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 W3211, W3213, W3412) 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:

W4911 (Sec. 1) Seminar in MICROECONOMIC Theory
Instructor: Prof Francois Gerard
Topic:  Empirical Methods to Estimate Causal Effects 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 original agreed-upon empirical application.

W4911 (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.

*** CANCELLED, 1/4/2016 ******************************************************************

W4911 (Sec. 3)
Instructor: Prof Jagdish Bhagwati
Topic: Globalization: Assessing the Critiques
This seminar satisfies the seminar requirement for the financial economics major
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.


W4911 (sec. 4)
Instructor: Prof Navin Kartik
Topic: Applications of Game Theory
This seminar satisfies the seminar requirement for the financial economics major.
This seminar will introduce you to some advanced topics in game theory and empirical applications.  On the theoretical front, we will study topics such as zero-sum games, signaling and signal jamming, beauty contests, information aggregation, social learning, behavioral game theory, and matching.  On the applications front, we will look at sports, negotiations and auctions, charitable contributions, voting, labor markets, and medical residency matching.  Some background in game theory, such as ECON W4415, is preferable.

W4911 (sec. 5)
Instructor: Prof Alessandra Casella
Topic: Political Economy in the Laboratory
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."

W4911 (sec. 6)
Instructor: Prof Bentley MacLeod
Topic: Economics, Law, 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.  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 twofold. First, the course reviews some of the modern develop-ments 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.  Topics include property law, contract law, tort law, employment law. Other selected topics might include corruption, discrimination law, and intellectual property law.

W4911 (sec. 7)
Instructor: Prof Tri Vi Dang
Topic: Private Equity & Hedge Fund Investing

** This seminar is ONLY OPENED 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.


W4913 Seminar in MACROECONOMIC Theory (Sec. 1)
Instructor:  Prof Edmund Phelps
Topic: The Main Influences on Economic Activity
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.

W4913 (Sec. 2)
Instructor: Prof 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.

W4913 (sec. 3)
Instructor: Dr George Lentzas
This seminar satisfies the seminar requirement for the financial economics major.
Topic: Machine Learning and Big Data for Economics and Finance
This seminar will introduce students to the exciting and growing literature on machine learning / big data and its potential applications in economics and finance. The first part of the seminar will serve as an introduction to machine learning techniques and will cover topics such as classification, cross validation/model selection, tree-based methods, support vector machines, unsupervised and reinforcement learning. In the second part students will be required to use these techniques in an applied research project that will be presented and discussed in class. Potential topics and applications can be drawn from all areas of finance and economics such as for example, asset pricing, quantitative portfolio construction, optimal monetary policy, game theory, causality inference, the debt/growth/austerity debate or inflation measurement. The seminar will loosely follow the textbook “Introduction to Statistical Learning” by James et al and additional reading as well as audio/visual material will be presented in class. Students are expected to be familiar with basic probability theory, linear algebra and multiple linear regression. Some familiarity with programming is a prerequisite as the seminar will make use of the programming language R.

W4913 (Sec. 4)
Instructor: Prof Edouard Challe
Topic: Depression Economics: Unemployment, Liquidity Traps, and Secular Stagnation
This seminar satisfies the seminar requirement for the financial economics major.
The seminar will look into the particular nature of macroeconomic adjustments during liquidity traps, i.e. situations wherein conventional monetary policy is unable to efficiently restore aggregate demand. We will look into the historical evidence - from the Great Depression to the Japanse experience, to the worldwide Great Recession - and structure the evidence by means of a simple macroeconomic model with price rigidities. We will discuss the effectiveness of unconventional monetary policies (forward guidance, quantitative easing), as well as the unconventional effects of fiscal policies, during liquidity traps. Finally, we will examine whether the current trap follows from a serious but temporary shock or reflects a "secular stagnation" episode of persistently low aggregate demand and growth.