Teaching economics

One of the reasons this week has been busy is that I spent yesterday at a fantastic INET-hosted workshop on undergraduate curriculum reform. Regular readers will know I’ve had an interest and involvement in this since organising a conference co-hosted by the Bank of England and Government Economic Service in 2012, which was summed up in What’s The Use of Economics.

What’s the Use of Economics?: Teaching the Dismal Science After the Crisis

The workshop had participants from the US, Chile, India and Turkey as well as the UK contingent. In some of the universities represented, curriculum reform is already under way. There is of course an interaction between the content of the curriculum, both in terms of topics covered (eg is economic history in or out?) and the approach to economics involved, and the pedagogy. I think we all got quite inspired by the possibility of improving the way young people are taught economics, although there will be a lot of work in developing materials and working out how to encourage different universities and academics (not to mention students), facing a range of incentives and pressures, to change.

It was interesting to see what textbooks people use and what they think about them. Greg Mankiw’s Economics is a market leader in many countries, but none of the participants yesterday like it. Many use Hal Varian’s Intermediate Microeconomics and think it is a great book but many dislike the approach to economics is has embedded: start with individuals and firms and consider them at length, then after many chapters put them in a perfectly competitive market, and in the last small section consider departures from that ideal – and non-existent – situation.

Two books I didn’t know about that were recommended yesterday were Joel Watson’s Strategy: An Introduction to Game Theory and Jonathan Gruber’s Public Finance and Public Policy.

Strategy: An Introduction to Game Theory

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7 thoughts on “Teaching economics

  1. I used J. Gruber Public Finance for my undergrad Public economics course. Excellent book, but needs to be accompanied with some journal articles for more in-depth understanding.

  2. Hi Diane. What would you recommend as an introductory textbook for the interested (but hopefully intelligent) amateur?

    My public library has the Samuelson and Nordhaus ‘Economics’ textbook, which I’ve dipped into and started working through the exercises. Is that a good start?

    The University (which I work for) library has a bigger selection, but I have to wait ’til September before I’m allowed back in.

    • Hi Steven,

      Could you clarify whether you specifically want recommendations about a textbook, or whether I should also include some of the popular books on economics?

      Thanks!

      • To clarify:

        a) is the Samuelson textbook good enough, since it’s the one I’ve started on.

        b) if not, what other textbook would you recommend

        c) I would not mind recommendations for other economics books, but your blog does a very good job of that as it is

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