Peter J Wilcoxen > PAI 723 Economics for Public Decisions

General Information, Textbook and Requirements

Fall 2017

General information that you may need at the beginning of the semester.

Contact Information

Office: 426 Eggers 
Office Hours: Mon and Wed, 10:00-11:30, or by appointment. 
Email: wilcoxen at 

Lab Sessions

On Fridays there will be an optional "lab session" from 3:00-4:30 in the large conference room in the Center for Policy Research (426 Eggers). The sessions are very informal and you're welcome to come and go at any time. The content of any particular session will depend on the interests of the people who come by that day. Typical topics include: discussing difficult material from class; going over supplemental problems from the web; and reviewing for exams.

Teaching Assistant

Magdi Ahmed
Office Hours: Tue and Thu, 2:30-4:00
Location: AV
Email: mahmed06 at

Course Content

Economics of individuals and firms. Topics include demand, supply, competition, monopoly, welfare analysis, strategic behavior, market failure, decision-making under uncertainty, cost-benefit analysis.

Learning Outcomes

Through this course you will learn how to construct and apply mathematical models for economic analysis.  By the end of the course you will be very comfortable applying key microeconomic techniques to: (1) carry out quantitative analysis of a wide range of market scenarios to assess how goods and services will be allocated in each scenario, (2) quantify and assess the efficiency and distributional impacts of government intervention in the market.  


No previous courses in economics are required. The math used will involve graphing, algebra and spreadsheets but no calculus.


Jeffrey Perloff, Microeconomics, Pearson/Addison-Wesley. It's recommended but not required. If you do decide to get a copy, it's not necessary to have the latest edition: renting the 6th or 7th edition rather than the 8th, for example, would be fine.

Assignments and Grading

Grades will be based on two midterm exams (20% each, on Wednesday, October 4th and Wednesday, November 8th, two formal policy memos (one worth 10%, the other worth 15%), a final exam (20%, Monday, December 11th, 8-11 am), and weekly exercises throughout the semester (15%).

Policy Memos: Twice during the semester the weekly assignment will be to write a two-page policy memo on a specified economic issue. The first memo will ask you about an issue previously discussed in class and will be graded mostly on the quality of your exposition. The second memo will ask you to evaluate a policy problem on your own, and will be graded on the quality of your analysis as well as your exposition.

Final Exam: The final exam will focus almost entirely on material in the last third of the course. It will be weighted equally with the other exams.

Weekly Exercises: Due at the beginning of class. Grading will be on a 5 point scale: 5 for excellent work, 4 for good, 3 for an honest attempt and 0 otherwise. You'll need to do the exercises in order to do well on the exams. You may work on the problem sets in groups of up to three students. When working in a group, please turn in a single set of answers for the group and be sure to list each member's name.

Group Work and Policy Memos: The rules on group work are different for policy memos. On the memo assignments, you may do the analysis (eg, calculations) with your group but you must write the memo individually. The exposition -- from overall structure down to the actual text -- should be yours alone. If you have any questions about this rule, please don't hesitate to ask.

Drawing Graphs

All graphs and diagrams this semester can be drawn by hand. They should be neat and scaled appropriately, so it's probably a good idea to use graph paper. You do NOT need to draw them electronically, even for the two memos. For many of the diagrams, it's much more trouble than it's worth to draw them on a computer unless you have specialized software.


Working in groups is encouraged on weekly exercises but be sure to limit the group to no more than three students and list everyone on the answer you submit. On exercises involving spreadsheets, the spreadsheets may be shared within a group but NOT between groups.  Working in groups on the policy memos is allow to the extent described above. It should go without saying, however, that working in groups is absolutely prohibited on exams.


Accommodations can be made in exams and assignments for students with disabilities. If you believe you need accommodations, please contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) as soon as possible. ODS will help you with the University procedure for arranging appropriate accommodations for all of your classes.

Religious Observances

Under SU’s religious observances policy, classes meet at their regularly scheduled times on religious holidays. However, you have an opportunity to make up any examination, study, or work requirements that may be missed due to a religious observance as long as you notify your instructors before the end of the second week of classes. To make the process as easy as possible, an online notification system is available through MySlice/Student Services/Enrollment/My Religious Observances from the first day of class until the end of the second week of class.  If you prefer, however, you can notify me directly by email.  In either case, just check with me and we'll work out an arrangement that fits your schedule.

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Peter J Wilcoxen, The Maxwell School, Syracuse University
Revised 10/09/2017