The Program, Economics | Earlham College

The Program

Economics is the study of how societies organize the production and distribution of goods and services. Economics can be studied from different perspectives and using different methods, and we attempt to embrace these differences in the courses we offer. Through our courses we seek to develop in our students the ability to understand economic issues in a wider social, political and historical context. We also seek to strike a healthy balance in the emphasis we place on the theoretical, empirical and real world aspects of the study of economics as well as to familiarize students with the latest scholarship in different aspects of economics and cultivate their ability to undertake research in areas of economics.

Our theory courses, ranging from the introductory level to the advanced undergraduate level, introduce students to the theoretical and empirical tools of economic analysis. We offer courses in the areas of microeconomic analysis, macroeconomic analysis, game theory, econometrics and Marxism. Our applied courses span a wide set of issues and geographic areas and include courses in economic development, economics of the environment, economic history, international trade, labor economics and urban political economy. Our courses also help students to develop and hone the skills required to undertake independent research in one or more sub-disciplines of economics.

In addition to a wide range of courses, the Department also maintains close links with other departments and interdisciplinary programs of the College. Our faculty are closely involved with and teach courses in a number of interdisciplinary programs, including Environmental Studies, International Studies, Business and Nonprofit Management, and Peace and Global Studies. Some of our courses are cross listed with other departments like Philosophy and Politics. These connections result in a number of "non-econ majors" taking Economics courses, broadening students' perspectives and experiences.

Upon graduation, Economics majors travel many different routes. Some of our graduates pursue further education in different areas, including graduate study in economics, public policy analysis, business administration and law. Economics majors from Earlham have pursued further study at a number of leading universities, including Brown, Duke, Harvard, Michigan, Minnesota, Virginia and Yale. Others have gone on to make successful careers in consulting, banking, government, the private nonprofit sector and teaching.

General Education Requirements

The Department offers one course that meet the Abstract Reasoning component of the Analytical Reasoning Requirement, ECON 100; and one course that fulfills the Domestic component of the Perspectives on Diversity Requirement, ECON 345. The Department also offers an occasional Earlham Seminar.

The Major

Students concentrating in Economics take a minimum of 39 credits. All majors must take the following courses which total 27 credits:

  • ECON 100 Introduction to Economics
  • ECON 204 Statistics for Economics
  • ECON 205 Mathematical Foundations for Economics
  • ECON 301 Intermediate Macroeconomics
  • ECON 303 Intermediate Microeconomics
  • ECON 305 Econometrics
  • ECON 310 History of Economic Thought
  • ECON 486 Senior Seminar — Reading and Thesis Preparation
  • ECON 488 Senior Capstone Thesis

In addition, majors must take four more upper-level Economic courses (numbers 300 or above) totaling 12 credits.

The following policies also apply to Economics majors:

  • Students may transfer in only three courses totaling nine credits towards their major.
  • ECON 301, ECON 303, ECON 305 and ECON 310 must be taken at Earlham — courses may not be transferred in and substituted for these courses. In the event a student takes any of these courses in their Senior year and fails them, they may petition the Department to take an equivalent course at another college or university. However, the transfer of these credits must fall within the nine credit constraint stated above.
  • Economic majors must be in residence in their Senior year to take ECON 486 and ECON 488. Only if a student plans to graduate in less than four years, can they take ECON 486 and ECON 488 during their third year, though they still must meet all the prerequisites.
  • Students who fail ECON 486 in the Fall semester may petition the Department to have a retake of ECON 486 in the Spring semester and to do their Senior Capstone Thesis work the following Fall semester. The granting of such an arrangement will be made on a case-by-case basis. A student may not petition to take ECON 486 for the first time in the Spring semester.
  • Completion of AP Exams or IB A levels in Economics do not substitute for the Department's introductory courses.
  • Students may earn credit toward the major for courses taken on off-campus study programs, when the courses would count toward the major if they were offered on campus. Because off-campus courses vary a lot in their demands and quality, the Department will need to examine the course syllabus after a student returns from an off-campus program to determine whether the course counts toward the Economics major.

The Minor

Students obtaining a Minor in Economics must take a minimum of 18 credits. The following courses which total nine credits are required of all Economics minors:

  • ECON 100 Introduction to Economics
  • ECON 204 Statistics
  • ECON 305 History of Economic Thought

In addition, minors must earn nine elective credits in Economics courses numbered 200 or higher. A student may transfer in one course of up to three credits toward the Minor.

* Key

Courses that fulfill
General Education Requirements:

  • (A-AP) = Arts - Applied
  • (A-TH) = Arts - Theoretical/Historical
  • (A-AR) = Analytical - Abstract Reasoning
  • (A-QR) = Analytical - Quantitative
  • (D-D) = Diversity - Domestic
  • (D-I) = Diversity - International
  • (D-L) = Diversity - Language
  • (ES) = Earlham Seminar
  • (IE) = Immersive Experience
  • (RCH) = Research
  • (SI) = Scientific Inquiry
  • (W) = Wellness
  • (WI) = Writing Intensive
  • (AY) = Offered in Alternative Year

This course introduces students to the 'economic way of thinking.' It focuses on micro and macro issues and attempts to give the student a way to apply these concepts in different historical, political, social, global and ethical contexts. Macroeconomic topics include aggregate economic measures, income determination and macro policy. Micro topics include marginal and cost-benefit analysis as applied to consumers and firms, market structures, income distribution, market failures and the role of the state in a micro context. Also listed as INST 100, MGMT 100 and PAGS 100. (A-AR)

*ECON 150 EARLHAM SEMINAR (4 credits) 
Offered for first-year students. Topics vary. (ES)

Introduces the student to the basics of Statistics needed in Economics. Includes descriptive statistics, the basics of probability, discrete and continuous probability distribution functions, sampling distributions, confidence intervals, hypothesis testing and regression analysis. Helps students gain familiarity in using some popular and commonly used computer/statistical packages.

Knowledge and familiarity with some level of mathematics is now important to the study of Economics. This course focuses on the basic math required to study economics beyond the introductory level. The non-calculus part of the course deals with functions, series and the basics of matrix algebra. The calculus portion of the course covers differentiation, integration and the basics of differential equations. Prerequisites: ECON 100 or taken concurrently.

An examination of the determinants of national income, employment and the price level. Centers on the construction and use of models of the economy, principally the Classical and Keynesian models of the macro economy. Includes the theory and practice of fiscal policy, central banking, monetary policy and current policy questions, and discusses issues of the longer run growth of the economy. Prerequisites: ECON 100 and 205. ECON 205 may be taken concurrently.

Deals primarily with the theory of the consumer, the theory of the firm, different market structures, uncertainty, externalities and issues related to public policy and income distribution. Introduces recent developments in microeconomic theorizing. Prerequisites: ECON 100 and 205.

ECON 304 GAME THEORY (3 credits) 
Introduces the field of game theory and develops some basic concepts, useful in understanding strategic interactions. Presents concepts in cooperative and non-cooperative game theory. Examples from different fields in the social sciences introduce concepts used in game theory. Prerequisite: ECON 100. (AY)

ECON 305 ECONOMETRICS (3 credits) 
Introduces the basics of econometric analysis. Topics include regression analysis, muticollinearity, heteroskedacity and autocorrelation. Emphasizes the applied aspects of econometrics through the use of standard computer packages.  Prerequisites: ECON 100 and ECON 204.

Examines economic ideas from the Mercantilists (16th century) to the early development of the Neo-Classical School (late 19th and early 20th centuries). Emphasizes issues related to the development of economic thought in the areas of value, distribution and international trade. Prerequisites: ECON 100.

An analysis and critical appraisal of different national systems of economic organization. Focuses on the variety of forms of capitalism around the world; examines non-capitalist economic arrangements in the past, the present and as possibilities for the future. Prerequisite: ECON 100.

ECON 315 MARXISM (3 credits) 
An examination of Marxist intellectual traditions with heavy emphasis on the writings of Marx. Examines Marx's critique of capitalism and alienation in his early writing to his more formal analysis of capitalism in his work Capital. Looks at how later Marxists and critics of capitalism have used, criticized and reworked elements of the Marxian analysis to continue developing contemporary conceptions of a non-capitalist or classless society. Prerequisite: ECON 100. Also listed as PHIL 315. (AY)

ECON 320 ECONOMIC HISTORY (3 credits) 
A study of the evolution of economies through an examination of major economic issues, trends and the ideas advanced to interpret them. Topics include the origins of capitalism, transition debates, class struggles, changes in institutions, and the origin and transformation of economic policies.

An examination of the structure and operations of the commercial banking system and other financial intermediaries including the stock market and markets for other financial assets, theories of predicting the behavior of stock prices, principles of portfolio selection, and the impact of monetary policy and regulatory agencies on financial markets. Prerequisite: ECON 100. (AY)

Examines the principles governing the acquisition and management of the financial resources of the firm. Special emphasis on determining the cost of capital, optimal capital budgets and capital structure, and dividend policy of the corporation. Prerequisites: ECON 100.

ECON 341 LABOR ECONOMICS (3 credits) 
An examination of labor, both in the formal labor market, and more generally as human productive activity. Topics include the theories of wage determination, the development and impact of trade unions, and analysis of major legal and economic issues relating to the structure and functioning of labor markets. Special attention to issues of equity, relationship and discrimination in formal labor markets and the household. Prerequisites: ECON 100. Also listed as MGMT 341.

Through a combination of theoretical frameworks and case studies, presents an overview of the economics of underdeveloped economies. Topics include approaches to and theories of underdevelopment, issues related to growth and redistribution, the rural and agricultural sector, migration and the urban sector, trade, population, the environment and issues related to governance. Prerequisites: ECON 100. (AY)

An examination of the role that economic analysis plays in understanding the environment and the policy frameworks that economics offers in the area of environmental regulation. Topics include an analysis of market failures, the cost-benefit framework and strategies related to environmental policy. A number of applications related to domestic and international environmental issues discussed. Prerequisite: ECON 100. Also listed as ENST 343. (AY)

Examines the role of the state in the context of developed economies. Typically examines the role of government taxation, the provision of public goods and the regulation of externalities. Also looks more broadly at the way that the state creates a context for the market and strives to promote the general welfare. Emphasis placed on specific government policies such as welfare reform, social security policy or environmental policy. Prerequisite: ECON 100.

A look at the political and economic processes that shape the uses of urban space. Attention to the rise of suburbanization in the United States and the problems of urban poverty, race and class segregation associated with it. Examines historical analysis and issues relating to the "revitalization" of older urban centers. Prerequisite: ECON 100. Also listed as PAGS 345. (D-D)

Through a combination of theoretical frameworks and real world applications, attempts to develop a broad understanding of micro and macro issues in the area of international economics. Deals with issues related to the logic and critique of free trade, tariffs and quotas, exchange rate determination, balance of payments, open economy macro policy, stabilization policy and the role of international institutions in international trade. Prerequisites: ECON 100. Also listed as MGMT 348 and INST 348. (AY)


Collaborative research with faculty funded by the Ford/Knight Program.

ECON 485 INDEPENDENT STUDY (1-3 credits)
Investigation of a specific topic conceived and planned by the student in consultation with a faculty supervisor. Culminates in a comprehensive report prepared in the style of a thesis or paper.

The aim of the seminar is to give students a holistic sense of what constitutes research in economics. The seminar will involve reading and digesting a number of important published papers as well as ongoing research work in economics. As part of the course, students will also do preparatory work to write the Senior Capstone Thesis. To be completed in the Fall semester of the Senior year. Prerequisites: ECON 100, and either ECON 301 or 303.

Students demonstrate their ability to research a topic based on their preparatory work in ECON 486. Thesis paper and public presentation required at the end of the semester. To be completed in the Spring semester of the Senior year. Prerequisites: ECON 486.

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