ECON 490 Course Descriptions

2019/2020 Winter Session

*Note: Subject to change*

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

Updated: June 10, 2019

Term 1

The goal of this course is for each student to  write an independent empirical research paper. To get there, you will need to (1) choose a topic in applied microeconomics about which you are passionate, (2) formulate a research question around that topic, (3) find an appropriate micro dataset to answer your research question, (4) conduct independent data analysis in STATA, and (5) communicate your findings via a presentation to your classmates. I will guide you through that process with a discussion of published papers that illustrate the questions and empirical methods used in current research, an introduction (or refresher) in STATA coding, a series of assignments to keep you on track, and one-on-one meetings to discuss your work in progress. Possible topics include education, health, gender, labor markets, immigration, racial bias, urban economics, and voting, though you are free to choose any applied microeconomics topic that interests you.

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.

(Tentative Course Syllabus)

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.

(Tentative Course Syllabus)

In this course you will explore the role of institutions in the labour market, from a global perspective. The term ‘institution’ is used to describe a wide variety of laws, regulations, public policies and organizations; both formal and informal. During the course we will discuss some of the more common labour market institutions, such as minimum wages, income taxes, and unions; while also exploring informal institutions, and institutions in a developing context. Economic models typically have strong predictions as to the impact of these institutions on the equilibrium outcomes of wages and labour supply; however, in this course we will assess the empirical evidence for these claims.

While exploring the literature on labour market institutions, you will learn about the empirical challenges and potential solutions offered by economists, as they attempt to identify the relationship between institutions and individual outcomes. Over the duration of the semester you will develop your own skills in empirical research. In the end you will have developed the ability to source and manage data, design a research question and implement appropriate econometric techniques.

(Tentative Course Syllabus)

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.

In this course, students will familiarize themselves with the study of economic inequality from the perspective of applied economics, development and economic history. Among other things, they will get to know about relevant dimensions of inequality and explore how inequality changes along different stages of development of a country. We will look at the impact of inequality on both developing and developed countries, as well as the intrinsic and functional aspects of this phenomenon. An important part of the course will be devoted to uncover the historical origins of inequality. Next to developing their understanding of econometric tools, students are expected to learn how to measure inequality in the data and compare the degree of economic inequality across countries and time. Most importantly, they will look at the drivers and multifaceted consequences of inequality. The ultimate goal of this project module is to give students a solid foundation for selecting their own research topic in this area.

This is a topics-based (inequality) research course in economics. This research course should culminate your economics training at UBC. This does not mean that this will be the last economics course you take, but one where all of what you have learned so far comes into play. It should challenge you, as all research courses do, but hopefully also reward you, and entice you to take more advanced economics research courses in the future.

(Tentative Course Syllabus)

This course is built around a key problem: how do we take a question and use our economic tools to answer it? This may seem elementary, but it can be surprisingly challenging! We tackle at this problem in the context of applied economic research. We will do four things in this course:

  • Explore the tools, models, and skills necessary for answering questions
  • Discover how to formulate a good question about a topic that inspires you.
  • Learn how to answer your question in a convincing way.
  • Practice communicating your results through writing and speaking.

Along the way we tackle a number of important topics, like the connection between theory and applied work, causality, and data science. However, the focus always 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 section emphasizes methodology (how do we conduct and carry out research) as opposed to topic (studying economic development economic, for example). This gives you, the student, a great deal of flexibility in terms of the question and topic you tackle. Emphasis in-class will be on microeconomic applications, but students with broader interests are also encouraged to attend.

The course format will be a mixture of lectures, small-group discussions, computer labs, and presentations. We will review some necessary background in early lectures, then learn some new and commonly used models specific to your topics. We will get also get hands-on practice with real data through interaction in 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. The paper itself has several, smaller, “lead-up” assignments to help you build up to the final paper while getting feedback and assistance along the way.

This semester may also have a community engaged learning (CEL) option, in which students undertake a project motivated by a community partner, in lieu of completing their own project. This option is offered via a selective process, to ensure that students and their community partners are happy with the final arrangement: if you are interested in the CEL option, please contact the instructor immediately.

(Tentative Course Syllabus)

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

This course covers the fundamentals of policy analysis and program evaluation for development economics, by applying economic tools to real-world cases. This is a hands-on class that is intended to prepare you for conducting policy analysis and program evaluation for government, NGOs, and international organizations.  As such, we will be conducting research for an actual client: in previous years, clients have included the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the UBC SEEDS program. Part of these objectives include learning to communicate effectively and operate in a professional context.

Learning Objectives:

  • Introduce standard tools of policy analysis, program evaluation, and risk assessment
  • Design and conduct research projects for real clients
  • Engage with clients and stakeholders, and present findings in a professional context using various forms of communication

(Tentative Course Syllabus)

This course is built around a key problem: how do we take a question and use our economic tools to answer it? This may seem elementary, but it can be surprisingly challenging! We tackle at this problem in the context of applied economic research. We will do four things in this course:

  • Explore the tools, models, and skills necessary for answering questions
  • Discover how to formulate a good question about a topic that inspires you.
  • Learn how to answer your question in a convincing way.
  • Practice communicating your results through writing and speaking.

Along the way we tackle a number of important topics, like the connection between theory and applied work, causality, and data science. However, the focus always 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 section emphasizes methodology (how do we conduct and carry out research) as opposed to topic (studying economic development economic, for example). This gives you, the student, a great deal of flexibility in terms of the question and topic you tackle. Emphasis in-class will be on microeconomic applications, but students with broader interests are also encouraged to attend.

The course format will be a mixture of lectures, small-group discussions, computer labs, and presentations. We will review some necessary background in early lectures, then learn some new and commonly used models specific to your topics. We will get also get hands-on practice with real data through interaction in 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. The paper itself has several, smaller, “lead-up” assignments to help you build up to the final paper while getting feedback and assistance along the way.

This semester may also have a community engaged learning (CEL) option, in which students undertake a project motivated by a community partner, in lieu of completing their own project. This option is offered via a selective process, to ensure that students and their community partners are happy with the final arrangement: if you are interested in the CEL option, please contact the instructor immediately.

(Tentative Course Syllabus)

In this course you will explore the role of institutions in the labour market, from a global perspective. The term ‘institution’ is used to describe a wide variety of laws, regulations, public policies and organizations; both formal and informal. During the course we will discuss some of the more common labour market institutions, such as minimum wages, income taxes, and unions; while also exploring informal institutions, and institutions in a developing context. Economic models typically have strong predictions as to the impact of these institutions on the equilibrium outcomes of wages and labour supply; however, in this course we will assess the empirical evidence for these claims.

While exploring the literature on labour market institutions, you will learn about the empirical challenges and potential solutions offered by economists, as they attempt to identify the relationship between institutions and individual outcomes. Over the duration of the semester you will develop your own skills in empirical research. In the end you will have developed the ability to source and manage data, design a research question and implement appropriate econometric techniques.

(Tentative Course Syllabus)

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 main goal of this course is to help students write a research paper in public economics and policy. To do so, the course is divided into two parts: (1) it will expose students to a set of topics in public economics, and (2) it will provide them with econometric tools to analyze data and make statistical inference. In each week, students will learn necessary tools to discuss and evaluate a research paper, and each lecture will blend the application of these tools with a critical discussion of research ideas. Near the end, students will have a chance to present their research paper in class. Possible topics include local public goods, transfer programs, social insurance, capital taxation, and corporate taxation.

In the first week of Econ 101 you were taught that the household is the fundamental unit of the economy. Despite that emphasis, in economics we often overlook the structure of the household and how households make important decisions that can impact all areas of both the macro and microeconomy. Family economics examines how families make choices in regards to their time spend working and going to school, number of children born, savings and spending, where to live and whether to live alone or with others. These decisions have implications that influence aggregate output, human capital accumulation, labour force participation, fertility rates, migration patterns, and health and welfare of current and future generations. The decisions of families are rapidly changing over time and vary widely between demographic and geographic groups, meaning that there is an abundance of interesting research topics in this area.  This term we will be exploring the Statistics Canada General Social Survey: The Family that has been collected approximately every five years since 1990. The most recent GSS Family (collected in 2017) Public Use Micro File (PUMF) is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2019 and will include new areas for research.

(Tentative Course Syllabus)