Peter J Wilcoxen > PAI 723 Economics for Public Decisions

General Information, Textbook, Software, and Requirements

Fall 2023

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

Contact Information

Email address: wilcoxen at
Office hours time: Mon and Wed, 10:00-11:30 or by appointment
Office hours location:
Eggers 225

Teaching Assistant

Who: Sarah Souders
Email address: sasouder at
Office hours:
Tues 8:00-9:20 in Eggers 113 and Thu 2:00-3:30 in Lyman 312

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 memo assignments.

Lab Sessions

On Fridays there will be an optional lab session from 3:00 to 4:30 in Eggers 225B.

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 weekly assignments or 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.


To the extent that there's a textbook, it's Jeffrey Perloff, Microeconomics, Pearson/Addison-Wesley. It's optional. It's a good book but we're not going to follow it very closely and you may be able to get along fine without it, especially if you've had any economics before. 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 or 9th would be fine.


There is one required and one optional phone application. You'll need them for in-class assignments:

Assignments and Grading

Daily Exercises: 10% of final grade. These will be given out and done during class. Grading will be entirely based on effort: if you try an exercise and submit a response you'll get credit for it; if you don't try it or don't submit a response you'll get a 0.

Weekly Exercises: 15% of final grade. 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. The exercises can be done in groups; more on that below.

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. As described under Using AI Tools below, AI may be used on the memos for specific purposes. The weights of the memos and their tentative due dates are listed below.

Memo Weight Date
Memo 1 10% Updated: Friday, Oct 6 at 11:59 pm
Memo 2 15% Dec 11

Exams: 50% 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 15% Updated: Oct 11, in class
Midterm 2 15% Nov 15, in class
Final 20% Dec 15, 9-12 in Eggers 018

Working in Groups

Daily Exercises: Working in groups is encouraged on the daily exercises: that will make them more fun and less frustrating.

Weekly Exercises: Working in groups of up to three people is also encouraged on weekly exercises. If you work in a group, please be sure to note all of your collaborators on your assignment. Also, it's OK to submit a single answer for the whole group. Please don't share answers between groups, although it's OK to talk about the exercises with people outside your group in broad terms.

Policy Memos: On the memo assignments, you may do the analysis (e.g., calculations) with a group but you must write the memo individually. The exposition, from overall structure down to the actual text, should be yours, although as noted below you may use AI for some purposes. If you have any questions about this rule, please don't hesitate to ask.

Exams: Working in groups is absolutely prohibited on exams: that work must be yours alone.

Using AI Tools

Artificial intelligence tools may be used in certain assignments but not others. Please follow the guidelines below. Check with me if you have any questions.

Prohibited uses: exams, daily assignments, and weekly assignments.

AI will not be available during the exams, which will be done in class using pencil and paper with only calculators allowed. People with accommodations that allow them to take the exams elsewhere will be subject to the same rules. AI is not allowed on the daily and weekly exercises because they are intended as practice for the exams.

Allowed use: memos, under the rules given below.

AI may not be used to carry out the analysis in a memo assignment but it may be used to improve the memo's exposition (grammar, spelling, word choice, logical order, and so on). Examples of permissible expositional uses include: composing a first draft from an outline; refining the wording of specific paragraphs; making the text clearer and more concise; or polishing the memo at the end. However, any use of AI is subject to the following stipulations:

  1. All memos will be required to include an "AI Disclosure" heading at the top after the To, From, Date and Subject headings that indicates whether or not AI was used and, if it was, includes the name of the tool;

  2. If you use AI, you agree to include the disclosure heading if you subsequently submit the memo to a potential employer or other party as a writing sample;

  3. If you use AI, it should only be used to improve the exposition, not to add any detail. In particular, the memo must be carefully vetted to make sure that the AI tool does not hallucinate or add any material or information beyond what was given in the assignment. Any added material will be subject to a significant penalty.

The penalties in the third rule are serious and there for an important reason: in the future it will be your professional responsibility to understand and be able to defend anything you write, and you'll need to avoid letting an AI add anything that might not be true.

Moreover, in this context you should not let an AI add anything beyond the specific details in the assignment and your results, even if you know the AI's addition to be true. That's because the purpose of the memos in this class is to help you practice summarizing the results of an economic analysis that you've done clearly and concisely. They are not intended as open-ended research papers.

Drawing Graphs

All graphs and diagrams for the exercises and exams can be drawn by hand. They should be neat and scaled appropriately, so it's probably a good idea to use graph paper. Figures in the memos showing numerical results should be drawn using Excel or a similar program.

Academic Integrity

Syracuse University’s Academic Integrity Policy reflects the high value that we, as a university community, place on honesty in academic work. The policy holds students accountable for the integrity of all work they submit and for upholding course-specific, as well as university-wide, academic integrity expectations. The policy governs citation and use of sources, the integrity of work submitted in exams and assignments, and truthfulness in all academic matters, including course attendance and participation. The policy states that any work a student submits for a course must be solely their own unless the instructor explicitly allows collaboration or editing. The policy also requires students to acknowledge their use of other peoples’ language, images or other original creative or scholarly work through appropriate citation.

These expectations extend to the new, fast-growing realm of artificial intelligence (AI) as well as to the use of websites that charge fees or require uploading of course materials to obtain exam solutions or assignments. Students are required to ask their instructor whether use of these tools is permitted – and if so, to what extent – before using them to complete any assignment or exam. Students are also required to seek advance permission from instructors if they wish to submit the same work in more than one course. Failure to receive this permission in advance may violate the Academic Integrity Policy. Under the policy, instructors who seek to penalize a student for a suspected violation must first report the violation to the Center for Learning and Student Success (CLASS). Students may not drop or withdraw from courses in which they face a suspected violation. Instructors must wait to assign a final course grade until a suspected violation is reviewed and upheld or overturned.

Upholding Academic Integrity includes abiding by instructors’ individual course expectations, which may include the protection of their intellectual property. Students should not upload, distribute, or otherwise share instructors’ course materials without permission. Students found in violation of the policy 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 outlined in the Violation and Sanction Classification Rubric. 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.

The use of AI tools for course assignments is discussed in detail in the syllabus section "Using AI Tools".

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility

Syracuse University rejects and rebukes all forms of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, religious harassment and hostility, classism and all other forms of discrimination, othering, hate and non-accessibility in all its myriad expressions. It prohibits harassment or discrimination related to any protected category including creed, ethnicity, citizenship, sexual orientation, national origin, sex, gender, pregnancy, disability, marital status, age, race, color, veteran status, military status, religion, sexual orientation, domestic violence status, genetic information, gender identity, gender expression or perceived gender.

Any complaint of discrimination or harassment related to any of these protected bases should be reported to Sheila Johnson-Willis, the University’s Chief Equal Opportunity & Title IX Officer. She is responsible for coordinating compliance efforts under various laws including Titles VI, VII, IX and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. She can be contacted at Equal Opportunity, Inclusion, and Resolution Services, 005 Steele Hall, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244-1120; by email:; or by telephone: 315-443-0211.

This is personally important to me as well. If you ever feel discriminated against or unsupported because of your identity, please don't hesitate to let me or someone else in the department know, or contact one of the resources on this page.

Disability-Related Accommodations

Syracuse University values diversity and inclusion; we are committed to a climate of mutual respect and full participation. There may be aspects of the instruction or design of this course that result in barriers to your inclusion and full participation in this course. I invite any student to contact me to discuss strategies and/or accommodations (academic adjustments) that may be essential to your success and to collaborate with the Center for Disability Resources (CDR) in this process.

If you would like to discuss disability-accommodations or register with CDR, please visit Center for Disability Resources. Please call (315) 443-4498 or email for more detailed information. The CDR is responsible for coordinating disability-related academic accommodations and will work with the student to develop an access plan. Since academic accommodations may require early planning and generally are not provided retroactively, please contact CDR as soon as possible to begin this process.

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. More information is available here.

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Peter J Wilcoxen, The Maxwell School, Syracuse University
Revised 11/29/2023