ECON 490 Course Descriptions

2018/2019 Winter Session

*Note: Subject to change*

If you require assistance with ECON 490 course registration, please email Tina Marandola (tina.marandola@ubc.ca).

Updated: May 30, 2018

Term 1

Two hundred and fifty years ago the wealthiest country in the world was at most four times richer than the poorest country in the world. Today the richest country is almost 100 times richer than the poorest. In this section of Econ 490 we will try to answer this question: Why have some countries grown so quickly over the long run while others have stagnated? In answering this question we will focus on understanding and interpreting the existing empirical theory and evidence, as well as testing some long-run growth models of our own.

The goal of this course is to help you learn how to think, write, and speak like an economist. Throughout the term you will work as a group, with your instructor one-on-one, and alone on your individual research projects. This process is designed to replicate the process followed by your professors in producing their own, publication quality, research. Students are expected to have chosen their research topic by the end of the first week of term and paper writing will begin in the second week; there will be no delay in starting this project. Students will be given a guide (posted on Connect) along with checklists for each stage of the project. At each stage you will be given detailed feedback through the web service turnitin.com that will allow you to both revise that stage and to move forward with your research. The class will meet once a week in the lab for the purpose of developing the empirical skills necessary to conduct this research and a mini-conference will be held one day of the second last weekend of the term.

The assessment in this class will consist of a major research project (60%), an oral presentation (15%), five in-lab econometrics assignments (15%), and in class participation that includes class attendance (10%).

This section introduces students to research in health economics. The course will be divided into two parts. The first part will discuss some interesting research done in health economics such as research on childhood obesity and review some statistical techniques students have learnt previously in Econ 325 and 326 which are important to the completion of a major research paper. In the second part, students will apply their knowledge acquired in this section to a research paper related to health economics. Students will present their findings to the class in a 15-20 minute presentation during the final few weeks of the course. The final paper will be due at the end of term.

This section introduces students to research in health economics. The course will be divided into two parts. The first part will discuss some interesting research done in health economics such as research on childhood obesity and review some statistical techniques students have learnt previously in Econ 325 and 326 which are important to the completion of a major research paper. In the second part, students will apply their knowledge acquired in this section to a research paper related to health economics. Students will present their findings to the class in a 15-20 minute presentation during the final few weeks of the course. The final paper will be due at the end of term.

The goal of this course is to use micro datasets to answer questions related to the economic problems of the poor. Possible topics include health, education, gender, and productivity. We will start with a discussion the questions and empirical methods used in current research on these topics. After choosing your research question and identifying an appropriate dataset, the instructor will guide you through the process of writing a research paper. There will be an emphasis on discussion and collaboration, including in-class presentations of your work in progress.

Introduction: There is hardly any form of learning that is more satisfying than researching, debating a topic and then corroborating your hypothesis with empirical evidence. In this section you are required to work on a research paper under the supervision of the instructor. The broad themes for this section of Econ 490 are Gender, Population and Health.

The course would require you to form a researchable question from topics like gender differences in decision-making, division of labor within the family, and public policies that affect the status and health of women and children. We will draw from various development and health literature from Africa, Asia and Latin America. This course emphasizes conceptual, modeling, and empirical skills widely used in economic analysis and its application to the data from developing world.

The first few sessions would be in a lecture format learning the recent theory and empirical evidence related to various topics in the field. The next few sessions would be in an interactive class setting where students will use STATA (econometric software) to formalize their research question.

The standard model of rational choice is a remarkably useful tool for analyzing economic decisions. Nevertheless, empirical research has demonstrated the existence of many systematic deviations from this benchmark model. Behavioural Economics addresses these potential limitations by introducing elements of psychological realism to the standard model. This allows economists to explain and predict behaviour in those environments where the standard model performs poorly. In this course, students will learn the tools and methods of behavioral economics in an applied context, emphasizing the role of laboratory experiments as a means of generating data to test our theories.

Specific topics may include: decision making under risk and uncertainty, intertemporal choice, social preferences, bounded rationality, behaviour in markets and any other topics in the intersection of interests between students and teacher. For each chosen topic, we will review the standard theory, discuss the experimental literature, and introduce alternative models when appropriate. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to participate in the development of on-going research taking place in the Experimental Lab at the Vancouver School of Economics (ELVSE).

Students will be evaluated on in-class participation and attendance, some written work (primarily reflections on experimental designs introduced in our readings), some problem sets (designed to test students’ understanding of essential theoretical concepts), and a term project which will include analysis of a common experiment.

Please note: As economic experiments are quite expensive to run, students will not have the opportunity to design and implement their own experiment. Rather, we will work together as a group to design a single experiment which will test and (hopefully) implement over the course of the semester. 

This section will focus on a simple problem: how do we take an issue and use our economic tools to analyze it?  This may seem elementary, but it can be surprisingly challenging!  We will look at this problem in the context of applied economic research.  We will do three key things in this course:

1)    Explore the tools, models, and skills necessary for answering questions in applied economics.

2)    Discover how to formulate a good question about a topic that inspires you.

3)    Learn how to answer your question in a convincing way.

The focus will be on taking an idea you care about and building a research topic around it; a process your instructor will guide you through in 1-on-1 meetings.  The best ideas come about because you are passionate about them!  This semester students have the option of either (a) developing their own research question on a topic of their choice or (b) engaging in a community-based learning experience, working with a business or community organization to tackle a real-world problem.  Spaces for option (b) may be limited by availability of community partners, but students who are interested are encouraged to apply.

The course format will be a mixture of lectures, small-group discussions, computer labs, and presentations.  We will review some necessary background in lecture, and learn some new and commonly used models.  We will get hands-on practice with real data through computer labs, and learn how to use statistical software.  We will also learn how to communicate our results clearly both in written form, and in presentations.  Evaluation will be primarily based on (i) in-class participation, (ii) oral presentations, and (iii) your research paper.   Emphasis in-class will be on microeconomic applications, but students with broader interests are also encouraged to attend.

By the end of this course you will have written an empirical research paper on a question broadly related to issues of political economy and development (and hopefully on a question that you are passionate about). How do we get there? We will discuss a number of published papers that illustrate the questions and empirical methods used in current research. I will give you a quick introduction (or refresher for some) to STATA and ArcGIS (for spatial data) and then you are free to choose an interesting research question and identify the appropriate data to convincingly answer it. I will obviously help you throughout the process and by the end of the term you will present your findings to your class mates. To get an idea, possible topics include violence and conflict, corruption, institutions, media, voting, and many more.

Term 2

Two hundred and fifty years ago the wealthiest country in the world was at most four times richer than the poorest country in the world. Today the richest country is almost 100 times richer than the poorest. In this section of Econ 490 we will try to answer this question: Why have some countries grown so quickly over the long run while others have stagnated? In answering this question we will focus on understanding and interpreting the existing empirical theory and evidence, as well as testing some long-run growth models of our own.

The goal of this course is to help you learn how to think, write, and speak like an economist. Throughout the term you will work as a group, with your instructor one-on-one, and alone on your individual research projects. This process is designed to replicate the process followed by your professors in producing their own, publication quality, research. Students are expected to have chosen their research topic by the end of the first week of term and paper writing will begin in the second week; there will be no delay in starting this project. Students will be given a guide (posted on Connect) along with checklists for each stage of the project. At each stage you will be given detailed feedback through the web service turnitin.com that will allow you to both revise that stage and to move forward with your research. The class will meet once a week in the lab for the purpose of developing the empirical skills necessary to conduct this research and a mini-conference will be held one day of the second last weekend of the term.

The assessment in this class will consist of a major research project (60%), an oral presentation (15%), five in-lab econometrics assignments (15%), and in class participation that includes class attendance (10%).

This section will focus on a simple problem: how do we take an issue and use our economic tools to analyze it?  This may seem elementary, but it can be surprisingly challenging!  We will look at this problem in the context of applied economic research.  We will do three key things in this course:

1). Explore the tools, models, and skills necessary for answering questions in applied economics.

2). Discover how to formulate a good question about a topic that inspires you.

3).  Learn how to answer your question in a convincing way.

The focus will be on taking an idea you care about and building a research topic around it; a process your instructor will guide you through in 1-on-1 meetings.  The best ideas come about because you are passionate about them!  This semester students have the option of either (a) developing their own research question on a topic of their choice or (b) engaging in a community-based learning experience, working with a business or community organization to tackle a real-world problem.  Spaces for option (b) may be limited by availability of community partners, but students who are interested are encouraged to apply.

The course format will be a mixture of lectures, small-group discussions, computer labs, and presentations.  We will review some necessary background in lecture, and learn some new and commonly used models.  We will get hands-on practice with real data through computer labs, and learn how to use statistical software.  We will also learn how to communicate our results clearly both in written form, and in presentations.  Evaluation will be primarily based on (i) in-class participation, (ii) oral presentations, and (iii) your research paper.   Emphasis in-class will be on microeconomic applications, but students with broader interests are also encouraged to attend.

Introduction: There is hardly any form of learning that is more satisfying than researching, debating a topic and then corroborating your hypothesis with empirical evidence. In this section you are required to work on a research paper under the supervision of the instructor. The broad themes for this section of Econ 490 are Gender, Population and Health.

The course would require you to form a researchable question from topics like gender differences in decision-making, division of labor within the family, and public policies that affect the status and health of women and children. We will draw from various development and health literature from Africa, Asia and Latin America. This course emphasizes conceptual, modeling, and empirical skills widely used in economic analysis and its application to the data from developing world.

The first few sessions would be in a lecture format learning the recent theory and empirical evidence related to various topics in the field. The next few sessions would be in an interactive class setting where students will use STATA (econometric software) to formalize their research question.

This section of Econ 490 will focus on empirical issues in Financial Economics.

There will be lectures and computer labs during the first part of the course in order to: introduce the student to different topics in financial economics, review econometric tools, and discuss data sources. Students will then be expected to undertake a research project and at the end of the course present their findings in both a research paper and an in-class presentation.

The standard model of rational choice is a remarkably useful tool for analyzing economic decisions. Nevertheless, empirical research has demonstrated the existence of many systematic deviations from this benchmark model. Behavioural Economics addresses these potential limitations by introducing elements of psychological realism to the standard model. This allows economists to explain and predict behaviour in those environments where the standard model performs poorly. In this course, students will learn the tools and methods of behavioral economics in an applied context, emphasizing the role of laboratory experiments as a means of generating data to test our theories.

Specific topics may include: decision making under risk and uncertainty, intertemporal choice, social preferences, bounded rationality, behaviour in markets and any other topics in the intersection of interests between students and teacher. For each chosen topic, we will review the standard theory, discuss the experimental literature, and introduce alternative models when appropriate. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to participate in the development of on-going research taking place in the Experimental Lab at the Vancouver School of Economics (ELVSE).

Students will be evaluated on in-class participation and attendance, some written work (primarily reflections on experimental designs introduced in our readings), some problem sets (designed to test students’ understanding of essential theoretical concepts), and a term project which will include analysis of a common experiment.

Please note: As economic experiments are quite expensive to run, students will not have the opportunity to design and implement their own experiment. Rather, we will work together as a group to design a single experiment which will test and (hopefully) implement over the course of the semester.

The goal of this course is to use micro datasets to answer causal questions related to the economic problems of the poor. Possible topics include health, education, gender, and productivity. We will start with a discussion of recent published papers that illustrate the questions and empirical methods used in current research. After choosing your research question and identifying an appropriate dataset, the instructor will guide you through the process of writing a research paper. There will be an emphasis on discussion and collaboration, including in-class presentations of your work in progress.

TBA.