Peter J Wilcoxen > PAI 723 Economics for Public Decisions

General Information, Textbook, Software, and Requirements

Fall 2021

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 426 (or Zoom by appointment)

Teaching Assistant

Who: Brandon Charles
Email address: bcharles at
Office hours time:
Thursdays 10:00-12:00
Office hours location: Eggers 232

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 at the location below:

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, for example, 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. The weights of the memos and their tentative due dates are listed below.

Memo Weight Date
Memo 1 10% Oct 13 Revised, was Oct 11
Memo 2 15% Dec 8

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% Oct 6, in class
Midterm 2 15% Nov 15, in class
Final 20% Dec 13, 8:00-11:00 am

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 alone. 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.

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.

Stay Safe Pledge

Syracuse University's Stay Safe Pledge reflects the high value that we, as a university community, place on the well-being of our community members. This pledge defines norms for behavior that will promote community health and wellbeing. Classroom expectations include the following: wearing a mask that covers the nose and mouth at all times, maintaining a distance of six feet from others, and staying away from class if you feel unwell. Students who do not follow these norms will not be allowed to continue in face-to-face classes; repeated violations will be treated as violations of the Code of Student Conduct and may result in disciplinary action.

Academic Integrity

Overall Policy: Syracuse University's Academic Integrity Policy 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. Syracuse University 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.

Online Exams: All academic integrity expectations that apply to in-person exams also apply to online exams. In this course, all work submitted for exams must be yours alone. Discussing exam questions with anyone during the exam period violates academic integrity expectations for this course.

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.

Discrimination or Harassment

The University does not discriminate and 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.

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 09/28/2021