Display All HSS Courses for 2021-22

Filtered HSS Courses (2021-22)

Show Filters


Introduction to Economics

9 units (3-2-4)    |  first, second terms
An introduction to economic methodology, models, and institutions. Includes both basic microeconomics and an introduction to modern approaches to macroeconomic issues. Students are required to participate in economics experiments.
Instructors: Plott, Rangel

Freshman Seminar: Thinking like an Economist

6 units (2-0-4)    |  first term
Economics is a way of analyzing the world in which scarcity requires tradeoffs and creates constraints which are expressed as mathematical optimization. Theories are tested with both controlled experiments and analysis of field data. Motivating clever theories and evidence is a folk concept of "thinking like an economist" (or "economic intuition"). We will develop economic intuition about topics which include: Unintended consequences, how to show causality, partial and general equilibrium, game theory, the effect of institutional systems, price bubbles, pricing risk, drug addiction, and more. Freshmen only, limited enrollment.
Instructor: Camerer

Frontiers in Social Sciences

3 units (1-0-2)    |  second term
Weekly seminar by a member of the Caltech Social Sciences faculty to discuss a topic of their current research or teaching at an introductory level. The course can be used to learn more about different areas of study and about undergraduate courses within the Social Sciences. The course will also be useful to those interested in pursuing the BEM, EC or PS options, or participating in research (SURF, for example) under supervision of the Social Science faculty. The students will be asked to write a discussion of each seminar presentation. Graded pass/fail.
Instructor: Cvitanic

Undergraduate Research

Units to be arranged    |  any term
Prerequisites: Advanced economics and instructor's permission.
This course offers advanced undergraduates the opportunity to pursue research in Economics individually or in a small group. Graded pass/fail.

Senior Research and Thesis

Prerequisites: instructor's permission.
Senior economics majors wishing to undertake research may elect a variable number of units, not to exceed 12 in any one term, for such work under the direction of a member of the economics faculty.

Selected Topics in Economics

Units to be determined by arrangement with the instructor    |  offered by announcement
Topics to be determined by instructor.
Instructors: Staff, visiting lecturers

Firms, Competition, and Industrial Organization

9 units (3-0-6)    |  first term
Prerequisites: Ec 11 or equivalent.
A study of how technology affects issues of market structure and how market structure affects observable economic outcomes, such as prices, profits, advertising, and research and development expenditures. Emphasis will be on how the analytic tools developed in the course can be used to examine particular industries-especially those related to internet commerce-in detail. Each student is expected to write one substantial paper. Not offered 2021-2022.

Foundations of Behavioral Economics

9 units (3-0-6)    |  first term
In this course we will examine behavioral economics models in several key decision-making contexts: choice over time, choice under uncertainty, choice in market settings (i.e., buying and selling), and others. In each topic area we will begin by providing the standard neoclassical account for behavior, building from assumptions (axioms) to corresponding utility models. We will then ask whether critical axioms of neoclassical models are plausible by calling upon psychological insights and empirical data. Rejection of neoclassical axioms will lead to new models, behavioral economics models, in each setting. These models, mechanisms and their testable predictions will be discussed.
Instructor: Sprenger

Frontiers in Behavioral Economics

9 units (3-0-6)    |  second term
Prerequisites: Ec 11.
This course will study topics in behavioral economics demonstrating departures from the classic economics assumptions of rationality and pure self-interest. We will study evidence of these departures, models that have been designed to capture these preferences, and applications of these models to important economic questions. Topics will include biases and heuristics, risk preferences, self-control, strategic uncertainty, and social preferences, among others. The course will be based in readings from both classic and modern research. Methodologically, the course will combine both theoretical and empirical evidence of the mentioned above topics.
Instructor: Nielsen

Bayesian Statistics

9 units (3-0-6)    |  second term
Prerequisites: Ma 3, ACM/EE/IDS 116 or equivalent.
This course provides an introduction to Bayesian Statistics and its applications to data analysis in various fields. Topics include: discrete models, regression models, hierarchical models, model comparison, and MCMC methods. The course combines an introduction to basic theory with a hands-on emphasis on learning how to use these methods in practice so that students can apply them in their own work. Previous familiarity with frequentist statistics is useful but not required.
Instructor: Rangel

Matching Markets

9 units (3-0-6)    |  third term
We will tackle the fundamental question of how to allocate resources and organize exchange in the absence of prices. Examples includes finding a partner, allocating students to schools, and matching donors to patients in the context of organ transplantations. While the main focus will be on formal models, we will also reason about the practical implications of the theory.
Instructor: Pomatto

Environmental Economics

9 units (3-0-6)    |  first term
Prerequisites: Ec 11 or equivalent.
This course provides a survey from the perspective of economics of public policy issues regarding the management of natural resources and the protection of environmental quality. The course covers both conceptual topics and recent and current applications. Included are principles of environmental and resource economics, management of nonrenewable and renewable resources, and environmental policy with the focus on air pollution problems, both local problems (smog) and global problems (climate change). Not offered 2021-2022.

Theory of Value

9 units (3-0-6)    |  first, second terms
Prerequisites: Ec 11 and Ma 1b (may be taken concurrently).
A study of consumer preference, the structure and conduct of markets, factor pricing, measures of economic efficiency, and the interdependence of markets in reaching a general equilibrium.
Instructors: Pourbabaee, Saito


9 units (3-0-6)    |  first term
Prerequisites: Ma 3.
The application of statistical techniques to the analysis of economic data.
Instructor: Sherman

Analysis of Consumer Choices

9 units (3-0-6)    |  third term
Prerequisites: Ec 122 or permission of the instructor.
This course uses econometric tools to analyze choices made by people among a finite set of alternatives. Discrete choice models have been used to understand consumer behavior in many domains - shopping between brands (Toyota vs. BMW), where to go to college (Caltech or MIT), choosing between modes of transportation (car, metro, Uber, or bicycle), etc. Models studied include logit, nested logit, probit, and mixed logit, etc. Simulation techniques that allow estimation of otherwise intractable models will also be discussed.
Instructor: Xin

Identification Problems in the Social Sciences

9 units (3- 0-6)    |  second term
Prerequisites: Ec 122.
Statistical inference in the social sciences is a difficult enterprise whereby we combine data and assumptions to draw conclusions about the world we live in. We then make decisions, for better or for worse, based on these conclusions. A simultaneously intoxicating and sobering thought! Strong assumptions about the data generating process can lead to strong but often less than credible (perhaps incredible?) conclusions about our world. Weaker assumptions can lead to weaker but more credible conclusions. This course explores the range of inferences that are possible when we entertain a range of assumptions about how data is generated. We explore these ideas in the context of a number of applications of interest to social scientists. Not offered 2021-2022.

Applied Data Analysis

9 units (3-0-6)    |  first term
Prerequisites: Math 3/103 or ACM/EE/IDS 116, Ec 122 or IDS/ACM/CS 157 or Ma 112a.
Fundamentally, this course is about making arguments with numbers and data. Data analysis for its own sake is often quite boring, but becomes crucial when it supports claims about the world. A convincing data analysis starts with the collection and cleaning of data, a thoughtful and reproducible statistical analysis of it, and the graphical presentation of the results. This course will provide students with the necessary practical skills, chiefly revolving around statistical computing, to conduct their own data analysis. This course is not an introduction to statistics or computer science. I assume that students are familiar with at least basic probability and statistical concepts up to and including regression.
Instructor: Katz

Economic History of the United States

9 units (3-0-6)    |  second term
Prerequisites: Ec 11.
An examination of certain analytical and quantitative tools and their application to American economic development. Each student is expected to write two substantial papers-drafts will be read by instructor and revised by students. Not offered 2021-2022.

Economic History of Europe from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century

9 units (3-0-6)    |  third term
Prerequisites: Ec 11.
Employs the theoretical and quantitative techniques of economics to help explore and explain the development of the European cultural area between 1000 and 1980. Topics include the rise of commerce, the demographic transition, the Industrial Revolution, and changes in inequality, international trade, social spending, property rights, and capital markets. Each student is expected to write nine weekly essays and a term paper. Not offered 2021-2022.

Economics of Uncertainty and Information

9 units (3-0-6)    |  second term
Prerequisites: Ec 11.
An analysis of the effects of uncertainty and information on economic decisions. Included among the topics are individual and group decision making under uncertainty, expected utility maximization, insurance, financial markets and speculation, product quality and advertisement, and the value of information.
Instructor: Agranov

Behavioral Decision Theory

9 units (3-0-6)    |  third term
Prerequisites: Ma 3. Ec 121 is recommended as background, but is not a prerequisite.
This course is an intermediate-level class on individual-level theory. The method used posits precise assumptions about general behavior (axioms) then finds equivalent ways to model them in mathematically convenient terms. We will cover both the traditional “rational’’ approach, and more recent “behavioral’’ models that incorporate psychological principles, in domains of intertemporal choice, random (stochastic) choice, menu choice, and revealed preferences. Students are expected to understand rigorous mathematical proofs. The class also includes serious discussion of the value of experimental evidence motivating new theories. Not offered 2021-2022.

Economic Progress

9 units (3-0-6)    |  second term
Prerequisites: Ec 11; Ec 122 recommended.
This course examines the contemporary literature on economic growth and development from both a theoretical and historical/empirical perspective. Topics include a historical overview of economic progress and the lack thereof; simple capital accumulation models; equilibrium/ planning models of accumulation; endogenous growth models; empirical tests of convergence; the measurement and role of technological advancement; and the role of trade, institutions, property rights, human capital, and culture.
Instructor: Hoffman

Algorithmic Economics

9 units (3-0-6)    |  third term
This course will equip students to engage with active research at the intersection of social and information sciences, including: algorithmic game theory and mechanism design; auctions; matching markets; and learning in games.
Instructor: Sandomirskii

Laboratory Experiments in the Social Sciences

9 units (3-3-3)    |  first, second, third terms
Section a required for sections b and c. An examination of recent work in laboratory testing in the social sciences with particular reference to work done in social psychology, economics, and political science. Students are required to design and conduct experiments.
Instructor: Plott

Game Theory

9 units (3-0-6)    |  third term
Prerequisites: Ec 11 or PS 12 and one from the following list: ACM 116, ACM 117, Ma 3, or Ma/ACM/IDS 140ab.
This course is an introduction to non-cooperative game theory, with applications to political science and economics. It covers the theories of normal-form games and extensive-form games, and introduces solutions concepts that are relevant for situations of complete and incomplete information. The basic theory of repeated games is introduced. Applications are to auction theory and asymmetric information in trading models, cheap talk and voting rules in congress, among many others.
Instructor: Tamuz

Climate Change Impacts, Mitigation and Adaptation

3 units (3-0-0)    |  second term
Climate change has already begun to impact life on the planet, and will continue in the coming decades. This class will explore particular causes and impacts of climate change, technologies to mitigate or adapt to those impacts, and the economic and social costs associated with them - particular focus will be paid to distributional issues, environmental and racial justice and equity intersections. The course will consist of 3-4 topical modules, each focused on a specific impact or sector (e.g. the electricity or transportation sector, climate impacts of food and agriculture, increasing fires and floods). Each module will contain lectures/content on the associated climate science background, engineering/technological developments to combat the issue, and an exploration of the economics and the inequities that exacerbate the situation, followed by group discussion and synthesis of the different perspectives.
Instructors: Wennberg, Staff

Convex Analysis and Economic Theory

9 units (3-0-6)    |  first, second terms
Prerequisites: Ma 1. Ec 121a is recommended.
Introduction to the use of convex analysis in economic theory. Includes separating hyperplane theorems, continuity and differentiability properties of convex and concave functions, support functions, subdifferentials, Fenchel conjugates, saddlepoint theorem, theorems of the alternative, polyhedra, linear programming, and duality in graphs. Introduction to discrete convex analysis and matroids. Emphasis is on the finite-dimensional case, but infinite-dimensional spaces will be discussed. Applications to core convergence, cost and production functions, mathematical finance, decision theory, incentive design, and game theory. Not offered 2021-2022.