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EC285 – Intermediate Topics in Microeconomics

What does it mean to “make a difference in a poor child’s life”? Many humanitarian organizations make strong claims about the impact of their programs, but less often define and quantify the 'difference' they actually make or consider the relative cost-effectiveness of their programs. This class takes a critical look at such claims, and teaches students how economists use the scientific method to evaluate the impact of aid programs in developing countries. Students will learn about four methods of impact evaluation (randomized controlled trials (RCTs), instrumental variables, regression discontinuity designs, and difference-in-differences), read academic journal articles about several topics of interest (e.g. microfinance, women’s empowerment, education, technology, violence, and institutions), and enjoy popular press books such as The Idealist and Poor Economics. We will place special emphasis on a discussion of how the scientific method generally and RCTs specifically have been applied to questions of economic development, and further examine how numerical data can be collected and analyzed to measure progress towards economic, social, and moral goals. By the report of one former student: “This course should be a pre-requisite for anyone interested in making (more or less of) a real positive impact in the world, be they future non-profit employees, social entrepreneurs, government officials, or private donors.”

Prerequisite: Economics 201 and Mathematics 117 or Consent of Instructor.


TermBlockTitleInstructorLocationStudent Limit/ AvailableUpdated
Fall 2017 Block 4 Intermediate Topics in Microeconomics: Impact Evaluation - The science of poverty alleviation Jessica Hoel TBA 25/17 10/17/2017