A note to instructors
Economy, Society, and Public Policy
by the CORE ESPP team
Doing Economics: Empirical Projects
by Eileen Tipoe and the CORE ESPP Empirical projects working group
Our target audience includes:
- students at undergraduate and postgraduate level who are not taking economics as a major subject
- anyone who wants to learn how to use economics to understand and articulate reasoned views on some of the most pressing policy problems facing our societies: inequality, financial instability, the future of work, environmental degradation, wealth creation, and innovation
- anyone who wants practical training in understanding and using data to measure the economy and policy effectiveness
- anyone interested in social and economic policy, who is taking a degree related to policy, or is hoping to have a policy-related job in the future.
- no prior courses in economics or statistics are required
- familiarity with basic mathematical operations, percentages, decimals, bar charts, 2-D graphs
Continuing in economics
- After taking the ESPP course, many students who would like to engage with major policy problems but have found standard economics courses unappealing may want to study some more economics.
- The course prepares students with a toolkit that will help those who wish to transition to more advanced economics courses to do so, if pathways are available.
Course design principles
- Like CORE’s The Economy, ESPP does not teach microeconomics as a body of knowledge separate from macroeconomics.
- Students begin their study of economics by understanding that the economy is situated within society and the biosphere.
- Students study problems of identifying causation (not just correlation) through the use of natural experiments, lab experiments, and other quantitative methods.
- Social interactions (modelled using simple game theory) and incomplete information (modelled using a series of principal–agent problems) are introduced from the beginning of the course.
- A result is that an important explanatory role is assumed by social norms, the exercise of power, and other phenomena studied by the other social sciences but typically absent from a typical economics course.
- For similar reasons, the insights of diverse schools of thought—from Marx and classical economists to Hayek and Schumpeter—play an integral part in the course.
- The way economists think about public policy is central to ESPP. This is introduced in Units 2 and 3, rather than later in the course.
- New in ESPP: Doing Economics. This is a set of step-by-step hands-on empirical projects that use real data sets to address important problems arising in the course. Each project allows the student to produce a finished report using skills that are transferable to other courses, and to the workplace.
Flexible course design
Economy, Society, and Public Policy can be taught as a 12–13 week, or 10-week course. It introduces the key economic actors: firms, customers, employees, owners, borrowers, and lenders as well as government policymakers, citizens as voters, and the central bank, plus their market and non-market interactions.
- For a 10-week course: The first 10 units provide a self-contained introduction to economic actors and markets within a framework that illuminates reasons for public policy intervention.
- For a two-term or two-semester course to include macroeconomics: The instructor would use Units 13–17 from The Economy. Two weeks could be assigned per unit.
- For a two-term or two-semester course with a focus on public policy (but not on macroeconomic policy): A course can be formed from the unit on the future of work from The Economy (Unit 16 ‘Technological progress, employment, and living standards in the long run’, which does not rely on Units 13–15) plus the remaining four capstone units covering globalization, economic inequality, environmental sustainability, and innovation and the networked economy. There is plenty of material in these five units for a full term or semester of study.
ESPP and Doing Economics as part of a connected curriculum
If you are teaching a social science, engineering, business studies, or public policy programme in which students have to take an economics course and a quantitative methods course, you can use ESPP and Doing Economics projects to connect these parts of the curriculum.
Doing Economics: Empirical Projects
These hands-on projects are designed so that they can either be used independently, in conjunction with the ESPP units, or in conjunction with units from The Economy.
Suggested course structures
Semester 1: Economy, Society, and Public Policy
Using units from Economy, Society, and Public Policy:
|ESPP Unit||Title||Doing Economics|
|1||Capitalism: Affluence, inequality, and the environment.||Empirical Project 1: Measuring climate change (datasets: Goddard Institute for Space Studies temperature data; US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration CO2 data)|
|2||Social interactions and economic outcomes||Empirical Project 2: Collecting and analysing data from experiments (datasets: student-generated experimental data; Hermann et al 2008)|
|3||Public policy for fairness and efficiency.||Empirical Project 3: Assessing the effect of a sugar tax (datasets: Global Food Research Program’s Berkeley Store Price Survey; Silver et al 2017)|
|4||Work, wellbeing, and scarcity.||Empirical Project 4: Measuring wellbeing (datasets: UN GDP data; Human Development Index)|
|5||Institutions, power, and inequality||Empirical Project 5: Measuring economic inequality: Lorenz curves and Gini Ratios (dataset: Our world in data)|
|6||The firm: Employees, managers, and owners||Empirical Project 6: Measuring management practices (dataset: World Management Survey)|
|7||Firms and markets for goods and services||Empirical Project 7: Supply and demand (dataset: US market for watermelons (1930–1951); taken from Stewart (2018))|
|8||The labour market: Wages, profits, and unemployment||Empirical Project 8: Measuring the non-monetary cost of unemployment (dataset: European Values Study)|
|9||The credit market: Borrowers, lenders, and the rate of interest||Empirical Project 9: Credit-excluded households in a developing country (dataset: Ethiopian Socioeconomic Survey)|
|10||Banks, money, housing, and financial assets||Empirical Project 10: Characteristics of banking systems around the world (dataset: World Bank Global Financial Development Database)|
|11||Market failures and government policy||Empirical Project 11: Measuring the willingness to pay for climate change abatement (dataset: German survey data, taken from Uehleke (2016))|
|12||Governments and Markets in a democratic society||Empirical Project 12: Government policies and popularity: Hong Kong cash handout (dataset: data from Hong Kong)|
Semester 2, option 1: Macroeconomic policy
Using units on the aggregate economy from The Economy:
Semester 2, option 2: Economic Policies for innovation, sustainability, and fairness
Using units from The Economy on the future of work, globalization, inequality, environment, and innovation: