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Spring 2011 - 62170 - PA393K - Applied Microeconomics for Policy Analysis

Instructor(s): Wong, Pat
Unique Number: 62170
Day & Time: T 9:00 - 12:00 pm
Room: SRH 3.212/221
Waitlist Information:For LBJ Students: UT Waitlist Information
Course Overview

This course covers microeconomic policy analysis and is usually taken during the first year. It acquaints students with the ways in which economic analysis bears on public policy issues. Students learn to identify the relevant economic analyses for their strengths and weaknesses in relation to the economic principles involved, and to comprehend and assess what professional economists can contribute to the public sector. The first portion of the course covers microeconomic theory with particular emphasis on determining price and output under perfect competition and other forms of market structure; general equilibrium and welfare theory; and the concept of market failure, including public goods, externalities, and imperfect market structure. The second portion of the course provides a rigorous coverage of the methodology of cost-benefit analysis and demonstrates its application through examination of specific case studies.

Section Description

Scope and Objectives:  This is a graduate level introduction to microeconomics for policy analysis. The primary organizing theme is the neoclassical framework of rational choice, with its emphasis on allocation efficiency. However, we will also cover institutional structure, distribution issues, political decision making, and alternative views in economic modeling.

Students completing this course successfully will have acquired the basic logic of economic thinking, some experience in using this logic for policy analysis, and an appreciation of the limitation of the logic. This course is a prerequisite to Advanced Policy Economics.

Structure of Content: This course is conceptually organized into three parts:

  1. Overview (two weeks) — big picture summary of history of economic thoughts and of the U.S. economic context.
  2. The Neoclassical Story of the Market (six weeks) — neoclassical framework of consumer choice, production, and market.
  3. Alternative Views and Policy Analysis (seven weeks) —alternative models of economic behavior and analysis of  non-market approaches to address resource allocation and distribution. 

Learning Experiences:  There will be two required problem sets and five spread throughout the semester, reflecting the progress from the mechanics of mathematical analysis through the modeling of simple analytics to creative policy application.

Project 1: Analytic Problem-Solving—Friday mid-February, open-book, unlimited time.
Project 2: Analytic Problem-Solving—Friday b/f spring break, open-book, unlimited time
Project 3: Policy Brief—Early April, group-based           
Project 4: Policy Presentation & Discussion—throughout April, group-based
Project 5: Final Written Exercise—Final exam week, open-book, unlimited time

In addition, during the first half of the semester there will be two required problem sets and optional weekly exercises covered during tutorial sessions.

Expectation: This course is taught with mathematical language. Proficiency in differential calculus is required. A small portion of the materials involve understanding of empirical analysis, so concurrent enrollment in an econometrically oriented section of IEM is encouraged. The fast pace of the course means previous microeconomics coursework is helpful but not required. A Thursday evening tutorial will be offered. Abstention from long-hand note-taking in class is requested.