Economics is a study of the choices that individuals and societies make about how to allocate their scarce human, natural, and capital resources among competing uses. It is a social science, applying scientific methods of analysis to problems of human interaction.
Economics courses at Reed blend presentation of classical and modern economic theories with discussion of empirical tests and policy implications of the theoretical models. The objectives of the department are to equip prospective professional economists with basic analytical techniques and to provide nonspecialists with the understanding necessary to explain economic phenomena and to evaluate economic policy alternatives.
The introductory course (Economics 201) covers microeconomic theory with substantial and varied applications including student participation experiments, group projects, policy discussions, and problem solving. Topical courses in economics, most of which have no more than Economics 201 as a prerequisite, allow students to explore further the application of economic theories and methods to a wide variety of subject areas. Although a textbook is sometimes used as the foundation for these courses, it is supplemented by reading from journal articles, conference papers, and other timely reports in order to provide students with a more critical appraisal of the field's main findings and its newest developments.
A nonmajor taking economics to fulfill distribution or divisional requirements typically would take Economics 201 (open to all students without prerequisite) and one additional course chosen according to his or her interests. Students considering a major in economics are advised to take Economics 201 during their first year, though many students successfully complete the major starting their economics coursework as sophomores. Economics majors take core coursework in economic theory (Economics 313 and either 304 or 314) and statistics and econometrics (Economics 311 or 312), as well as a selection of elective courses. Economics 311 and 312 are alternative econometrics courses, not a consecutive sequence. Because there is considerable overlap between them, students should not plan to take both. Economics 304 and 314 are alternative courses in macroeconomics, not a consecutive sequence. Because there is considerable overlap between them, students should not plan to take both. Although there is no formal mathematics requirement, the methods of modern economic analysis require a working understanding of calculus, which is a prerequisite for the required courses in microeconomic and macroeconomic theory. Students considering graduate study in economics should take additional courses in mathematics as suggested below. An interdisciplinary major in mathematics–economics is offered for students desiring a stronger emphasis on quantitative analysis.
Economics majors are well prepared for a variety of postgraduate alternatives, including academic, public policy, law, business, or nonprofit career paths.