ECON 459
Economics of Institutions Spring 2018 Division II; Writing-Intensive; Quantative/Formal Reasoning;
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Why are some countries so rich and others so poor? Typical answers to this question have emphasized proximate causes like factor accumulation (i.e., growth in a nation’s physical and human capital endowments), technological progress, and demographic change. The institutional approach to this question, however, emphasizes the role of sociopolitical and cultural factors, broadly defined, as a fundamental determinant of its economic prosperity. The central idea is that the added-value of economic activities to society at large is primarily conditioned by the social arrangements within which these activities occur. Specifically, these social arrangements invariably generate a structure of private incentives, which can either promote behavior that is conducive to economic development or lead to the pursuit of private gain at the expense of the common good. As such, the key to economic development in this view is the establishment of a suitable set of institutions and structures of governance in society. This course will survey the rapidly expanding literature on the topic of institutions and economic development, with an emphasis on the latest empirical evidence that has come to bear in the context of both historical and contemporary societies. The purpose of the course will be to expose students to the core ideas and empirical tools employed at the frontier of research in this area of inquiry. The readings will primarily comprise published journal articles and unpublished working papers, and students should expect to apply concepts from across all the core courses in economics.
The Class: Type: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 3139
Requirements/Evaluation: two 5-page reviews of published articles, two class presentations, and one 15-page final research paper (involving applied econometric work); extensive class participation
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis; not available for the fifth course option
Prerequisites: ECON 251, ECON 252, and either ECON 255 or STAT 346
Enrollment Preference: senior Economics majors
Distributions: Division II; Writing-Intensive; Quantative/Formal Reasoning;

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