Learning Goals of the Undergraduate Program in Economics

Economics is the study of how people make choices, and about how these individual decisions affect, and are affected by, the behavior of others. Under conditions of scarcity, trade-offs arise for consumers, businesses, governments, and nations. Microeconomics studies how individuals make decisions about labor supply, savings, and the pattern of consumption expenditures, how businesses make decisions about production, investment, and marketing, and how governments make decisions through various political mechanisms such as voting. Macroeconomics is about how these decisions combine to yield aggregate outcomes such as the level of national income and how it fluctuates over the business cycle, unemployment, income distribution, inflation, economic growth, and financial performance.

Economics provides a framework within which to understand, assess, and evaluate government actions such as tax and debt policies, regulatory policies, and social policies (e.g., social security, health insurance, etc.). How these policies affect the actions of individuals and business, the performance of markets, and the welfare of society as a whole, are central questions of economics.

Our broad goal at the undergraduate level is to provide students with the tools, language, and rigor to understand and contribute at a substantive level to economic dialogue in local, national, and international settings. For those who wish to pursue further studies in the field, we aim to lay a sound theoretical and empirical foundation that will serve as the basis for advanced study.

In particular we seek to foster:

  1. Critical thinking: students should be able to apply economic reasoning to assess and understand the behavior of individuals as consumers and producers in a variety of contexts, and to evaluate the impact of policy proposals. They should be able to distinguish between competing proposals, assessing the trade-offs between them, employing sound economic reasoning while recognizing assumptions that have been made.
  2. Quantitative reasoning: students should be able to understand and interpret economic data and how it is used to support economic arguments. They should be familiar with statistical concepts and should acquire empirical skills that allow them to both perform and critically assess statistical analyses of economic issues. These skills include accessing or collecting data, forming hypotheses, and setting up formal econometric models that allow the data to be used to assess these hypotheses.
  3. Problem solving and communicating: students should be able to understand theoretical models, and to use them to solve problems under well-specified assumptions, both at the abstract level and as they are applied to specific fields within economics. They should be able to communicate their reasoning clearly and succinctly, explaining the conditions under which their arguments hold, both in writing and verbally, using graphical techniques where applicable.