Introduction to Economics
An introduction to economic methodology, models, and institutions. Includes both basic microeconomics and an introduction to modern approaches to macroeconomic issues. Students are required to participate in economics experiments.
First-Year Seminar: Thinking like an Economist
Economics is a way of analyzing the world in which scarcity requires tradeoffs and creates constraints which are expressed as mathematical optimization. Theories are tested with both controlled experiments and analysis of field data. Motivating clever theories and evidence is a folk concept of "thinking like an economist" (or "economic intuition"). We will develop economic intuition about topics which include: Unintended consequences, how to show causality, partial and general equilibrium, game theory, the effect of institutional systems, price bubbles, pricing risk, drug addiction, and more. First-year (undergraduate) only, limited enrollment. Not offered 2022-23.
This course offers advanced undergraduates the opportunity to pursue research in Economics individually or in a small group. Graded pass/fail.
Senior Research and Thesis
Senior economics majors wishing to undertake research may elect a variable number of units, not to exceed 12 in any one term, for such work under the direction of a member of the economics faculty.
Selected Topics in Economics
Topics to be determined by instructor.
Firms, Competition, and Industrial Organization
A study of how technology affects issues of market structure and how market structure affects observable economic outcomes, such as prices, profits, advertising, and research and development expenditures. Emphasis will be on how the analytic tools developed in the course can be used to examine particular industries-especially those related to internet commerce-in detail. Each student is expected to write one substantial paper.
Behavioral Game Theory
In this course we will examine game theories that are explicitly meant to describe behavior of humans and other species. Prominent models are those with level-k hierarchies, quantal response equilibrium (QRE) and cursed equilibrium. Most of the data is experimental evidence from a wide variety of games. We will also learn about field evidence, mostly about mixed strategies and application of level-k hierarchies to firms' decisions. Data include biological measures such as response times, eye-tracking, fMRI and evidence from psychiatric disorders. Students are expected to replicate an existing experiment (individual students) or work in small teams to create and run a new experiment.
Foundations of Behavioral Economics
In this course we will examine behavioral economics models in several key decision-making contexts: choice over time, choice under uncertainty, choice in market settings (i.e., buying and selling), and others. In each topic area we will begin by providing the standard neoclassical account for behavior, building from assumptions (axioms) to corresponding utility models. We will then ask whether critical axioms of neoclassical models are plausible by calling upon psychological insights and empirical data. Rejection of neoclassical axioms will lead to new models, behavioral economics models, in each setting. These models, mechanisms and their testable predictions will be discussed.
Frontiers in Behavioral Economics
This course will study topics in behavioral economics demonstrating departures from the classic economics assumptions of rationality and pure self-interest. We will study evidence of these departures, models that have been designed to capture these preferences, and applications of these models to important economic questions. Topics will include biases and heuristics, risk preferences, self-control, strategic uncertainty, and social preferences, among others. The course will be based in readings from both classic and modern research. Methodologically, the course will combine both theoretical and empirical evidence of the mentioned above topics.
The role of the government is multifold, from providing public goods to intervening in market failures. Additionally, some policies are motivated by paternalistic concerns of citizens not acting in their own best interest. Through a mix of theory, experiments, and empirical analysis, we will cover methods of assessing individual and societal welfare, the identification and measurement of consumer biases, and theories of when and how the government should intervene in the economy. We will cover topics such as taxation, education, savings, and insurance, and the policies and nudges designed to implement these goals. Not offered 2022-23.
This course provides an introduction to Bayesian Statistics and its applications to data analysis in various fields. Topics include: discrete models, regression models, hierarchical models, model comparison, and MCMC methods. The course combines an introduction to basic theory with a hands-on emphasis on learning how to use these methods in practice so that students can apply them in their own work. Previous familiarity with frequentist statistics is useful but not required.
We will tackle the fundamental question of how to allocate resources and organize exchange in the absence of prices. Examples includes finding a partner, allocating students to schools, and matching donors to patients in the context of organ transplantations. While the main focus will be on formal models, we will also reason about the practical implications of the theory.
This course provides a survey from the perspective of economics of public policy issues regarding the management of natural resources and the protection of environmental quality. The course covers both conceptual topics and recent and current applications. Included are principles of environmental and resource economics, management of nonrenewable and renewable resources, and environmental policy with the focus on air pollution problems, both local problems (smog) and global problems (climate change). Not offered 2022-23.
Introduction to Sports Science
The use of large data sets and innovative statistical methods has revolutionized professional and intercollegiate sports. This course introduces students to the academic and professional world of contemporary sports science. The course will meet biweekly with instructor lectures on sports science and with guest speakers from collegiate and professional sports. Students will be introduced to the primary data sources for sports science, to methods used to collect sports performance and outcomes data, and to the statistical tools used for sports analytics (for example, logistic regression, regression trees and random forest, network models, time series, and natural language processing). Students will be responsible for weekly writing or homework assignments based on readings and speaker presentations, as well as a quarter-long sports analytics research project. Students should have some background in econometrics, statistics and probability, data science, or machine learning.
Theory of Value
A study of consumer preference, the structure and conduct of markets, factor pricing, measures of economic efficiency, and the interdependence of markets in reaching a general equilibrium.
The application of statistical techniques to the analysis of economic data.
Analysis of Consumer Choices
This course uses econometric tools to analyze choices made by people among a finite set of alternatives. Discrete choice models have been used to understand consumer behavior in many domains - shopping between brands (Toyota vs. BMW), where to go to college (Caltech or MIT), choosing between modes of transportation (car, metro, Uber, or bicycle), etc. Models studied include logit, nested logit, probit, and mixed logit, etc. Simulation techniques that allow estimation of otherwise intractable models will also be discussed. Not offered 2022-23.
Identification Problems in the Social Sciences
Statistical inference in the social sciences is a difficult enterprise whereby we combine data and assumptions to draw conclusions about the world we live in. We then make decisions, for better or for worse, based on these conclusions. A simultaneously intoxicating and sobering thought! Strong assumptions about the data generating process can lead to strong but often less than credible (perhaps incredible?) conclusions about our world. Weaker assumptions can lead to weaker but more credible conclusions. This course explores the range of inferences that are possible when we entertain a range of assumptions about how data is generated. We explore these ideas in the context of a number of applications of interest to social scientists.
Understanding Behavioral Heterogeneity
This course will review existing data in several areas of controlled economic decision-making with a focus on individual and group differences. Theoretical and empirical approaches for understanding and decomposing heterogeneity into preference and stochastic components will be presented. Students will gain exposure to prominent experimental techniques, estimation of models of heterogeneity and heterogeneous treatment effects, and out-of-sample prediction exercises. Not offered 2022-23.
Applied Data Analysis
Fundamentally, this course is about making arguments with numbers and data. Data analysis for its own sake is often quite boring, but becomes crucial when it supports claims about the world. A convincing data analysis starts with the collection and cleaning of data, a thoughtful and reproducible statistical analysis of it, and the graphical presentation of the results. This course will provide students with the necessary practical skills, chiefly revolving around statistical computing, to conduct their own data analysis. This course is not an introduction to statistics or computer science. I assume that students are familiar with at least basic probability and statistical concepts up to and including regression.
Economic History of the United States
An examination of certain analytical and quantitative tools and their application to American economic development. Each student is expected to write two substantial papers-drafts will be read by instructor and revised by students. Not offered 2022-23.
Economic History of Europe from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century
Employs the theoretical and quantitative techniques of economics to help explore and explain the development of the European cultural area between 1000 and 1980. Topics include the rise of commerce, the demographic transition, the Industrial Revolution, and changes in inequality, international trade, social spending, property rights, and capital markets. Each student is expected to write nine weekly essays and a term paper. Not offered 2022-23.
Economics of Uncertainty and Information
An analysis of the effects of uncertainty and information on economic decisions. Included among the topics are individual and group decision making under uncertainty, expected utility maximization, insurance, financial markets and speculation, product quality and advertisement, and the value of information. Not offered 2022-23.
Behavioral Decision Theory
This course is an intermediate-level class on individual-level theory. The method used posits precise assumptions about general behavior (axioms) then finds equivalent ways to model them in mathematically convenient terms. We will cover both the traditional “rational’’ approach, and more recent “behavioral’’ models that incorporate psychological principles, in domains of intertemporal choice, random (stochastic) choice, menu choice, and revealed preferences. Students are expected to understand rigorous mathematical proofs. The class also includes serious discussion of the value of experimental evidence motivating new theories. Not offered 2022-23.
This course examines the contemporary literature on economic growth and development from both a theoretical and historical/empirical perspective. Topics include a historical overview of economic progress and the lack thereof; simple capital accumulation models; equilibrium/ planning models of accumulation; endogenous growth models; empirical tests of convergence; the measurement and role of technological advancement; and the role of trade, institutions, property rights, human capital, and culture. Not offered 2022-23.
This course will equip students to engage with active research at the intersection of social and information sciences, including: algorithmic game theory and mechanism design; auctions; matching markets; and learning in games.
Laboratory Experiments in the Social Sciences
Section a required for sections b and c. An examination of recent work in laboratory testing in the social sciences with particular reference to work done in social psychology, economics, and political science. Students are required to design and conduct experiments. Not offered 2022-23.
This course is an introduction to non-cooperative game theory, with applications to political science and economics. It covers the theories of normal-form games and extensive-form games, and introduces solutions concepts that are relevant for situations of complete and incomplete information. The basic theory of repeated games is introduced. Applications are to auction theory and asymmetric information in trading models, cheap talk and voting rules in congress, among many others.
Climate Change Impacts, Mitigation and Adaptation
Climate change has already begun to impact life on the planet, and will continue in the coming decades. This class will explore particular causes and impacts of climate change, technologies to mitigate or adapt to those impacts, and the economic and social costs associated with them - particular focus will be paid to distributional issues, environmental and racial justice and equity intersections. The course will consist of 3-4 topical modules, each focused on a specific impact or sector (e.g. the electricity or transportation sector, climate impacts of food and agriculture, increasing fires and floods). Each module will contain lectures/content on the associated climate science background, engineering/technological developments to combat the issue, and an exploration of the economics and the inequities that exacerbate the situation, followed by group discussion and synthesis of the different perspectives. Not offered 2022-23.
Convex Analysis and Economic Theory
Introduction to the use of convex analysis in economic theory. Includes separating hyperplane theorems, continuity and differentiability properties of convex and concave functions, support functions, subdifferentials, Fenchel conjugates, saddlepoint theorem, theorems of the alternative, polyhedra, linear programming, and duality in graphs. Introduction to discrete convex analysis and matroids. Emphasis is on the finite-dimensional case, but infinite-dimensional spaces will be discussed. Applications to core convergence, cost and production functions, mathematical finance, decision theory, incentive design, and game theory. Not offered 2022-23.
Topics in Learning and Games
This course is an advanced topics course intended for graduate students with a background in optimization, linear systems theory, probability and statistics, and an interest in learning, game theory, and decision making more broadly. We will cover the basics of game theory including equilibrium notions and efficiency, learning algorithms for equilibrium seeking, and discuss connections to optimization, machine learning, and decision theory. While there will be some initial overview of game theory, the focus of the course will be on modern topics in learning as applied to games in both cooperative and non-cooperative settings. We will also discuss games of partial information and stochastic games as well as hierarchical decision-making problems (e.g., incentive and information design).