Course Offerings for MA in Policy Economics

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Review of microeconomics principles with two lectures daily, assignments, and test. Additional review of probability and statistics will be included.

September – December: FIRST SEMESTER

There are four required courses in the first semester:

  • ECON 501: Development Economics I
    The course examines concepts, tools, and models in contemporary economic theory that have proved relevant to development problems, and their application in economic policymaking. Topics include growth processes and structural change; investment and sources of saving; capital, labor, and technological progress; policies for public, private, and foreign enterprises; policymaking and negotiation in governments; and policies for reducing poverty and inequality.Back to top
  • ECON 502: Statistics/Econometrics or ECON 503: Statistics/Econometrics: Advanced Section
    These courses focuses on basic methods of bringing economic theory and data together to provide empirical guidance for policy formulation, including use of computers in econometric analysis. These courses cover techniques of econometric analysis using a moderate level of mathematical exposition. There will be two sections of the course to accommodate fellows with different amounts of prior training in this field.Back to top
  • ECON 504: Public Economics
    This class is about microeconomic and empirical analysis of government expenditure programs in developing and transitional countries. It provides tools for understanding the effects of government policies, as well as a useful conceptual framework for analyzing normative questions such as “what role should government play in the economy” and “what is a good policy?” The course begins by considering the efficiency of market economies, and rationales for government intervention in the market, such as public goods, externalities, information-based market failures, imperfect competition, and equity. We also consider ways that human behavior might deviate from perfect rationality, and what that might imply for policy. Along the way, we apply these concepts to various examples of policy issues, including, among other things, the environment, education, health, infrastructure, security, social insurance, microfinance, and aid to the poor. We then turn to the general question of how to make the government work better, addressing questions such as the following. When is it better to have the government own and produce things, and when is it better to privatize? What are the incentives of politicians and government employees, and how does the design of political and budgetary institutions affect the degree to which they serve the public interest? How should responsibilities be divided up between the central government and local governments, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of “decentralization?” What can be done to improve the delivery of basic services? For example, how might one address problems of corruption and absenteeism? Throughout the course, we consider examples of empirical research, and to facilitate this, we will occasionally introduce econometric tools that are particularly useful for microeconomic policy evaluation.Back to top
  • ECON 505: Developing Country Macroeconomics I
    This course focuses on the relationship between macroeconomic policies and economic growth in developing countries. After examining the links between macroeconomic stability and long-run growth, the rest of the course is divided into three parts. The first part is devoted to the construction of an analytical model that is suitable for analyzing a wide variety of macroeconomic issues in developing countries. This model provides the general framework for a more specific analysis of fiscal and monetary policies in the two remaining parts. In analyzing fiscal policy, the course will consider in particular the requirements of fiscal solvency and the contribution that fiscal policy can make to macroeconomic stability. It will also examine alternative methods for achieving fiscal credibility, including the design of fiscal institutions. The final part of the course will turn to an analysis of central banking, focusing on central bank independence, time consistency of monetary policy, and the design of monetary policy rules in small open economies.Back to top

Each CDE fellow must be enrolled in one January course. The topics below are examples of courses that have been offered in recent years.

    • Micro-Simulation Modeling for Ex Ante Policy Analysis
      Micro-simulation modeling provides one of the most powerful tools for ex ante evidence-based analysis of economic and social policy interventions. Rooted in representative household surveys of a country’s population, the models provide a picture of poverty, employment, consumption and income levels throughout the country. A micro-simulation model enables researchers to investigate the impact of existing economic and social policy interventions (such as tax and public benefit interventions) on income levels, poverty, inequality and other outcomes. In addition, researchers are able to simulate the impact and estimate the cost of new policy interventions.
      During this course, students will learn to apply these methods to analyze public policies and interpret the findings. The course examines measurement issues, analytical tools and their application to household survey data for a range of developing countries. The course also links the outcomes of the analysis with the challenges of policy implementation, exploring how the political environment and/or institutional setting may result in the implementation of second-best options. This is a hands-on modeling course, and students will build a micro-simulation model for a country of their choice and use this model in completing the course requirements. The course will employ Excel, Stata and advanced micro-simulation packages. The final requirement for the course is a policy paper that provides students with an opportunity to write accessible prose that communicates the methodology adopted and the key lessons of the analysis.
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    • Practical Quantitative Tools for Development
      In the day-to-day work as an economist for a developing country, you often lack the time, data, or software recreate the models detailed elsewhere in the CDE curriculum. This course is designed to bridge the gap between academic research and real world answers. We will focus on using Excel to answer the types of questions that require answers within a short time frame. Some examples of topics are: creating price indices from CPI data, growth accounting with applications, IMF FPP scenarios, and cost-benefit analysis.
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    • Fiscal and Monetary Policy in Developing Countries
      This course focuses on the empirical impacts of fiscal and monetary policy in developing countries. The first part of the course will examine the effects of fiscal policy on economic stability, debt sustainability, and economic growth. The second half of the course then considers the effects of monetary policy rules and the transmission mechanism of monetary policy in developing and emerging market economies. Short policy papers and a final case-study analysis will provide students with a chance to improve their writing about economic issues.Back to top
    • ECON 97: Independent Research (will continue through 2nd semester if sufficient progress is made)
      For those CDE fellows who will be pursuing a second semester independent research project, it is required to begin that work during Winter Study. Interested students should consult with a CDE faculty member about designing an appropriate project well in advance of winter study and spring registration. Prerequisites: consent of an instructor and of the CDE Chair. Selection of participants will be limited to those with realistic project proposals and strong first semester performance. Enrollment limited.
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Each CDE fellow must complete four semester courses: 1 writing-intensive course plus 3 electives.
One Writing-Intensive Course: Each CDE fellow must be enrolled in a tutorial format course or in an independent research project.

    • Tutorial format:
      The MA program of the CDE requires a writing-intensive course in the second semester for all participants. Most CDE fellows enroll in one tutorial course selected from several possible topics. All the tutorial courses provide weekly practice in identifying, researching, writing about, presenting, and answering questions on policy arguments under the direct supervision of an experienced faculty member. This training provides excellent preparation for CDE graduates who will assume policy-oriented job roles in their nations. Tutorial participants will meet once a week in pairs with the faculty member. Each week, one student will prepare a policy paper and submit the paper to the professor and to the other student in advance of the meeting. During the meeting, the student who has written the paper will present an argument, evidence, and conclusions. The other student will provide a detailed written critique of the paper based on concepts and evidence from the readings. The professor will join the discussion after each participant has presented and ask questions that highlight or illustrate critical points. During the semester, each participant will write and present 5 policy papers and the same number of critiques. Enrollment limited.
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    • Tutorial example 1: Inclusive Growth: The Role of Social Safety Nets
      Designing and implementing effective national strategies to promote inclusive economic growth can require difficult policy reforms, sometimes with adverse short-term impacts for vulnerable groups within society. Social safety nets provide a pro-poor policy instrument that can balance trade and labor market reform, fiscal adjustments (such as reduced general subsidies) and other economic policies aimed at enabling better market performance. In addition, social safety nets help the poor to cope with shocks to their livelihoods, promoting resilience, human capital development and sometimes high-return risk-taking. This tutorial will offer students the opportunity to explore the role of social safety nets in promoting inclusive economic growth, drawing on case studies from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. The first part of the tutorial will define social safety nets within the broader context of social protection, examining the diversity of instruments and their linkages to economic growth. The second part will delve more deeply into the design and implementation of effective interventions, assessing program choice, affordability, targeting, incentives and other issues. The third part will analyze the role of social safety nets in supporting economic growth strategies, drawing on international lessons of experience.Back to top
    • Tutorial example 2: Long Term Fiscal Challenges
      This tutorial will address the conceptual and theoretical issues that confront policy makers when they face policy challenges that are likely to emerge only over the coming years and that have important budgetary implications. It will explore the strategies and approaches that a number of countries have attempted to develop to bring the long-term into their current policy and budgetary planning processes. Students will be exposed to different long-term challenges that have important budgetary implications, including aging populations, health care, climate change, energy and infrastructure, and water. The course will consider the specific policy challenges that arise for each and the ways in which different industrial and emerging market countries are addressing them.
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    • Tutorial example 3: International Financial Institutions
      This tutorial will explore issues in economic development and finance with a focus on writing short papers that lay out the critical dimensions of these issues and the appropriate policy measures to deal with them. Topics will include: the lessons of the 1990s for developing economies; speeding up growth in slow-growing economies; handling capital inflows, foreign investment and foreign portfolio investment; successes and failures in developing countries in dealing with the recent international economic crisis; dealing with financial and banking crises; the growth and risks of domestic government debt; and country interactions with the IMF and the World Bank.Back to top
    • ECON 540: Research Studies (continuation of Winter Study Independent Research)
      In this course, each Fellow carries out an individual research study on a topic in which he or she has particular interest, usually related to one of the three seminars. The approach and results of the study are reported in a major paper. Research studies are analytical rather than descriptive and in nearly all cases include quantitative analyses. Often the topic is a specific policy problem in a Fellow’s own country.
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Three Elective Courses – After designating preferences, CDE fellows will be enrolled in elective courses for the second semester. Enrollment in each is limited.

The following electives are offered MOST years:

  • ECON 510: Finance and Development
    This course focuses on the financial system and its role in economic development. The first part explores the functions of finance, how it contributes to growth, and reviews different models of financial sector development and their influence on how governments viewed the sector. It will examine experiences with financial sector repression and subsequent liberalization, and investigate the causes and impact of financial crises. Then it will study how to make finance effective and how to prevent or minimize crises, analyzing government’s role as regulator, supervisor, standard setter, contract enforcer, and owner. In this final part, attention will be devoted to the role of institutions (laws, norms, culture) and incentives in financial sector development.
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  • ECON 513: Empirical Methods in Macroeconomics
    Macroeconomics and related fields in international finance and development have evolved specialized empirical techniques, known generally as macroeconometrics, which are designed to meet the practical challenges that the data and the empirical questions pose in these fields. The course will introduce the theory and application of these techniques, and students will learn how to implement these techniques using real world data to address practical questions drawn from the fields of macro, international finance and development. Topics to which these techniques will be applied include business cycle analysis and forecasting, sources of exchange rate volatility and determinants of long run economic growth. Computer work and programming will be an important and integral part of the course, but no previous training is expected. Economics majors who are considering writing an honors thesis on related topics are encouraged to enroll in this course during the spring semester of their junior year. Students studying abroad during their junior year may nonetheless take this course during their senior year.
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  • ECON 514: Tax Policy in Emerging Markets
    Taxes are half of what government does. So if you are interested in what government policy can do to promote efficiency, equity, and economic development, you should be interested in tax policy. Governments must raise tax revenue to finance critical public goods, address other market failures and distributional issues, and to avoid problems with debt and inflation. Taxes typically take up anywhere from ten to fifty percent of a country’s income, they profoundly affect the incentives to undertake all varieties of economic activity, and the government expenditures that they finance have potentially large consequences for human welfare. So the stakes involved in improving tax policy are quite large. All of these issues are of great importance in developing and transitional countries (also known as “emerging markets”), but in these nations taxation is especially challenging because of serious problems with tax evasion and administration, among other things. This class provides an in-depth exploration of tax policy, with an emphasis on the challenges and issues most relevant in emerging markets. Topics addressed in this class include: how basic economic principles can be applied to help one think about the efficiency and equity consequences of tax policies; how personal income taxes, corporate income taxes, and value-added taxes are designed and administered and how they influence the economy; ideas for fundamental reforms of these taxes; theory and evidence in the debate over progressive taxes versus “flat” taxes; how various elements of tax design affect incentives to save and invest; how market failures may influence the optimality of different tax policies; the implications of global capital flows and corporate tax avoidance for the design of tax policy; tax holidays and other special tax incentives for investment; empirical evidence on the influence of taxes on economic growth, foreign direct investment, labor supply, and tax evasion; case studies of efforts to reform tax administration and reduce tax evasion and corruption; taxes on land and property; presumptive taxation; the “unofficial” economy and its implications for tax policy; tax policy towards natural resources such as minerals and oil; taxes on imports and exports; non-tax methods of raising revenue; and political economy considerations in tax policy.Back to top
  • ECON 515: Developing Country Macroeconomics II
    This lecture course is a continuation of Economics 505. The first part of the course extends the analysis of the first semester to several open-economy issues that arise in developing countries, especially with respect to the interactions among exchange rate regimes, monetary policy regimes, and policies directed at the financial account of the balance of payments. The second part of the course will apply these analytical tools, as well as those developed in Economics 509, to an examination of the various types of crises that have afflicted developing countries over the past three decades, considering in particular the implications of such crises for growth and development.
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  • ECON 517: Urbanization and Development
    At current rates of growth, the combined population of urban areas in developing countries will double in the next 30 years. The land area devoted to urban use is expected to double even more quickly. The costs of providing housing and infrastructure to accommodate this growth are enormous, but the costs of failing to accommodate urban development may be even larger. The decisions made in response to these challenges will affect the economic performance of these countries and the health and welfare of the urban residents. By affecting global patterns of energy use, these decisions will have broader impacts on the entire planet. This course will focus on these challenges. What are the economic forces that drive the process of urbanization, and how does the level of urbanization affect economic development? How are policies towards housing, transportation, public finance and development affected by urbanization? What policy choices are available, and which are most likely to succeed in dealing with the challenges of urban growth?Back to top
  • ECON 519: Population Economics
    This course is an introduction to the economic analysis of demographic behavior and the economic consequences of demographic change. An important aim is to familiarize students with historical and contemporary trends in fertility, mortality, migration, and family composition, and the implications of these trends for the economy. The course demonstrates the application of microeconomic theory to demographic behavior, including fertility, marriage, and migration. Students are introduced to basic techniques of demographic measurement and mathematical demography. Selected topics include the economic consequences of population growth in developing countries, the economics of fertility and female labor force participation, the effects of an older age structure on the social security system, and the relationship between population growth and natural resources. Back to top
  • ECON 521: Incentives and Development Policy
    Why isn’t the whole world developed? This course (and instructor) is of the opinion that the difficulty of getting incentives right is the key source of inefficiency. The course therefore studies how limited enforcement and asymmetric information constrain development, and about innovative development designs that attempt to overcome these constraints. The course readings will be a mix of field studies, empirical evidence and theoretical tools from game theory. Incentive and corruption problems in health, education, the regulation of banks and natural monopolies, privatization, budgeting, debt forgiveness, foreign aid, microfinance, climate treaties and ethnic violence will be studied using a unified framework.
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  • ECON 524: Political Economy and Economic Development
    This course is intended as an introduction to the newly emerging field of political economy of institutions and development. Key questions of interest include how voters behave and how this affects policy and economic outcomes; the nature, evolution and economic implication of corruption, and how it can be controlled; and the economics of conflict. The goal of the course is both to provide students of a sense of the frontier research topics in political economy in developing countries and to introduce them to the methodologies used to investigate these topics.Back to top
  • ECON 526: Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) Modeling
    The Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) model is an important tool for applied policy work. CGE models are the primary tool for many government organizations when evaluating policy alternatives and are also used extensively by various NGO’s when deciding aid and policy recommendations. The great advantage of these models is that they capture the general equilibrium feedback effects of policy proposals on various sectors of the economy. This is of great importance to applied work, as this allows the identification of the winners and losers from potential policies. The class will begin with a general overview of CGE models. This overview will be rigorous and mathematical. This course will use the free programming packages GAMS and MPSGE to implement various CGE models using real world data. While no previous computer experience is required, some familiarity with Excel is recommended. During the latter part of the course, students will create a CGE model for a country of their choice and conduct policy experiments using their model. Interested students could continue this project as a potential thesis topic.Back to top

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