Senior Seminars Description

economics senior Seminar Descriptions

Seminars listed below are only open to CC and GS undergraduate economics majors.

PLEASE NOTE: ALL PREREQUISITES (ECON UN3211, UN3213, UN3412) must be successfully completed before the seminar may be taken—not after and not concurrently, otherwise the seminar will not count towards the major. Check the CC/GS bulletin for all seminar prerequisites and details. 

DAYS, TIMES and CLASSROOMS can be found on the Registrar's DIRECTORY of CLASSES website:

GU4911 (Sec. 1) Seminar in MICROECONOMIC Theory
Instructor: Prof Francois Gerard
Topic: Empirical Methods to Estimate the Causal Effect of Policies in Economics
This seminar satisfies the seminar requirement for the financial economics major
The seminar will focus on the most common empirical methods used by economists to estimate the causal effect of some policy (e.g. a change in the minimum wage) on some outcome (e.g. employment). The following empirical methods will be covered: randomized control trials, difference-in-differences, regression discontinuities, event analyses, propensity-score matching, instrumental variables, etc. Each method will be motivated and illustrated by existing applications in behavioral economics, labor economics, public economics, development economics, environmental economics, etc. One textbook and a number of separate readings and podcasts will be assigned. Seminar students are expected to actively participate in class discussions, to make an in-class presentation of an existing empirical study, and to make an in-class presentation and write a term paper on an (extended) replication of another existing empirical study, using the data from the study.

GU4911 (Sec. 2)
Instructor: Dr Sunil Gulati
Topic: Sports Economics
This seminar will focus on an economic analysis of the sports industry.  Topics covered will include economics of sports leagues, the labor market for professional athletes, sports marketing and broadcasting, economic impact of teams & stadiums and antitrust policies. A number of guest speakers from the sports world (including the professional leagues and media industry) will be featured. One textbook and a number of separate readings will be assigned. Seminar students are expected to actively participate in class discussions, make an in class presentation of selected readings and of original work and write a term paper on an agreed upon topic.

GU4911 (Sec. 3)
Instructor: Prof Jagdish Bhagwati
Topic: Globalization: Assessing the Critiques
The topics will include social and economic critiques, but looking at them intensively and analytically, instead of in populist terms, whether pro or con, as is often done even by well-known economists who should have higher standards of professionalism and integrity. The financial (and economic) crisis and its implications for Globalization--- again, there are some who say that this is the end of Globalization as We Knew It --, and the populist fascination with the top 1% (an arbitrary cut off point that makes no sense), will also be included.  After 3 classes by Professor Bhagwati, students will pair up & prepare papers for presentation and discussion. Grades will be awarded on the basis of the final, revised papers, plus attendance. If you do not plan to attend regularly, you should not take the seminar, as many are turned away owing to space caps.
Special Note: Professor Bhagwati will expect students to have read/purchased the paperback 2008 edition of his book, In Defense of Globalization. Best to order it from; no copies are being ordered at the Bookstore. Other readings will be distributed in the class by topic.

GU4911 (sec. 4)
Instructor:Prof Lena Edlund
Topic: Seminar in Gender Economics
This seminar will take a critical look at the institutions governing family formation over time and across cultures. We will discuss their social and economic origins as well as consequences. Sample questions include: Why were married women's property rights expanded in 19th Century America? Why has so many of the economic development success stories come out of East Asia? Why are honor killings, for a long time a Muslim society phenomenon, appearing among Hindus in India? Why is Monogamy the dominant marriage form? Active class room participation and a term paper required. 

GU4911 (sec. 5)
Instructor: Prof Bentley MacLeod
Topic: Economics, Law and Public Policy
Commerce and manufactures can seldom flourish long in any state which does not enjoy a regular administration of justice, in which the people do not feel themselves secure in the possession of their property, in which the faith of contracts is not supported by law, and in which the authority of the state is not supposed to be regularly employed in enforcing the payment of debts from all those who are able to pay."   Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Book V, Chap. III.  Introduction:  As the quotation from Adam Smith makes clear, economic development cannot occur in the absence of a stable legal system. The purpose of this course is two-fold. First, the course reviews some of the modern developments in economics that are relevant for the study of institutions. Second, it uses these tools to explore the structure of the law, and its impact upon economic performance. The goal is to provide a foundation for the understanding of legal institutions that goes beyond national boundaries, and can help better understand the challenges that rapid economic growth and globalization pose for policy makers.

GU4911 (sec. 6)
Instructor:Prof Tri Vi Dang
Topic: Private Equity & Hedge Fund Investing

** This seminar is ONLY OPEN to FINANCIAL ECONOMICS MAJORS, and satisfies the financial economics seminar requirement . **
This seminar course discusses the economics of professional asset management with special focus on private equity and hedge fund investing. The aim of this seminar is to provide the students with the analytical skills and conceptual frameworks necessary to significantly deepen their understanding of asset management. The first part of the course examines how private equity funds and hedge funds as the two most prominent alternative investment vehicles are raised and structured. The second part of the seminar discusses the deal making of private equity managers as well as various investment strategies of hedge fund managers.


GU4913 Seminar in MACROECONOMIC Theory (Sec. 1)
Instructor:  Prof Edmund Phelps
Topic: Main Influences on Economic
This seminar satisfies the seminar requirement for the financial economics major.
The long slide in almost all the economies of the West – the U.S. as well as western Europe – presents an enormous challenge for macroeconomists. Labor force participation of men has been in a serious decline and so has female participation in recent years. Growth of wage rates started slowing in one country after another as early as the late ‘60s. Job satisfaction seems down as well. These and related developments raise questions about the causation and the cure. There is a growing perception that standard economics – both neo-classical and Keynesian – is fundamentally inadequate. The economy is not a machine that can be cranked up as desired: It is a living, organic entity, composed of all those who participate in it and their ideas and culture.
     This year, I want to begin the course with an analysis of what I see to be some serious errors in Keynesian economics. One focus will be on the channel from real exchange rates to economic activity, which will lead to a discussion of whether a monetary policy of near-zero interest rates could be counter-productive. Another focus will be on flaws in the austerity thesis: the belief that increases in the rate of deficit-financed government spending and likewise increases in the stock of public debt give a long-lived boost to output and employment.
    The second part of the course will take up dimensions of economic performance that lie outside both Keynesian economics and classical economics: I am thinking of job satisfaction and, more broadly, the fascination and energy that came from the West’s "modern project" of exploration, creation and innovation, which was sparked in Britain and America around 1820 and wound down in the mid-20th century. This historic wave of innovation helps us to understand the key sources of wide innovation and the key forces operating to throttle innovation.

GU4913 (Sec. 2)
Instructor: Dr Sally Davidson
Topic: The Financial Crisis, Financial Markets and Official Interventions
This seminar satisfies the seminar requirement for the financial economics major.
We will look at the causes of the financial crisis, focusing on the links in the chain of the securitization process.  Disturbances in the financial markets will be examined, along with official interventions in those markets and future challenges for policy makers, especially large, complex financial institutions.  We will end with a consideration of the crisis in a historical perspective.

GU4913 (sec. 3)
Instructor: Prof Joseph Stiglitz and Dr Karla Hoff
Topic: Behavioral Insights into Economic Development
What is development economics about?  Standard development economics is about increasing GDP per capita through improvements in markets, technology, and public goods under the assumption that individuals are rational—unbiased, with fixed preferences.  In contrast, new development economics is about societal and individual transformation.  At the simplest level, new development economics takes into account the responses of a quasi-rational actor, for example, the effect on savings of giving individuals a safe place to keep money for a specific purpose (such as a mosquito net) that they write down on the passbook in which they record deposits, or the effect on performance of publicly revealing a student’s stigmatized social identity.  The standard model sometimes gives a false analysis:  providing individuals a very simple informal technology for savings would not matter, but in fact it raised savings substantially in Kenya; nor would priming an individual’s identity, but in fact it decreased cognitive performance among stigmatized groups in the US, India, China, and Slovakia.  For these narrow questions, there is a lot of evidence that government can design “nudges” to narrow the gap between individuals’ means and ends.
At a deeper level, development economics is about moving to a new kind of society:  modernity.  It takes into account an enculturated actor with endogenous preferences whose cognition reflects the patterns of the societies to which he has been exposed.  Controlled and natural experiments show how widely shared mental models (identities, norms, and narratives) are factors in economic behavior and can be changed to improve welfare.  We will discuss implications for development policy. 


GU4913 (sec. 4)
Instructor: Dr. Maxim Pinkovsky
Topic: Empirical Economics of Institutions and Development

This seminar satisfies the seminar requirement for the financial economics major.
Why are some countries rich and others poor? We will review the modern literature on the fundamental causes of cross-country growth differences in the long run – geography, culture and institutions -- with a particular emphasis on how institutions affect development. Sample topics will include the impacts of property rights on development, the interrelationship between democratization and development, and the persistence of indirect impacts of institutions that no longer exist. The crucial advance of this literature has been to rigorously identify causal estimates of the effects of institutions on developmental outcomes by exploiting “natural experiments in history” to hold confounding factors fixed. We will look at many such natural experiments, drawing examples from the dawn of humanity to the 2010s, and from the developed and developing world. We will also study the modern econometric methods in establishing causal links between variables that these papers rely upon to convert these natural experiments into estimates. In particular, we will discuss the method of instrumental variables, differences-in-differences techniques and advanced panel data analysis, as well as regression discontinuity design. A goal of the seminar will be to broaden students’ horizons on what inferences can be drawn from data (and what kinds of data to look for) in preparation for the seminar paper.

GU4913 (sec. 5)
Instructor: Dr. Fatih Karahan
Topic: Macroeconomics of Labor Markets: Contemporaneous Issues and Policy Responses

This seminar satisfies the seminar requirement for the financial economics major.
There are various issues that the US labor market is facing today. Some of these pertain to long-run factors such as population aging, a declining pace of business formation, and global forces such as import competition and outsourcing, while others are about higher frequency fluctuations in unemployment and its consequences for individuals. In this course, we will analyze these issues through the lens of simple theories of the labor market (taught in class) and investigate them empirically. We will also talk about the effects of various policies such as unemployment benefits and minimum wages.



GU4918 Seminar in ECONOMETRICS (Sec. 1)
Instructor:  Prof Seyhan Erden
Topic: Topics in Macroeconomics and Finance
This seminar satisfies the seminar requirement for the financial economics major.
This is an applied econometrics seminar focusing on macro and financial econometric applications about domestic and international markets and stock exchanges. The Great Recession of 2008 clearly verifies the need for a deeper examination of links between volatility in financial markets and fluctuations in macroeconomic aggregates. In this seminar, we criticize and improve empirical papers that examine this link. We study models on macroeconomic series and their forecasts as well as their mutual predictive power on equity and bond markets. We learn about ARIMA (Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average), VAR (Vector Autoregression) VECM (Vector Error Correction Models), volatility models such as ARCH (Autoregressive Conditional Heteroskedasticity process of Engle and many of its extentions). Additional topics include capital asset pricing models (CAPM), spurious regression, Structural VAR models, TAR (Threshold Autoregressive Models), Factor Models, IRFs (impulse response functions) and FEVD (forecast error variance decomposition). Students will learn how to conduct – and how to critique – empirical studies in financial and applied time series econometrics and related fields. Students are expected to choose a topic from a list of research topics provided by the professor and write a paper using econometric methods we discuss in this seminar.


*Only open to Senior Economics-Political Science majors during the 1st week of the Spring 2017 semester.
Senior Economics-Political Science majors will be contacted by the Economics department for pre-enrollment.
Prerequisites: ECON 3211, 3213, 3412, 4370

Sec 1: Topic: The Political Economy of Inequality and Redistribution
Instructor: Prof Carlo Prato (Political Science dept)
This seminar will cover academic literature applying quantitative methods to the study of inequality and redistribution. Drawing from a recent body of research in economics and political science, we will examine various theoretical and empirical approaches to the study of inequality, its determinants, and its implications. We will touch upon the distributional consequences of several types of government policy, as well as the cultural, economic, and political determinants of societal preferences for inequality. The purpose of this seminar is to help students write an original research paper in political economy. Along with active class participation, the final paper constitutes the main course requirement. The seminar will be divided into three parts. In the first part, I will be lecturing. In the second part, students will present their research projects to the class. In the third part, students will present to the class readings related to their research project that I will have assigned following their first presentation. Students should choose the topic and date of their presentations as soon as possible. They are responsible for selecting their research project and for assigning one reading to the class as background for their presentation. I encourage students to consult with me as frequently and as early as possible. The specific calendar will depend on the number of students enrolled.

Sec 2: Topic: Political Economy in the Laboratory
Instructor: Prof Alessandra Casella (Economics dept)
The purpose of this course is to give the students the chance to write an original research paper using experimental methods. “Political economy” is interpreted widely, including, for example, questions of public economics, or group behavior. The focus is on experimental methods: how experiments are done, what political economy questions have been studied; how a simple experiment can be designed. The students will be required to design and run their own experiment. The final paper and active participation in class are the two requirements. Attendance to class is mandatory.