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Philosophy and Goals of the Social Sciences Undergraduate Core at Caltech

The social science core curriculum initiates students in the study of how humans organize, decide, govern, and allocate their resources. It teaches students how to analyze and reason about individual behavior, markets, and other institutions. Our curriculum covers methods, as well as substance. The issues facing our students in the future will be different from those that are current, but the analytical principles and methodology needed to understand those problems will likely remain the same, albeit improved. Thus the social science core curriculum provides students with the knowledge and tools to, in the words of the catalog, "navigate the societal, political, and economic factors that influence, and are influenced by, their work."

The objectives of the social science core curriculum can be broken into three broad categories of courses: introductory courses that teach basic principles; methods courses that seek to transmit skills and analytical tools; and courses exposing students to substantive ideas and problems in the social sciences. More concretely: "Fundamental ideas and principles" classes expose students to a broad and introductory overview of basic ideas in anthropology, economics, psychology, and political science. "Methodology and analysis" courses focus mainly on giving students the theoretical and empirical tools to analyze problems. They cover the theoretical modeling tools most commonly used in the social sciences, as well as statistical and econometric techniques that are needed to analyze data. "Substantive problems in social science: Individuals, institutions, and markets" courses expose students to an array of substantive questions in social science, from resource allocation via markets and prices, the workings of political institutions, the consequences of poor governance, the psychological basis of human behavior, and an understanding of financial markets.

July 2020