ECO 150: Readings

This page includes readings for the course. These will often include chapters from the textbook. Keep in mind that we will not follow  the textbook too closely. As a result, some things from class may not appear in the book and vice-versa. In addition, there will typically be supplemental workshops or assigned readings for each topic.

Introduction: Scarcity and Tradeoffs:  Chapters 1 and 2 of the textbook provide a related treatment of this material. Supplemental worksheet on trade-offs.

Minimum Wage: Last year, the Congressional Budget Office (a non-partisan agency that performs economic analysis of proposed policies) examined the effects of a $15/hr Federal minimum wage. Here is an article on what they found. The CBO also has an interactive tool that allows you to estimate how different proposals affect jobs and wages.

Last year, three economists won the Nobel Prize, partly for their work on the minimum wage. Many of their findings suggest that higher minimum wages have surprisingly small effects on employment. Here is one short article on their work. In contrast, other economists have found that when Seattle boosted its minimum wage, it did result in significant job losses.

Supply and Demand: Chapter 3 of the textbook. We also used this worksheet.

September FOMC meeting: : a basic explanation of what the Fed is and why its decisions matter. An article on the details of September’s decision

Elasticities and Costs: Chapters 5 and 7 of the textbook cover this material.

Crime: This piece from Vox presents sixteen theories for why U.S.violent crime rates fell until the start of the pandemic (they have since risen). It also presents the evidence for and against each of these theories, much of it done by economists. Examples include the hypothesis that the legalization of abortion contributed to lower crime and theories that lower crime is due to more popular video games or unleaded gasoline.

Economist Roland Fryer’s visited Bates in 2015 where he presented evidence on racial disparities in policing (see page 5). Here is a blog piece by Justin Feldman disagreeing with Fryer.

Market Failures: Chapters 12-13 of the textbook cover this material. We also used this supplemental worksheet.

Unions: Here is some basic data on labor unions in the U.S and an article discussing the decline in unionization in the U.S. We also discussed two articles quantifying their impacts, an older one from Douglas Clement and a newer one by Chris Doucouliagos.

Market Structure: Chapters 11-12 of the textbook cover this material.

Macroeconomic Concepts: Chapter 19 of the textbook covers this material.

Financial Crises:

Here is a more detailed discussion by Robert Lucas and Nancy Stokey. It is more technical than most of the readings in the class, but is worth a shot.
Here is a speech by then Fed Chairman Bernanke where he blamed the Fed for causing the Great Depression, which included a financial crisis.
Douglas Diamond discusses the current risks.


Labor Markets: Chapter 21 of the textbook covers this material. We also used this worksheet.

Social Security and Medicare: 

1. A very basic primer from Nerd Wallet on what these programs do and how they work.
2. An update from the Trustees of the programs on the financial challenges facing them.
3. An analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on the impact of Social Security.

4. A discussion of potential policy solutions (for Social Security) from the Urban Institute.
Aggregate Output and Inflation: Chapters 19 and 22 correspond to this material.
AS/AD: Chapter 24.
Applications of AS/Ad:
1. A brief summary of the Great Recession from Federal Reserve History.
2. A discussion of whether covid-19 was a shock to demand or supply from the St. Louis Fed.

3. A discussion of the causes of recent inflation from the Washington Post.
4.The Committee for a Responsible Budget compares the policy response to covid-19 to that after the Great Recession.
Economic Growth: Chapter 20 of the textbook.
Economics of Education:
i) one important micro question is the impact of public investment in education/ early childhood programs at different levels ranging from 0-3 years of age to higher-ed. A lot has been written in this area. I will focus on the work of  labor economist Jim Heckman. Here is a summary of a study showing that the children of kids (not the kids themselves) enrolled in pre-school programs decades earlier have better outcomes than the children of kids who did not enroll. This page shows an interesting graphic on how the return on education spending varies by age.
ii) Another micro question is what type of educational spending has the biggest impact (e.g. better buildings, more teachers, more administrators, etc.). Economist Jason Baron (who presented this work at Bates a few years ago) discusses his work on this topic in this interview.
iii) Finally, what is the impact of education on macroeconomic performance.This ties in to Tuesday’s discussion of growth. This summary by four economists describes some of the evidence on how education impacts growth.
Trade: Chapter 33 of the textbook.