and urban studies. Students who have completed introductory theory are encouraged to take at least one 200-level applied course before proceeding to more advanced coursework. The 300-level Upper College courses and seminars provide advanced treatment of theory, research methodology, and applications for moderated economics majors. Students are encouraged to construct their academic program in a sequence of cognate courses that culminates in a Senior Project.
Students contemplating graduate school in economics are encouraged to take advanced theory courses and to develop their quantitative skills with additional courses such as Mathematical Economics (Economics 205), Advanced Econometrics (Economics 329), and related courses in mathematics (Linear Algebra, Proofs and Fundamentals, Probability, and Mathematical Statistics).
Sample curricula for all areas of study within the Economics Program are available on the Economics Program website.
The following descriptions represent a sampling of courses from the past four years.
Principles of Economics
CROSS-LISTED: ECONOMICS AND FINANCE, EUS, GIS
An introduction to the essential ideas of economic analysis. The microeconomics component of the course develops the basic model of consumer and firm behavior, including demand and supply, in the context of an idealized competitive market and examines several ways in which the real world deviates from this model, including monopoly, minimum wages and other price controls, taxes, and government regulation. The macroeconomics component studies the aggregate behavior of modern economies and the government’s ability (or inability) to use monetary and fiscal policies to achieve economic goals such as full employment and price stability.
Economics for Planet Earth
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN STUDIES, EUS
Congress’s 2019 Green New Deal observes that current U.S. crises include climate change, pollution, and environmental destruction; a four-decade trend of economic stagnation, deindustrialization, and antilabor policies; great income inequality; national security threats; and declining life expectancy, health, education, and quality of life. It calls for a massive mobilization of resources, with participation by the federal government, state and local governments, community organizations, labor unions, businesses, and families. This course explores feedback loops among these several crises and policies that address them.
Money and Banking
This course examines the role of money and financial intermediaries in determining aggregate economic activity. Interactions of savers, investors, and regulatory authorities in domestic and international capital markets are analyzed, and the linkage between the financial system and the real economy is traced. The functions of central banks, commercial banks, securities dealers, and other intermediaries are covered in detail. The debate over the goals, tools, indicators, and effectiveness of monetary policy is considered in light of current economic problems. Prerequisite: Economics 100.
CROSS-LISTED: ECONOMICS AND FINANCE
Microeconomics is the study of how individual economic units (households and firms) interact to determine outcomes (allocation of goods and services) in a market setting. The objectives of the course include understanding the concepts covered in Economics 100 in terms of mathematics; studying advanced topics, such as choice under uncertainty and information asymmetry, which have traditionally relied on mathematics for illustration of ideas; and learning how to use mathematics to conduct in-depth economic analysis. Prerequisites: Economics 100 and Mathematics 141.
An introduction to the main models used by macroeconomists to analyze the way economies behave. Students examine models that explain long-run economic growth, economic theories concerning recessions and booms, and the role of governments in affecting the long- and short-run economic prospects of their countries. Theoretical knowledge is applied to a range of current economic issues.
CROSS-LISTED: ECONOMICS AND FINANCE, EUS, GIS, POLITICAL STUDIES
Game theory is the study of how rational actors behave when they know that their actions hold consequences, not just for themselves but for others—and how they, in turn, are affected by the actions taken by others. As the applicability of the discipline extends far beyond the analysis of economic behavior, the course introduces the basics of game theory and then examines a wide variety of applications from economics, political science, and environmental studies. Prerequisite: Economics 100.
National Economic Policy
The course investigates selected macroeconomic policies employed around the world to address issues of unemployment, poverty, inflation, and economic instability. Policy decisions are often guided by more than pure economic theory; political considerations, national interests, social concerns, and global trends also drive policy. The class examines the confluence of these forces along with the institutions and structures that enable them. The objective is to investigate the macroeconomic impact of these policies and identify the ones that are viable and sustainable.
An introduction to the use of elementary calculus and linear algebra in economic theory. This course provides the basic mathematical skills necessary to approach the professional economics literature. Emphasis is on formulating economic problems and building economic models in mathematical language. Applications are based upon simple micro- and macroeconomic models. Prerequisites: Economics 100 and calculus.
Local Community Currencies
DESIGNATED: ELAS COURSE
Hyman Minsky famously said “Anyone can create money; the problem is to get it accepted.” This course examines the rise in alternative currencies by grassroots organizations to confront the ills of market-based capitalism. Classes cover monetary theory, game theory, economics of the commons, and token economics. While learning the design principles of making a new currency “accepted,” students analyze data from local currency networks by programming in Mathematica. Prerequisite: Economics 100 or 114, or permission of the instructor.
Early History of Economic Thought
CROSS-LISTED: GIS, STS
In this survey of economic thought through the early 20th century, the class considers the “laissez faire” physiocrats; classical political economy, shaped by philosophers like Hume, Mill, and Smith; how the use of calculus transformed the methods and models of economic theory; and the genesis of neoclassical economics, which dominates the discipline today. Questions posed include: What problems did economic philosophers seek to resolve? How did theory respond to changing economic and political environments? Which ideas remain at the core of economic thought, and which have been jettisoned?
History of Economic Thought: 20th Century
Students explore the ideas of the greatest economic thinkers of the 20th century, including Marshall, Keynes, Hayek, Sraffa, Veblen, Schumpeter, Galbraith, and Nobel Prize recipients Samuelson, Friedman, Sen, Stiglitz, and Krugman. Also considered: schools of thought such as the New Keynesians, Post Keynesians, and New Classicals; and issues like the business cycle, unemployment, free markets, and the role of governments.
The course covers theories of the production, supply, and demand for health and health care services, with a special emphasis on the theoretical implications for U.S. policy. The determinants and implications of health care services are approached through neoclassical as well as heterodox schools of economic thought. The course endeavors not to provide a set of “facts” regarding health provisioning in different contexts, but to equip students with the analytical tools necessary for intellectual engagement in research and debates surrounding the economics of health.
Economic Transition from Socialism to a Market-Based Economy
CROSS-LISTED: GIS, RES
The course investigates the causes of the collapse of the socialist system in the countries of the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe, and then identifies similarities and differences in the economic environments of these seemingly homogeneous countries. Students analyze the economic challenges associated with the transition process as well as policy tools that the countries have used to address these challenges. The impact of the economic transformation on social indicators, such as income distribution, poverty, education, and health, is also addressed.
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN STUDIES, GSS
The course focuses on the economic forces and public policies that affect employment and wages. Theoretical models of labor markets and how well they hold up to real-world empirical data are examined, as are topics such as labor demand and supply, minimum wage laws, theories of unemployment, family and life cycle decision making, efficiency wage theory, compensating wage differentials, worker mobility and migration, unions, and discrimination. Prerequisite: Economics 100; Economics 201 and a statistics course are also recommended.
Asian Economic History
CROSS-LISTED: ASIAN STUDIES, GIS
A survey of the events and circumstances that shaped the economic landscape of modern Asia. The course begins in the 19th century, when European contact initiated a process of dramatic change, Japan began a process of modernization, China confronted a series of internal conflicts and external threats, and much of the rest of the continent was absorbed into the colonial economy. Attention is also paid to the trajectories of economic change during the 20th century and various economic models pursued in the region.
CROSS-LISTED: AFRICANA STUDIES, ASIAN STUDIES, EUS, GIS, HUMAN RIGHTS, LAIS, STS
After introducing various definitions of economic development, the course is divided into three parts: the first explores key manifestations of development, such as economic growth, industrialization, urbanization, globalization, inequality, and poverty; the second looks at institutional determinants of development, including markets, political systems, and culture; and the third part deals with policies designed to address specific development goals, such as providing education, promoting gender equity, or expanding access to financial markets. Prerequisite: Economics 100.
CROSS-LISTED: ECONOMICS AND FINANCE, GIS
An introduction to economic theories and concepts that help us understand why nations trade, who benefits and who loses from trade, and why trade is regulated. Each week, a question is posed, based on class interests—e.g., Does free trade contribute to the widening gap between rich and poor? Should the United States ban clothing imports from sweatshops in Bangladesh?—and theoretical tools are used to help answer it.
Why do economists disagree? As economic systems have evolved, so have the theories used to explain them. Since Adam Smith, economists have used different assumptions, models, and methodologies to study the role of markets, states, and institutions in the process of social provisioning. This course surveys diverse traditions in economics, competing paradigms, and several distinct approaches, including classical, institutionalist, post-Keynesian, Marxist, feminist, and green. Prerequisite: Economics 100.
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN STUDIES, EUS, STS
Where, why, and how do cities arise, develop, mature, stagnate, decline? What accounts for variations in land value from place to place? What are the causes and consequences of suburbanization and urban sprawl? This course applies economic principles to the analysis of the spatial distribution of human activities. Topics: the ubiquity of urbanization and localization externalities; synergies between public infrastructure and private capital; impacts of urban fiscal policies; and economic approaches to problems such as housing affordability, racial segregation, public transportation, and urban food deserts.
Introduction to Econometrics
CROSS-LISTED: ECONOMICS AND FINANCE, EUS, GIS
The course explores the tools economists use to summarize and interpret data. The first half introduces the concepts of random variables, probability distributions, sampling, descriptive statistics, and statistical inference. The second half focuses on simple and multiple regression analysis. Students learn how to organize and analyze data using Excel and Stata, how to interpret published research, and how to carry out an empirical research project. Prerequisites: Economics 100 and precalculus
Controversies in Monetary Economics
A look at current controversies in monetary theory and policy. Students examine both the mainstream and heterodox approaches to each. Mainstream approaches include monetarism, New Classical, New Keynesian, and the New Monetary Consensus. Heterodox approaches include Post Keynesian (endogenous money and circuit approaches), Marxist, and institutionalist. The class concludes with a detailed examination of Modern Money Theory, which combines various strands of heterodoxy while also including contributions from historical, legal, and anthropological research.
Economics of Aging
Many young people fear that Social Security will go bankrupt long before they reach retirement age. Costs of medical care continue to grow faster than GDP. The global financial crisis wiped out trillions of dollars of pension fund reserves. Will we be able to take care of growing numbers of seniors? Will you be able to accumulate enough retirement savings to see you through your “golden years”? This course examines the demographics, finances, and public policy aspects of these issues.
The field of ecological economics (ECE) draws upon physics, ecology, and other natural and social sciences as well as economics. It views the economy as “an open subsystem of a larger ecosystem that is finite, nongrowing, and materially closed (though open with respect to solar energy).” The positive analyses of ECE are motivated by three normative social goals: (1) efficient allocation of scarce resources, including those that do not pass through markets; (2) justice in distribution; and (3) an ecologically sustainable scale of economic activity.
An introduction to behavioral economics, which combines the use of economic tools with insights from psychology to better understand human behavior. The two primary findings of behavioral economics, that people are not always fully rational and that people are usually nice, is applied to understand phenomena such as cooperation, behavior in the context of risk, determinants of happiness, savings and planning behavior and more, with the primary goal being to better understand and design public policy. Prerequisite: Economics 100 or permission of the instructor.
Foundations of Finance and Investments
Economics 291 / Economics and Finance 291
See Economics and Finance 291 for a full course description.
This seminar examines the nature of economic instability and financial crises in modern history and the Keynesian contributions to macroeconomic stabilization policy. The class explores John Maynard Keynes’s investment theory of the business cycle and Hyman P. Minsky’s financial theory of investment, as well as the controversial question of government intervention. Topics of discussion also include economic policies that deal with problems such as inflation, unemployment, poverty, and financial crises; and the relative effectiveness of monetary and fiscal policies. Prerequisite: Economics 202.
Industrial organization is the study of how industries function and firms interact within an industry. While this is part of the general agenda of microeconomics, industrial organization distinguishes itself by its emphasis on the study of firm behavior in imperfectly competitive markets. This course investigates how firms acquire market power or the ability to influence the price of their product; the strategic behavior of firms that possess market power; and the effect of policy intervention in such industries.
Seminar in Economic Development
CROSS-LISTED: EUS, GIS, HUMAN RIGHTS
The seminar focuses on two broad research questions: Why have so many developing countries (e.g., Mexico, Turkey, China, South Africa, Malaysia) found it difficult to transition from middle-income to high-income economies, a phenomenon known as the “Middle Income Trap”? Why have many developing countries struggled to deliver basic public services (e.g., education of girls, clean water, malaria vaccines) to a large portion of their populations? The class examines these questions from historical, institutional, microeconomic, and macroeconomic perspectives.
Seminar in International Economics
This seminar covers international trade (real or “physical” flows) and international finance (monetary or financial flows). Questions addressed include: Why do countries engage (increasingly) in trade? Does trade benefit everybody? Equally? Should we manage trade flows and if so, do quotas, subsidies, and tariffs make sense? What are the roles and effects of institutions such as the Federal Reserve and International Monetary Fund? Students apply the tools and models of international economics to think analytically and critically about real-world situations. Prerequisite: Economics 202.
In 2014, President Obama bemoaned that in the United States women get paid 77 percent of the wages earned by men for comparable work, a claim that involves comparing two population means and tested using sample data. The comparison seems straightforward, but other factors—how sample data are collected, which individuals choose to participate in the labor market, variations in education—are likely to affect the sample means. Econometrics allows analysts to isolate the effect of the wage gap due to gender alone. This course helps students develop the skills of a thoughtful data detective.
Seminar in Geoclassical Economics
The class reviews the literature of geoclassical economics from its roots in George, Locke, Miller, Quesnay, Ricardo, and Smith to the recently published work of Gaffney, Stiglitz, Tideman, Vickrey, and others. The geoclassical tradition studies the role of property institutions in shaping social, political, and economic life; its research agenda includes economic applications to contemporary and enduring social problems, including rising inequality, public and private debt burdens, urban blight, and suburban sprawl, among others. Prerequisite: Economics 100 or 206. Moderated environmental and urban studies students may enroll with permission of the instructor.
CROSS-LISTED: EUS, GIS, HUMAN RIGHTS
A look at transglobal migration as an economic phenomenon, with a primary focus on human movements in the era of globalization. Questions considered: Who migrates, and why? What are the consequences for the societies they leave behind and those they go to? To what extent does the actual economic impact of immigration determine native perception of immigrants, and what role do these perceptions play in the framing of policy? Prerequisites: Economics 100 and 229.
International Macroeconomics and Finance
CROSS-LISTED: ECONOMICS AND FINANCE, GIS
The course combines international macroeconomics and international finance (financial flows, markets, and institutions), presenting important definitions and theories and stressing real-world examples and policy options. Questions addressed include: What’s special about the case of an open economy? What’s an exchange rate, and does it affect our economies and policies? What are the pros and cons of a flexible/fixed exchange rate system? Why do countries default or go bankrupt? What are the roles and actions of institutions such as the Central Bank and International Monetary Fund? Prerequisite: Economics 202.
Seminar in Discrimination
This course explores the process through which differences in earnings manifest, as well as the impact of these differences on wealth and well-being. Particular attention is paid to the role of discrimination in generating unequal outcomes in labor markets.
Income Distribution: Applied Research Seminar
Since the 1980s, income inequality has increased dramatically and is now the highest on record. More and more income goes to capital and profits, not workers. Since 2000, 95 percent of income gains have gone to the top 1 percent. What explains this shift in the distribution of income? What are the roles of technology, international trade, finance, institutions, and governance? Is there a trade-off between growth and equity? This seminar surveys landmark theories of economic growth and income distribution as they pertain to these questions.
Women and the Economy
The first objective is to introduce different theoretical approaches and methodologies for analyzing labor markets, household production, pay practices, and other economic outcomes that specifically affect women. The second is to use the different theoretical lenses for analyzing key policy questions, such as pay differentials, discrimination, unpaid care burden and labor force participation, comparable worth policies, and globalization’s impact on women.
Contemporary Developments in Finance
This seminar contrasts the academic analysis of financial economics with the coverage it receives in the news media. The news stories are almost always connected with people, yet traditional finance theories concentrate on efficient markets and predictable prices that are determined by the concept of present value, rates of return, and analysis and pricing of computable risks. Human behavior has no place in these theories. This course challenges that view, examining the influence of economic psychology in the decision-making process of various agents and in market dynamics.
Economics 391 / Economics and Finance 391
Capital is a scarce resource. Access to capital and its efficient use are critical to business success. This course discusses how capital can be raised and allocated within corporations to the advantage of corporate shareholders. Topics include the allocation of capital for investments, measurement of the opportunity cost of capital, capital structure, cash-distribution policy, corporate restructuring, and long-term financing. At the end of the course, students know how to value a company.