Peter J Wilcoxen > PAI 723 Economics for Public Decisions

General Information, Textbook and Requirements

Spring 2019

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

Contact Information

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

Course Web Site

All course materials, including instructions for assignments and the corresponding due dates, will be posted at the URL below. Blackboard will only be used for submitting two memo assignments.

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 in 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.

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

Exams: 60% of final grade. The dates of the exams are listed below. The exams are weighted equally and the final will focus mostly on material in the last third of the course rather than covering the entire semester.

Exam Weight Date
Midterm 1 20% February 20 (Wed) in class
Midterm 2 20% April 8 (Mon) in class
Final 20% May 2 (Thu) 8 - 11 am

Policy Memos: 25% of final grade. 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. The weights of the memos and their tentative due dates are listed below.

Memo Weight Date
Memo 1 10% February 25 (Mon)
Memo 2 15% April 29 (Mon)

Weekly Exercises: 15% of final grade. 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.

Working in Groups

Weekly Exercises: Working in groups is encouraged on weekly exercises. Please limit the group to no more than three students and list everyone on the answer you submit. It's fine to submit one answer sheet for the whole group. On exercises involving spreadsheets, the spreadsheets may be shared within a group but NOT between groups.

Policy Memos: On the memo assignments, you may do the analysis (e.g., 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.

Exams: Working in groups is absolutely prohibited on exams.

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.

Academic Integrity

Syracuse University’s Academic Integrity Policy, found at the URL below, reflects the high value that we, as a university community, place on honesty in academic work. The policy defines our expectations for academic honesty and holds students accountable for the integrity of all work they submit. Students should understand that it is their responsibility to learn about course-specific expectations, as well as about university-wide academic integrity expectations. The policy governs appropriate citation and use of sources, the integrity of work submitted in exams and assignments, and the veracity of signatures on attendance sheets and other verification of participation in class activities. The policy also prohibits students from submitting the same work in more than one class without receiving written authorization in advance from both instructors. Under the policy, students found in violation are subject to grade sanctions determined by the course instructor and non-grade sanctions determined by the School or College where the course is offered as described in the Violation and Sanction Classification Rubric. SU students are required to read an online summary of the University’s academic integrity expectations and provide an electronic signature agreeing to abide by them twice a year during pre-term check-in on MySlice.

Disability-Related Accommodations

If you need accommodations for a disability, please contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS), visit the ODS website below, or visit the ODS office in Room 309 of 804 University Avenue, or call (315) 443-4498 or TDD: (315) 443-1371 for an appointment to discuss your needs and the process for requesting accommodations. ODS is responsible for coordinating disability-related accommodations and will issue students with documented Disabilities Accommodation Authorization Letters, as appropriate. Since accommodations may require early planning and generally are not provided retroactively, please contact ODS as soon as possible.

Religious Observances

SU religious observances notification and policy, found at the URL below, recognizes the diversity of faiths represented among the campus community and protects the rights of students, faculty, and staff to observe religious holidays according to their tradition.  Under the policy, students are provided an opportunity to make up any examination, study, or work requirements that may be missed due to a religious observance provided they notify their instructors before the end of the second week of classes for regular session classes and by the submission deadline for flexibly formatted classes. 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 01/13/2019