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The Economics department offers two majors: Economics (ECO) and the STEM-designated Quantitative Economics (QEC). Our students gain the skills and insights that enable them to tackle pressing economic, social, and political issues including Inflation and unemployment, high prices of health care service and limited access to health care, racial and gender disparities, inequality, environment and climate change, economic development, economic growth and finance, and the complexities of the global economy. 

Students develop economic intuition and learn about the suite of tools utilized by economists, including econometric models, data analytics, and experimental designs. Numerous opportunities exist for students to further their economic knowledge on campus by participating in various faculty-run research labs and off campus by taking advantage of a Junior Year Study Abroad program that offers both English-language and foreign-languages options.

Many of our students pursue economics with career aspirations in diverse fields like banking, finance, business, technology, consulting, and law. Others leverage the intellectual rigor and societal relevance of the field as a springboard for varied careers in nonprofit organizations, policy institutions, government agencies, Federal Reserve Banks, and academia. Moreover, the study of economics extends considerable benefits to non-majors as it serves as an essential aspect of a well-rounded liberal arts education, cultivating informed citizenship, and facilitating enriched decision making.

Requirements & Courses

Goals for Majors in Economics

  • Understand and synthesize the basic concepts of economics
  • Use those economic concepts to solve problems, particularly in the realm of public policy
  • Consider different perspectives in the approach to solving problems
  • Develop critical thinking
  • Conduct independent research
  • Develop an ability for abstract reasoning based on tight, clear logic
  • Develop quantitative skills for data management and systematic empirical analysis
  • Develop a precise writing style
  • Develop a facility for effective oral presentation

Economics Major


Ten courses (minimum)

  1. Five core courses
    1. ECO 150 and ECO 153 or equivalent
    2. One of:
      1. ECO 220 (preferred)
      2. SDS 201 taken at Smith, plus one additional elective in economics
      3. SDS 220, plus one additional elective in economics
      4. SDS 291
    3. ECO 250 and ECO 253
  2. Four electives in economics
  3. One seminar in economics

See Major Requirement Details for additional information

Quantitative Economics Major


Eleven courses (minimum)

  1. Six or seven core courses
    1. ECO 150 and ECO 153 or equivalent
    2. One of:
      1. ECO 220 (preferred)
      2. SDS 201 taken at Smith, plus one additional elective in economics
      3. SDS 220, plus one additional elective in economics
      4. SDS 291
    3. ECO 240
    4. ECO 250 and ECO 253
  2. Two upper-level courses in economics (ECO 254 - ECO 296)
  3. Two electives in economics
  4. One seminar in economics

See major Requirement Details for additional information.

Major Requirement Details

  • Students who pass the department’s placement examination in microeconomics or macroeconomics, or who pass the AP examination in microeconomics or macroeconomics with a score of 4 or 5, or who have the appropriate grades in A-level or IB courses in economics, may count this as the equivalent of ECO 150 or ECO 153 (Economics Major) or both (Quantitative Economics Major). Course credit toward the major will be granted as long as the overall number of economics credits (not including those from one- or two-credit special studies) recorded on the transcript is at least 36. Students with AP, A-level or IB credit are urged to take the placement exams to ensure correct placement.
  • Students who have already taken any of GOV 203, SOC 204, SDS 201, PSY 201 or SDS 220 may not receive college or major credit for ECO 220.
  • SDS 201 may be taken as transfer credit with the permission of the major adviser or department chair.
  • Economics credit will be given for public policy, environmental science and policy, and for Middle East studies courses when taught by a member of the economics department and with prior permission of the instructor.
  • Economics credit will not be given for IDP 223.
  • The S/U grading option is not allowed for courses counting toward the economics major. An exception may be made in the case of ECO 150 and ECO 153.
  • Four semester credits (and no more than 2 in any one semester) taken by a Smith student outside the Five Colleges may be counted toward the courses required for the major. This includes courses taken during study abroad or study away, and courses taken in summer school or during a leave of absence from the college.
  • Any course taken for economics credit outside the Five Colleges should normally have prior approval by the major adviser or the department’s adviser for study abroad.
  • Economics courses and appropriate statistics courses taken by transfer students before their matriculation to Smith and approved by the department and the college will be counted toward the major as if they had been taken at Smith.


Please consult the director of honors and the departmental website at for specific requirements and application procedures.

Economics Minor


Six courses

  1. ECO 150 and ECO 153
  2. ECO 220, or one statistics course taken outside of the department plus one additional elective in economics
  3. Three electives in economics

See Major Requirement Details on the major tab for additional information pertaining to the minor.



ECO 125 Game Theory (4 Credits)

An examination of how rational people cooperate and compete. Game theory explores situations in which everyone’s actions affect everyone else, and everyone knows this and takes it into account when determining their own actions. Business, military and dating strategies are examined. No economics prerequisite. Prerequisite: at least one semester of high school or college calculus. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

ECO 150 Introductory Microeconomics (4 Credits)

How and how well do markets work? What should government do in a market economy? How do markets set prices, determine what is produced and decide who gets the goods? This course considers important economic issues including preserving the environment, free trade, taxation, (de)regulation and poverty. Enrollment limited to 40. {S}

Fall, Spring

ECO 153 Introductory Macroeconomics (4 Credits)

An examination of current macroeconomic policy issues, including the short and long-run effects of budget deficits, the determinants of economic growth, causes and effects of inflation and the effects of high trade deficits. The course focuses on what, if any, government (monetary and fiscal) policies should be pursued in order to achieve low inflation, full employment, high economic growth and rising real wages. Enrollment limited to 40. {S}

Fall, Spring

ECO 201 Gender and Economics (4 Credits)

This course uses economic analysis to explore how gender differences can lead to differences in economic outcomes in households and the labor market. Questions to be covered include: How does the family function as an economic unit? How do individuals allocate time between the labor market and the household? How have changes in family structure affected women's employment, and vice-versa? What are possible explanations for gender differences in labor force participation, occupational choice, and earnings? What is the role of government in addressing gender issues in the home and the workplace? How successful are government policies that primarily affect women? Prerequisites: ECO 150. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

ECO 203 Economics of Education (4 Credits)

This course introduces the theoretical and empirical tools that economists use to understand education and evaluate education policy. It will provide an overview of how economists evaluate a wide range of issues in K-12 and higher education in the United States and in other countries. Topics will include the theory of human capital, gender and race gaps in education, accountability measures and incentive effects in education, college financial aid, and education and economic growth, among others. For each topic, the course will highlight relevant theories, methodologies, and findings in economics of education research, and their implications for education policy. Prerequisite: ECO 150. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

ECO 205 Inequality and Public Policy (4 Credits)

This course examines the causes and dynamics of economic inequalities and public policies aimed at addressing these inequalities. Beginning with an overview of economic growth at the country level, the course moves to examine the division of income between labor and capital, inequality in labor earnings, and wealth inequality. Policies studied include targeted innovation policies, "good jobs" policies, corporate governance reforms, wealth and income tax reforms, economic mobility programs, and social insurance policies. Prerequisite: One introductory economics course, such as ECO 150 or ECO 153, or equivalent. (E) {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

ECO 207 18th Century Economic History: Colonial Development, Revolution and Institutions (4 Credits)

This course examines how economic forces influenced the economic, political and institutional development of the United States and other British colonies in North America and the Caribbean over 1600 to 1810. The class begins with an overview of the colonial economy, including the influences of mercantilism and slavery. Students then examine the role of economics in the American Revolution, the failure of the Articles of Confederation, the framing of the US Constitution and institutional development in the early republic. Readings will draw from historical documents and contemporary scholarship from both economists and historians. Prerequisites: ECO 150 or ECO 153. Enrollment limited to 30. {S}

Fall, Annually

ECO 211 Economic Development (4 Credits)

An overview of economic development theory and practice since the 1950s. Why have global economic inequalities widened? What economic policies have been implemented in the developing countries of Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East in search of economic development, what theories underlie these policies, and what have been the consequences for economic welfare in these regions? Topics include trade policy (protectionism versus free trade), financial policy, industrial development strategies, formal and informal sector employment, women in development, international financial issues (lending, balance of payments deficits, the debt and financial crises), structural adjustment policies and the increasing globalization of production and finance. Prerequisites: ECO 150 and ECO 153. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

ECO 214 Anti-Trust Economics (4 Credits)

This course examines industry structure and firm behavior under imperfect competition and the public policy response to abuse of market power. There is evidence that market power is becoming increasingly entrenched in many industries. This can lead to inefficient outcomes and lower welfare. Students study theoretical and case study examinations of strategic firm interactions in monopolistic and oligopolistic markets, dominant firm behaviors, and entry deterrence by incumbents; pricing and marketing strategies firms may use to increase profits; the design of marketplaces; and public policy responses to firm behavior, including antitrust laws and regulation. The course is a combination of economic theory and case studies of specific firms or industries. Prerequisite: ECO 150. (E)

Fall, Spring, Annually

ECO 219 The Chinese Economy (4 Credits)

This course offers an analysis of the recent development of the Chinese economy, its rapid transformation in the post-Mao period, and the implications of this transformation for the welfare of Chinese households. Topics to be discussed include economic reform, trade liberalization, demography, inequality, health and environmental challenges. Fundamental topics in principles of economics will be covered in an intuitive way through topics pertaining to China. Course performance will be assessed through participation, in-class quizzes, literature critiques, and a final paper plus presentation. Prerequisite: ECO 150 and ECO 153. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

ECO 220 Introduction to Statistics and Econometrics (5 Credits)

Summarizing, interpreting and analyzing empirical data. Attention to descriptive statistics and statistical inference. Topics include elementary sampling, probability, sampling distributions, estimation, hypothesis testing and regression. Assignments include use of statistical software to analyze labor market and other economic data. Prerequisite: ECO 150 or ECO 153. Students are not given credit for both ECO 220 and any of the following courses: GOV 203, PSY 201, SDS 201, SDS 220 or SOC 204. Enrollment limited to 55. {M}{S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

ECO 222 Economics of Race, Policy, and Mass Incarceration (4 Credits)

The United States has the world’s highest incarceration rate at more than five times the global median. This country is regrettably distinguished by significant racial-ethnic and gender disparities in its carceral population. This course uses the tools of economic analysis to address three main questions: First, how did the United States become the world’s leader in incarceration? Second, what are the economic implications and collateral consequences of racialized mass incarceration? Finally, can economic tools be used to examine the efficacy of criminal justice reform? Prerequisite: ECO 150. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

ECO 224 Environmental Economics (4 Credits)

The economic causes of environmental degradation and the role that markets can play in both causing and solving pollution and resource allocation problems. Topics include resource allocation and sustainability, cost-benefit analysis, pollution standards, taxes, permits, public goods and common property resources. Prerequisite: ECO 150. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

ECO 226 Economics of European Integration (4 Credits)

Why would countries give up their own currencies to adopt a common new one? Why can citizens of Belgium simply move to France without any special formalities? This course investigates such questions by analyzing the ongoing integration of European countries from an economic perspective. While the major focus is on the economics of integration, account is taken of the historical, political and cultural context in which this process occurred. Major topics include the origins, institutions and policies of the European Union, the integration of markets for labor, capital and goods and monetary integration. Prerequisites: ECO 150 and 153. Enrollment limited to 36. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

ECO 230 Urban Economics (4 Credits)

Economic analysis of the spatial structure of cities--why they are where they are and look like they do. How changes in technology and policy reshape cities over time. Selected urban problems and policies to address them include housing, transportation, concentrations of poverty, financing local government. Prerequisite: ECO 150. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

ECO 234 Partisan Economic Issues (4 Credits)

An analysis of selected microeconomic and macroeconomic issues about which our two political parties disagree. Specific issues include health care; Social Security and other entitlement programs; taxes, government spending and budget deficits; immigration; and the role of government in the economy. Prerequisites: ECO 150, ECO 153 and ECO 220 or its equivalent. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

ECO 238 Inequality and Economic Growth (4 Credits)

An examination of the global dynamics and determinants of inequality in income and wealth and its interplay with economic growth, from antiquity to the present. Beginning with an overview of growth at the country level, the course moves to examine the division of income between labor and capital, inequality in capital ownership, and inequality in labor earnings, ending with a discussion of policy proposals to address increasing inequality. Topics covered include the labor share, the concentration of wealth at the top, the skill premium, intergenerational mobility, managerial compensation, the racial and gender wage gaps, and offshore tax evasion. Prerequisite: ECO 150 or ECO 153, or equivalent. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ECO 240 Econometrics (4 Credits)

This course offers an introduction to the basic principles of econometrics and the methods used to present and analyze economic data. Knowledge of statistical methods is essential for understanding and evaluating critically much of what is written about economics and social policy. The main goal of the course is for you to leave it as an informed and critical consumer of empirical studies and with the foundational skills to conduct your own original empirical research. Prerequisites: ECO 150, ECO 153, MTH 111 and either ECO 220, SDS 220 or SDS 291. {M}{S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

ECO 250 Intermediate Microeconomics (4 Credits)

Focuses on the economic analysis of resource allocation in a market economy and on the economic impact of various government interventions, such as minimum wage laws, national health insurance and environmental regulations. Covers the theories of consumer choice and decision making by the firm. Examines the welfare implications of a market economy and of federal and state policies which influence market choices. Prerequisites: ECO 150 and MTH 111 or equivalent. Enrollment limited to 55. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

ECO 253 Intermediate Macroeconomics (4 Credits)

Builds a cohesive theoretical framework within which to analyze the workings of the macroeconomy. Current issues relating to key macroeconomic variables such as output, inflation and unemployment are examined within this framework. The role of government policy, both in the short run and the long run, is also assessed. Prerequisites: ECO 153 and MTH 111 or equivalent. Enrollment limited to 55. {S}

Fall, Spring

ECO 254 Behavioral Economics (4 Credits)

An examination of the combination of economists’ models and psychologists’ understanding of human behavior. This combination fosters new understanding of consumers’ and firms’ decision-making. Topics include decisions motivated by issues of fairness or revenge (rather than self-interest); decisions based on the discounting of future happiness; decisions based on individuals’ incorrect beliefs about themselves (such as underestimating the power of bad habits or cravings). This new understanding has implications for economic, political, legal and ethical issues. Prerequisites: ECO 220 and ECO 250.

Fall, Spring, Variable

ECO 255 Mathematical Economics (4 Credits)

Review of mathematical techniques required for a rigorous study of economics. Extensive instruction on applications of these techniques to economic problems are provided. Emphasis is on static and dynamic optimization and comparative statics. Applications to microeconomics, macroeconomics and financial economics discussed. Prerequisites: ECO 220 and MTH 112. {M}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ECO 257 Economics, Policy and Data Analytics (4 Credits)

A great deal of empirical analysis is carried out with the aim of understanding the causal effects of interventions – both in policy and economic environments. This course covers the main empirical methods used in economics to evaluate causal effects of policies related to anti-discrimination, education, criminal justice, the labor market and healthcare. Students design and execute studies that can credibly evaluate public policies and economic theories. Students apply these methods by replicating and extending economic and public policy research with the goal of developing the skills needed to fully understand empirical research design. Prerequisites: ECO 220 or SDS 220 or SDS 291, and ECO 250 or ECO 253. Enrollment limited to 30. {S}

Fall, Annually

ECO 258 Applied Market Design (4 Credits)

In 2012, the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics Sciences was awarded to Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley for their theoretical and practical work on the design of markets. This course provides an introduction to the field of market design, focusing on the functioning of specific markets and market mechanisms. Applications include but are not limited to: auctions, kidney exchange, medical match, school choice, course allocation, and trading on the stock market. In addition, we will study the market design aspects of new technologies that facilitate new types of marketplaces, such as cryptocurrencies and taxi-ride platforms. Prerequisite: ECO 250 or permission of the instructor. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ECO 260 Public Economics and Finance (4 Credits)

Why does the government intervene in the economy? What are the responses of private agents to government’s actions? What are optimal government policies? This course focuses on the role of the government in the economy and uses tools of microeconomic analysis to study the taxing and the spending activities of the government. The course covers tax policy, inequality, social insurance programs, public goods, environmental protection, and education. Special emphasis is on current policy issues in the U.S., such as income inequality, poverty, healthcare reform, income tax reform, and crime. Prerequisite: ECO 250. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

ECO 261 Economics of Healthcare (4 Credits)

An examination of current economic and public policy issues in health care. Topics include health care reform and the Affordable Care Act, regulation and competition policies in markets for health insurance, physician services and hospital services; public policies to enhance access (Medicare and Medicaid) and health care quality; and the economics of the pharmaceutical industry. Prerequisites: ECO 250 and 220 or permission of the instructor. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ECO 263 Labor Economics (4 Credits)

This course applies economic principles and elementary statistics to the study of labor markets. Topics include labor force participation, unemployment, immigration, wage determination, income distribution and labor market discrimination. Students examine the rationale for and consequences of many economic policies such as a statutory minimum wage, unemployment compensation, child care policies and public pension programs. The class investigates these issues through readings of recent economic research and by analyzing labor market data. Prerequisites: ECO 153, 220 and 250. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ECO 265 Economics of Corporate Finance (4 Credits)

An investigation of the economic foundations for investment, financing and related decisions in the business corporation. Basic concerns and responsibilities of the financial manager and the methods of analysis employed by them are emphasized. This course offers a balanced discussion of practical as well as theoretical developments in the field of financial economics. Prerequisites: ECO 220, ECO 250 and MTH 111. {S}


ECO 271 The Economics of Climate Change (4 Credits)

Climate change has been recognized as "the major, overriding environmental issue of our time, and the single greatest challenge facing environmental regulators” by the United Nations Secretary General. In this class we use the tools of economics to analyze and understand the many challenges of climate change. Topics covered include climate damages, market failure and externalities, emissions standards and taxes, cap and trade, discounting, risk and uncertainty, mitigation and integrated assessment models, adaptation, development, and gender. Prerequisites: ECO 220 and ECO 250. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

ECO 272 Law and Economics (4 Credits)

An economic analysis of legal rules and cases. Topics include property law, contract law, accident law, criminal law, the Coase theorem and the economics of litigation. Prerequisite: ECO 250. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ECO 275 Money and Banking (4 Credits)

An investigation of the role of financial instruments and institutions in the economy. Major topics include the determination of interest rates, the characteristics of bonds and stocks, the structure and regulation of the banking industry, the functions of a modern central bank and the formulation and implementation of monetary policy. Prerequisite: ECO 253 or permission of the instructor. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

ECO 280 Colloquium: Economic Research Methods (4 Credits)

An introduction to the research workflow in economics. Drawing on examples from a variety of economic fields, students learn how to search, read and write about the economic literature and to generate reproducible economic data analysis using statistical software like R and Stata. The course focuses on the practical skills needed to apply the tools from economic theory and econometric methods to real economic research questions. Prerequisites: ECO 220, ECO 240, SDS 220 or SDS 291; and ECO 250 or ECO 253. Enrollment limited to 25. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ECO 285 Colloquium: Applied Financial Economics (4 Credits)

This course offers an introduction to computational and empirical finance, emphasizing data work using R. Topics covered include optimal portfolio construction and performance evaluation; factor pricing models; time-series econometrics; market efficiency; and asset valuation. A prior course using R is recommended. No prior knowledge of financial economics is assumed. Prerequisites: MTH 111 and ECO 220, ECO 240, SDS 220 or SDS 291. Enrollment limited to 25. (E) {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

ECO 295 International Trade and Commercial Policy (4 Credits)

An examination of the trading relationships among countries and of the flows of factors of production throughout the world economy. Beginning with the theories of international trade, this course moves on to examine various policy issues in the international economy, including commercial policy, protectionism and the distribution of the gains from trade, multilateral trade negotiations, preferential trade agreements, the impact of transnational firms and globalization, immigration, and trade and economic development. Prerequisite: ECO 250. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

ECO 296 International Finance (4 Credits)

An examination of international monetary theory and institutions and their relevance to national and international economic policy. Topics include mechanisms of adjustment in the balance of payments, macroeconomic and exchange-rate policy for internal and external balance, international movements of capital and the history of the international monetary system: its past crises and current prospects, issues of currency union and optimal currency area, and emerging markets. Prerequisite: ECO 253. {S}


ECO 311in Seminar: Topics in Economic Development-India (4 Credits)

This seminar applies and extends microeconomic theory to analyze selected topics related to the India’s economic development. Throughout the course an emphasis is placed on empirically testing economic hypotheses using data from India. In particular, the following topics are explored, with reference to India’s growth and development: education, health, demographics, caste and gender, institutions, credit, insurance, infrastructure, water and climate change. Prerequisites: ECO 220 and 250. Recommended: ECO 211 or 213. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ECO 314 Seminar: Industrial Organization and Antitrust Policy (4 Credits)

An examination of the latest theories and empirical evidence about the organization of firms and industries. Topics include mergers, advertising, strategic behaviors such as predatory pricing, vertical restrictions such as resale price maintenance or exclusive dealing, and antitrust laws and policies. Prerequisite: ECO 250. Juniors and seniors only. Enrollment limited to 12. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

ECO 315 Seminar: Markets and Economic Models (4 Credits)

This course uses microeconomic theory tools to survey the literature on the various ways that markets determine the allocation of scarce resources: via a single market-clearing price, queueing, rationing, a centralized matching or assignment algorithm, or an auction. Students examine a specific marketplace and analyze it using either an economic model, data or both. The economic analysis should propose ways of improving the studied allocation and discuss their economic rationale. Students are welcomed to use data to quantify the potential gains associated with the recommended improvement. Alternatively, students could use computer simulations, or conduct a full theoretical analysis. Prerequisites: ECO 220 and ECO 250. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {M}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ECO 316 Seminar: Poverty and Public Policy in the United States (4 Credits)

Since 1965, the annual poverty rate in the United States has hovered between 10% and 15%, though far more than 15% of Americans experience poverty at some point in their lives. In this course, we will study public policies intended to improve the well-being of the poor in this country. These policies include social insurance programs like Unemployment Insurance; safety net programs like Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, and housing assistance; education programs like Head Start; and parts of the tax code including the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. Prerequisites: ECO 220 and ECO 250. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

ECO 318 Seminar on Macroeconomic Policy from the Great Depression to the Present (4 Credits)

What can history teach us about macroeconomic policy? This course will use macroeconomic history from 1913 to the present to explore key issues in macroeconomic policy that remain relevant today, with special focus on the Great Depression and Great Recession. Students will examine the evidence behind the theoretical frameworks presented in ECO 253 and delve into the empirical literature on both historical and contemporary monetary and fiscal policy. Prerequisites: ECO 253; and ECO 220 or SDS 220. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}


ECO 319 Seminar: Economics of Migration (4 Credits)

Who migrates? Why do they move? Where do they leave from and move to? What are the economic impacts? This course offers an overview of historical and current migration patterns, and examines the main theories and empirics behind the economics of migration -- its causes and consequences. The course concludes with a discussion of the policy implications, drawing examples from internal migration reform in China and current immigration policy debates in the U.S. Prerequisite: ECO 250, 253 and 220. {M}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ECO 324nr Seminar: Topics in the Economics of the Environment-Natural Resources (4 Credits)

How do we expect competitive markets to allocate natural resources? Will market systems result in excess pollution? Can market outcomes be improved in relation to the environment and natural resources? If so, what are the relative strengths and weaknesses of different approaches? This course examines these issues through discussion of the economic theories of externalities, common property and public goods, and their implications for the allocation of resources. The course explores these questions by analyzing specific policy issues and debates related to the environment and resource use including: climate change, pollution, biodiversity, energy, sustainability, land use and fishing rights. Through this exploration, the course touches upon a number of other theories and techniques including dynamic optimization and intertemporal choice, price vs. quantity regulation, nonmarket valuation, cost-benefit analysis and the use of incentive-based regulation. Prerequisites: ECO 220 and ECO 250. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ECO 331 Seminar: The Economics of Sports (4 Credits)

This seminar will explore economic principles behind the operation of the sports industry in the United States and internationally. Specific topics to be covered include: antitrust; athlete compensation; labor market behavior; competitive balance; team value and profitability; economic impact and financing of stadiums; economics of the Olympics and World Cup; and, economic issues in college sports. Prerequisites: ECO 250 and ECO 220. Juniors and seniors only. Enrollment limited to 12. Instructor permission required. {S}


ECO 338 Seminar: Household Finance and Inequality (4 Credits)

How do individual economic decisions shape wealth inequality and economic mobility? This course examines topics at the intersection of household finance, the field of economics studying the financial decisions of households, and the economics of inequality. Beginning with an overview of the historical dynamics and theories of wealth inequality, we study recent empirical and theoretical findings on how household preferences and beliefs, financial portfolio investment mistakes, financing frictions, entrepreneurship, and taxes affect the distribution of wealth. Prerequisites: ECO 220 and ECO 250. Juniors and seniors only. Enrollment limited to 12. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ECO 360 Seminar: Economics of Crime (4 Credits)

This course is designed with two central goals. First, to use microeconomic and econometric tools to explore and understand crime and incarceration. Relevant topics include but are not limited to: Are criminals rational economic actors? What policies most efficiently mitigate the social costs associated with criminal activity? What role does incarceration play in deterrence incapacitation and rehabilitation? Second, to develop the key tools for economic work including analytical thinking and writing as well as research and presentation skills. Prerequisites: ECO 220, SDS 220 or SDS 291; and ECO 250. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ECO 361 Seminar: Economics of Discrimination (4 Credits)

It is hotly debated whether and to what extent observable outcome differentials in various markets can be attributed to the effects of discrimination. This course critically explores various discrimination topics, paying special attention to the evidence in the economics literature that potentially proves or disproves the presence of discrimination. A critical skill essential to the economic analysis of discrimination is the use of econometrics in analyzing discriminatory practices. The course explores the main econometric methods used to measure discrimination, debate their strengths and limitations, as well as discuss the economic implications for anti-discriminatory policies. Prerequisites: ECO 220 and ECO 250. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

ECO 363 Seminar: Inequality (4 Credits)

The causes and consequences of income and wealth inequality. Social class and social mobility in the U.S. The role of IQ and education. The distributional impact of technical change and globalization. Is there a "trade-off" between equality and economic growth? The benefits of competition and cooperation. Behavioral and experimental economics: selfishness, altruism and reciprocity. Fairness and the dogma of economic rationality. Does having more stuff make us happier? Prerequisites: ECO 220 and 250. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ECO 364 Seminar: The Economics of Future Technology (4 Credits)

Brain implants, embryo selection, self-driving cars, nanotechnology, robot nurses, virtual teachers, cognitive enhancing drugs and artificial general intelligences are among the technologies that might have a large impact on the economy over the next few decades. This course uses the tools of microeconomics to explore the potential effects of these and other possible technologies and to explain how economic incentives shape the types of technologies businesses develop. Prerequisite: ECO 250. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ECO 375 Seminar: The Theory and Practice of Central Banking (4 Credits)

What role do central banks play in the management of short-run economic fluctuations? What has driven the recent global trend towards more powerful and independent central-banking institutions? This course explores the theoretical foundations that link central bank policy to real economic activity. Building on this theoretical background, the monetary policy frameworks and operating procedures of key central banks are then examined. Much of the analysis focuses on the current practices of the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, with a view to identifying the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two institutions. Prerequisite: ECO 220 and ECO 253. A course in either international finance or money and banking such as ECO 275 or ECO 296 is recommended. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

ECO 400 Special Studies (1 Credit)

Admission to special studies is by permission of the department. S/U only.

Fall, Spring

ECO 401 Special Studies (1-2 Credits)

Fall, Spring

ECO 404 Special Studies (4 Credits)

Admission to special studies is by permission of the department, normally for majors who have had four semester courses in economics above the introductory level.

Fall, Spring

ECO 430 Honors Project (4 Credits)

Honors project.

Fall, Spring, Annually

ECO 430D Honors Project (4 Credits)

Fall, Spring, Annually

Additional Programmatic Information

Honors Director: Mariyana Zapryanova

The honors program offers qualified and highly motivated students an opportunity to work independently and on a more intensive basis with a faculty member. Students may pursue one of three paths when writing an honors thesis over the course of the senior year: i) complete a two-semester honors thesis, ii) extend a one-semester 4-credit special studies with one semester of honors thesis work in the following semester or iii) build on a research paper written for an economics seminar course with one semester of honors thesis work in the following semester. For paths ii) and iii), the special studies or seminar must be taken in the first semester of the senior year and at Smith.

Applying for Honors

The GPA requirement for admission to the honors program is 3.50 or higher in the declared economics major (ECO or QEC) at the time of application to the honors program.

For the year-long honors thesis option, students are strongly encouraged to talk to faculty members about potential thesis topics throughout their junior year and to submit a proposal to the Department through the Director of Honors during the second semester of their junior year. However, the Department will also consider proposals submitted through the Director of Honors before the Department’s first meeting at the start of the applicant's senior year.

Applications to extend a special studies project or seminar paper with one semester of thesis work will be considered at the last meeting of the first semester or at the first meeting of the second semester of the applicant’s senior year. Students should submit their proposals to the Director of Honors before the department meeting at which their proposal is considered.

Application for admission to the honors program as well as deadlines and related instructions are available at the Class Deans' website


  • Basis: ECO 150 and 153, ECO 220, 250 and 253 (plus ECO 240 for QEC majors)
  • 3 elective courses in economics for path i), or 4 (inclusive of the special studies or seminar) for paths ii) and iii)
  • ECO 430D in both semesters of the senior year for path i), or ECO 430 in the second semester for paths ii) and iii)

It is highly recommended that honors students take ECO 220, 250 and 253 before the fall semester of their junior year. Students planning to undertake statistical analyses in their thesis should also take econometrics (ECO 240) before their senior year.

Honors Thesis Course Credit 

The honors thesis is credited as a two-semester course (ECO 430D) receiving a total of 8 credits or as a one-semester course (ECO 430) receiving 4 credits combined with either a 4-credit special studies or a 4-credit economics seminar course. The normal course load is six additional 4-credit courses taken during the senior year. The honors student is encouraged not to take more than these 8 equivalent courses during her senior year so that she will have ample time for her thesis research. Financial support for student research is available. 


Honors students must take an oral examination in economics, with emphasis on its application to the field of the thesis. For May graduates, the oral exam must be administered by the last day of classes of the spring semester, in line with the schedule outlined on the Class Dean's website. For January graduates, departmental deadlines require a final draft of the written thesis be submitted to the thesis advisor by the last day of classes and the oral exam be administered by the last day of the exam period in the fall semester.

Successful honors candidates will be graduated with honors in economics, high honors in economics or highest honors in economics. The level of honors is determined by the student's average grade in courses of her major, by the grade received on her oral honors examination and by the grade received on her written thesis. The grade received on the written thesis is by far the most important indication of the student's probable level of honors award. Most honors students receive honors in economics. Should the honors candidate's performance in the honors program be deemed unworthy of honors but still worthy of course credit, the student will receive a grade determined by her thesis adviser and will simply receive her degree without an honors designation.

Honors projects from past students are posted here.

Students may choose any of the following faculty as their major or minor advisor.  Normally, this should happen during the fourth semester or at the time of major declaration, whichever comes first.

Terry-Ann Craigie

Deborah Haas-Wilson

Mahnaz Mahdavi

James Miller

Roisin O’Sullivan

Susan Stratton Sayre

Lucie Schmidt

Vis Taraz

Argyris Tsiaras

Jorge Vasquez

Pun Winichakul

Mariyana Zapryanova

For first semester, first-year students, we recommend starting with either Introductory Microeconomics (ECO 150) or Introductory Macroeconomics (ECO 153).  Students should consider taking Introduction to Statistics and Econometrics (ECO 220) after taking either ECO 150 or ECO 153, and MTH 111 as it is a requirement for  Economics major and Quantitative Economics major. Students who have completed one semester of calculus can take Game Theory (ECO 125) as it has no economics prerequisites. Should a student test out of the introductory sequence, they have the option to directly enroll in intermediate courses, ECO 250 or 253, (provided they meet the calculus prerequisite), ECO 220, and choose from a range of applied economics courses numbered below 250.  We encourage students with prior economics experience from high school to take, by August 20, one or both of our economics placement exams.

Study Abroad and Study Away Adviser: Professor James Miller

A junior year abroad information session for economics majors is held annually in October.

Our majors may spend a year or a semester in their junior year abroad or away in the United States if they meet the college’s requirements. Many of our majors have participated in junior Year study Abroad programs in either Smith sponsored programs (Geneva, Paris, Florence) or in any of the approved independent study abroad programs such as those in the U.K. (LSE, UCL, Edinburgh), Australia, New Zealand and Latin America. Contact the Office for International Studies for all current available programs.

Students can also take advantage of study away opportunities and may spend a semester or year away in another college or university in the United States.  Some of our students have spent their junior year in study away programs in universities, such as Columbia, Harvard and New York. 

A maximum of 4 semester course credits (and no more than 2 in any one semester) taken by a Smith student outside the Five Colleges may be counted towards the courses required for the majors (ECO, QEC) or the minor. This includes courses taken during study abroad or study away, and courses taken in summer schools or during a leave of absence from the college.  Any course taken for economics credits outside the Five Colleges should normally have prior approval by the major advisor or the department’s advisor for study abroad. 

We strongly recommend that students planning to study abroad or away complete at a minimum, the following five courses, ECO 150, ECO 153, ECO 220, ECO 250, ECO 253,  during the first 4 semesters to have more options in course selections in their study abroad/away programs. Only courses taught by an economist will be considered for economics credit. The major adviser and the study abroad adviser must both sign the final plans of study before the student submits an application to the Office for International Study.

Students who plan to study away from Smith College during either semester of their senior year, whether in the United States or abroad please contact your class deans and/or the economics study abroad and study away adviser. 

Complete online exam before Sunday, August 20, 2023

The Department of Economics offers two online Placement Examinations to determine whether it is appropriate for entering students who have taken one or more economics courses before entering college to place out of Introductory Microeconomics, Introductory Macroeconomics, or both. In order to be prepared for fall registration, the exam(s) should be completed before August 20.

Students who have been given AP, IB or A-level credit for microeconomics and/or macroeconomics on their transcripts do not need to take the Placement Examinations in order to place out of the introductory course(s). However, we strongly recommend that those students still take the appropriate placement examinations to ensure that their pre-college courses have adequately prepared them to move immediately beyond the introductory level. Click on the link below for detailed instructions.

Additional Course Information


One of the purposes of the major is to help students look critically at the ways in which society organizes and manages resources. Without some framework within which to organize ideas—including dissenting ideas and criticism—analysis becomes aimless, diffuse, and, ultimately, ineffective. No one theory, or category of theory, must be accepted by all economists to be considered adequate to understand the economy; however, an understanding of the main theoretical tenets of modern economics is the touchstone from which almost all development, elaboration and criticism of economic arrangements flow.

Basic Theory

The basic theory is presented in the principles courses, ECO 150 and 153. This theory is developed more rigorously and embedded in more sophisticated economic models in the intermediate theory courses, ECO 250 and 253. Additional theory courses include game theory (ECO 125) and several advanced electives.

Statistics and Mathematics

Since economic knowledge is ultimately drawn from the real world, statistical techniques are an important tool both for gathering information and for testing economic theories against the world they seek to explain. These techniques are taught in our basic statistics course (ECO 220) and further developed in the econometrics course (ECO 240).

Economics has become increasingly mathematical. Calculus I (MTH 111) is strongly recommended as an adjunct to your economics major, and is required for the intermediate theory courses. Students planning to go to graduate school in economics need to take ECO 255 and 240 and at least four additional math courses (as listed below and in the catalogue).

Historical and Institutional Setting

If theory and statistics provide us with tools of analysis, then history and institutional forces provide the setting for economic problems and constraints on their solutions. Without an awareness of these realities, the use of theory, statistics and other sophisticated techniques is likely to lead into blind alleys and unwarranted conclusions. The study of history and institutions in courses such as labor economics, American economic history, economic anthropology, comparative economic systems and economic development, provide the opportunity to go beyond the abstractions of theoretical arguments to the analysis of real problems. Most "applied" courses naturally incorporate elements of history and institutional arrangements, and a few are primarily devoted to this issue. A major adds fundamentally to her comprehension of the subject by being exposed to thinking along these lines.

Empirical and Applied Analysis

In the end, if economics is to be respected it will not be because of the abstract beauty of its theory or the broad sweep of its historical insight. It will be studied and used only if it contributes to the understanding of particular problems. To that end, the economics major will take a number of courses in specific applied areas such as law and economics, urban economics, labor relations, public finance, money and banking, economic development, international trade and finance, economic growth, industrial organization, the economics of education, growth and crisis, and empirical and applied analysis. They use theory and draw on historical insights, but at their core are contemporary, practical, and policy-oriented.

Familiarity can be gained by applying basic tools to several areas, or by taking a sequence of several courses in one area. Both are useful and legitimate approaches to learning about economics and what economists do. Either can provide the student with the experience of applying the tools of economic inquiry. In these upper-level courses, theory, statistics and other tools of analysis are brought to bear on unsolved problems and unsettledquestions, in contrast to the emphasis in the introductory courses on what we already know.

A major curriculum designed in this way can contribute importantly to a student's gaining both competence in the economic way of thinking and confidence in her own knowledge of both its uses and inherent limitations. This is the underlying goal of majoring in economics in a liberal arts college, regardless of the subsequent uses to which it may be put.

General Economic Courses

  • ECO 125 Game Theory 
  • ECO 127 The Magic of the Marketplace 
  • ECO 150 Introductory Microeconomics  
  • ECO 153 Introductory Macroeconomics 
  • ECO 220 Introduction to Statistics and Econometrics 
  • ECO 280 Economic Research Methods

Economic Theory

  • ECO 240 Econometrics 
  • ECO 250 Intermediate Microeconomics 
  • ECO 253 Intermediate Macroeconomics 
  • ECO 254 Behavioral Economics 
  • ECO 255 Mathematical Economics 
  • ECO 256 Topics in Applied Microeconomic Theory 
  • ECO 258 Applied Market Design
  • ECO 271 The Economics of Climate Change 
  • ECO 272 Law and Economics 
  • ECO 360 Seminar: Economics of Crime

The American Economy

  • PPL 220 Public Policy Analysis 
  • ECO 201 Gender and Economics
  • ECO 222 Economics of Race, Policy, and Mass Incarceration
  • ECO 224 Environmental Economics 
  • ECO 230 Urban Economics 
  • ECO 260 Public Economics 
  • ECO 263 Labor Economics 
  • ECO 265 Economics of Corporate Finance 
  • ECO 275 Money and Banking 
  • ECO 314 Seminar: Industrial Organization and Antitrust Policy 
  • ECO 324 Seminar: Economics of the Enviroment and Natural Resources
  • ECO 331 Seminar: The Economics of Sports 
  • ECO 341 Economics of Health Care 
  • ECO 351 Seminar: The Economics of Higher Education 
  • ECO 361 Seminar: Economics of Discrimination

  • ECO 364 Seminar: The Economics of Future Technology 

International & Comparative Economics

  • ECO 211 Economic Development 
  • ECO 219 The Chinese Economy 
  • ECO 226 Economics of European Integration 
  • ECO 238 Inequality and Economic Growth
  • ECO 295 International Trade and Commercial Policy 
  • ECO 296 International Finance 
  • ECO 311 Seminar: Topics in Economic Development 
    Topics course. 
    The Political Economy of Development in Africa 
    The Economic Development of India 
  • ECO 319 Seminar: Economics of Migration 
  • ECO 338 Seminar: Household Finance and Inequality
  • ECO 375 Seminar: The Theory and Practice of Central Banking 
  • ECO 395 Seminar: Topics in International Trade 
  • ECO 396 Seminar: International Financial Markets 

Cross-listed Course
With prior permission of the instructor, economics credit will be given for Public Policy, Environmental Science and Policy, and for Middle East Studies courses when taught by a member of the economics department.

  • MES 220 The Arab Spring: Economic Roots and Aftermath

Core Courses

  • ECO 150 Introductory Microeconomics
  • ECO 153 Introductory Macroeconomics
  • ECO 220 Introduction to Statistics and Econometrics 
    Prerequisites: ECO 150 or ECO 153
  • ECO 240 Econometrics [QEC major only] 
    Prerequisites: MTH 111, ECO 150 or ECO 153, ECO 220 or its equivalent
  • ECO 250 Intermediate Microeconomics 
    Prerequisites: MTH 111 or its equivalent, ECO 150
  • ECO 253 Intermediate Macroeconomics 
    Prerequisites: MTH 111 or its equivalent, ECO 153


  • ECO 240 Econometrics: [ECO majors only] 
    Prerequisites: MTH 111, ECO 150 or ECO 153, Eco 220 or its equivalent

Lower-Level Electives

  • ECO 125 Game Theory 
    Prerequisites: MTH 111 or its equivalent
  • ECO 127 The Magic of the Marketplace
Prerequisites: ECO 150 only
  • ECO 201 Gender and Economics
  • ECO 203 Economics of Education
  • ECO 222 Economics of Race, Policy, and Mass Incarceration
  • ECO 224 Environmental Economics
  • ECO 230 Urban Economics
Prerequisites: ECO 153 only
  • ECO 207: 18th Century Economics History: Colonial Development, Revolution, and Institutions
Prerequisites: ECO 150 and Eco 153
  • ECO 211 Economic Development
  • ECO 219 The Chinese Economy
  • ECO 223 Introduction to Political Economy
  • ECO 226 Economics of European Integration
  • ECO 238 Inequality and Economic Growth

Upper-Level Electives

Prerequisites: ECO 250 only
  • ECO 258 Applied Market Design
  • ECO 260 Public Economics and Finance
  • ECO 272 Law and Economics
  • ECO 295 International Trade and Commercial Policy
Prerequisites: ECO 253 only
  • ECO 275 Money and Banking
  • ECO 296 International Finance
Prerequisites: ECO 250 and ECO 220 or its equivalent
  • ECO 254 Behavioral Economics
  • ECO 257 Economics, Policy, and Data Analytics
  • ECO 261 Economics of Healthcare
  • ECO 263 Labor Economics
  • ECO 265 Economics of Corporate Finance
  • ECO 271 The Economics of Climate Change
Prerequisites: ECO 250 or ECO 253, ECO 220 or its equivalent, and ECO 240
  • ECO 280 Economic Research Methods
  • ECO 285 Applied Financial Economics
Prerequisites: ECO 250, Eco 253, MTH 211 and MTH 212 or permission of the instructor
  • ECO 255 Mathematical Economics
Prerequisites: ECO 250, MTH 111, MTH 112, MTH 211 and MTH 212 or permission of the instructor
  • ECO 256 Topics in Applied Microeconomic Theory


Prerequisites: ECO 250 only
  • ECO 314 Industrial Organization and Antitrust Policy
  • ECO 364 The Economics of Future Technology
  • ECO 395 Topics in International Trade
Prerequisites: ECO 250 and ECO 220 or its equivalent
  • ECO 311 Topics in Economic Development 
    Recommended 211
  • ECO 316 Poverty and Public Policy in the United States
  • ECO 324 Economics of the Environment and Natural Resources
  • ECO 331 The Economics of Sports
  • ECO 338 Household Finance and Inequality
  • ECO 341 Economics of Health Care
  • ECO 351 The Economics of Higher Education
  • ECO 360 Economics of Crime
  • ECO 361 Economics of Discrimination
Prerequisites: ECO 250, ECO 253, and ECO 220 or its equivalent
  • ECO 319 Economics of Migration
Prerequisites: ECO 253 and ECO 220 or its equivalent
  • ECO 318 Macroeconomic Policy from the Great Depression to the Present
  • ECO 375 The Theory and Practice of Central Banking
  • ECO 396 International Financial Markets

For more course specifics, including days, times, and locations, check out the course schedule search.

Spring 2024

  • ECO 150: Introductory Microeconomics (Terry-Ann Craigie)
  • ECO 150: Introductory Microeconomics (Mariyana Zapryanova)
  • ECO 150: Introductory Microeconomics (Mariyana Zapryanova)
  • ECO 153: Introductory Macroeconomics (Gunjan Sharma)
  • ECO 153: Introductory Macroeconomics (Argyris Tsiaras)
  • ECO 220: Introduction to Statistics and Econometrics (Vis Taraz)
  • ECO 250: Intermediate Microeconomics (Deborah Haas-Wilson)
  • ECO 253: Intermediate Macroeconomics (Gillian Brunet)
  • ECO 125: Game Theory (James Daniel Miller)
  • ECO 205: Inequality and Public Policy (Argyris Tsiaras)
  • ECO 214: Antitrust Economics (Gunjan Sharma)
  • ECO 224: Environmental Economics (Gunjan Sharma)
  • ECO 255: Mathematical Economics (Jorge Vasquez)
  • ECO 296: International Finance (Mahnaz Mahdavi)
  • ECO 315: Seminar: Markets and Economic Models (Jorge Vasquez)
  • ECO 324: Seminar: Topics in the Economics of the Environment-Natural Resources (Susan Sayre)
  • ECO 361: Seminar: Economics of Discrimination (Terry-Ann Craigie)
  • ECO 364: Seminar: The Economics of Future Technology (James Daniel Miller)


Mahnaz Mahdavi


Professor of Economics; Department of Economics Chair; Faculty Director of the Global Finance Concentration

Mahnaz Mahdavi


Mark Aldrich
Marilyn Carlson Nelson Professor Emeritus of Economics

Randall Bartlett
Professor Emeritus of Economics

Robert Buchele
Professor Emeritus of Economics

Roger Kaufman
Professor Emeritus of Economics

Karen Pfeifer
Professor Emerita of Economics

Thomas A. Riddell
Professor Emeritus of Economics

Charles P. Staelin
Professor Emeritus of Economics

Andrew Zimbalist
Robert A. Woods Professor Emeritus of Economics

Opportunities & Resources

Samuel Bowles Prize

This prize is awarded to majors in the graduating class for the most distinguished paper in economics. Submissions are due by the last day of classes and should be emailed to Kelley Dunphy. Questions should be directed to the chair of the department, Mahnaz Mahdavi.

Sidney S. Cohen Prize

This prize is awarded for outstanding work in the field of economics.

Larry C. Selgelid Memorial Prize

This award is given to a Smith senior for the greatest contribution to the Department of Economics.

To learn more about academic prize competitions, see the Dean of the College website.

What can I do with a major in economics?

Individuals with training in economics are well prepared for a variety of careers. In most cases, the rigor and precision of technical training in economics will give the graduate a competitive advantage. In virtually all fields, the ability to write clearly and convincingly is a major asset. Majors are strongly urged to take courses that will develop their writing skills both within and outside the economics department.

Perhaps the most important aspect of planning an economics major involves keeping a number of options open. Specifically, flexibility depends on your having taken the basic courses early in the major. Economics 220 (formerly 190), 250 and 253 should all be taken as early as possible. In addition, we recommend Math 111 (Calc. I), taken early for economics majors. For certain career paths, additional math is a necessity, typically through Linear Algebra, and taking it would certainly add to your options in this respect.

To learn more about careers in economics, watch a video from the American Economic Association.

Career Paths Related to Economics


To be considered a professional economist, students must go on to graduate training leading to the M.A. or (more likely) the Ph.D. Economists are employed in academia, business and government, but their basic training almost always involves graduate school in economics. Students contemplating graduate school in economics should see their adviser and check the catalogs of a variety of schools to determine their entrance requirements. Your adviser will nearly always recommend more math. You are advised to master the material in ECO 255 and 240 as well as MTH 111, 112, 211, 212, 280 and 281. Aside from these suggestions, no other courses specifically must be taken, although you might take a number of more advanced, somewhat technical, courses to see if you enjoy doing what economists do.


Individuals contemplating administrative or business careers should seriously consider obtaining advanced training in business. In virtually all instances your employment opportunities will be enhanced if you do this.

Preparation for business school includes attention to economic theory, as well as to mathematics and statistics. You should plan to take calculus early in your career, and while it is somewhat less essential than for those pursuing a doctorate, taking math through linear algebra and econometrics is helpful. Taking "business type" courses, such as accounting and finance, may certainly help inform you about some of the subjects you will take in business school and the things you might be dealing with in a business career. Although an accounting course is offered at Smith (ACC 223), it does not count toward the course requirement for the major.

Business schools vary. Some are quite quantitative or theory oriented, others less so. Note, however, that if you choose a course of study that avoids quantitative studies and math, you tend to reduce your options, while if you do stress these areas, you can still go to a nontechnical business school if you wish.

Finally, note that an M.B.A. is useful training for many nonbusiness jobs, such as administrative positions in nonprofit institutions (e.g., health, the arts, government). It will therefore often be a prelude to many of the careers noted as follows.


Public policy programs are generally similar to business school programs, but with a greater emphasis on roles of government, the economy and on the tools of public policy analysis. As with master's programs, there is a range of emphasis on quantitative content.

LAW (J.D. OR L.L.B.)

Especially useful for law school are courses developing analytical skills (theory). There is less emphasis on specific quantitative skills, although law training is becoming increasingly quantitative at the best schools. Courses in government regulation, law and labor law might be of special interest, but are in no sense an absolute requirement. Some accounting could be useful to you. Courses dealing with government or the sociology of crime might be useful adjuncts.


A general major with attention to the labor and industrial relations courses—both in the economics department and in other departments (e.g., sociology and history)—is the best preparation for these programs.


In Washington, you will find opportunities for employment with both the legislative and executive branches of the government. Openings in the offices of senators and congressmen are not frequent, but they do exist. The greater number of possibilities occur within the various congressional committees. Those committees from the House of Representatives that hire a good number of economists include: Ways and Means, Education and Labor, Banking and Currency, Interstate and Foreign Commerce, Appropriations and Agriculture; and these from the Senate: Finance, Labor and Public Welfare, Banking and Currency, Interstate and Foreign Commerce, Appropriations and Agriculture and Forestry. Executive departments that hire economists, some of them in fairly large numbers, include (but are not limited to): the departments of State, Treasury, Labor, Health, Education, and Welfare, Commerce, Agriculture and Defense.

Other agencies and arms of the executive branch of government that hire economists are: the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Trade Commission, and the other regulatory commissions such as the C.A.B., L.C.C., F.C.C., F.P.C., the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Central Intelligence Agency, Council of Economic Advisers, International Cooperation Administration. Field courses depend on the agency or office you are concerned with (e.g., money and macro for the Federal Reserve System), but in every case you should have a strong grounding in quantitative and writing skills. Much of your work is likely to involve research and report preparation, in which these skills will be essential.


Many of the comments described in the federal government fields hold here as well. State and local governments have many different offices and agencies.

Quantitative and writing skills are again of primary importance. In addition, courses in the regional or urban economics area, and in public finance, would be a plus.


An economics major can be certified to teach social science at the high school level with a few additional courses, including a practicum in education. Check the education department section in the Smith College catalog for courses.


These include the U.N., O.E.C.D., L.L.O., World Bank, L.M.F., and many, many others. Important courses include international trade and finance and economic development, as well as a good preparation in quantitative skills. Other courses in specific areas of interest (labor, agriculture, comparative systems, area studies) can also be helpful.


Here the possibilities are so widespread that enumeration is impossible. Preparation would be similar to that for those going on to graduate business school, except that somewhat more attention should be given to immediately marketable skills. Even so, most businesses are looking for bright, trainable people who have exhibited the capacity for hard work, regardless of the particular courses they have taken.


A number of firms employ people to undertake economic research. They include Data Resources, Charles River Associates, RAND, and many others.

Courses in regional and urban, public finance, land use, and econometrics are useful since many of these firms' contracts fall in these areas.


There are many fields in which some undergraduate economics training is useful, including medicine and public health, environmental studies, social work and international relations.

Seminar Series

Spring 2024 Seminars

February 16, 2024
Jon Denton-Scheider, Clark University 

March 8, 2024
Amanda Agan, Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences

April 12, 2024
Anne Piehl, Rutgers University

April 26, 2024
Daniela Vidart, UCONN

Past Seminars

October 27, 2023
David Autor, MIT

December 1, 2023
Anne Piehl, Rutgers University

December 8, 2023
Alex Chan, Harvard University

April 14, 2023
Jakina Debnam Guzman, Amherst College 

March 31, 2023
Aurelie Ouss, University of Pennsylvania

December 1, 2022
Sandra Goff, Bates College

November 8, 2022
Brian Baisa, Amherst College

October 28, 2022
Laura Wherry, NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service

April 18, 2022
Sandile Hlatshwayo, International Monetary Fund

April 11, 2022
Luis Baldomero-Quintana, William & Mary

April 8, 2022
Arindrajit Dube, University of Massachusetts Amherst

March 31, 2022
Liz Ananat, Barnard College

December 6, 2021
Jaqueline Oliveira, Rhodes College

November 18, 2021
Olga Shurchkov, Wellesley College

November 8, 2021
Dave Bjerk, Claremont McKenna College

Contact Economics

Wright Hall #226

Smith College

Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3520 Email:

Administrative Assistant: Kelley Dunphy

Course and credit questions should be directed to the department chair Mahnaz Mahdavi.

Individual appointments may be arranged directly with the faculty.