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The students in my introductory economics courses will be completing a variety of writing assignments throughout their course, including semester long research projects on topics that are in the news, that are easily illustrated with data, and that can profitably be examined through the application of basic microeconomic principles.

The class website contains a detailed description of the project, but I thought I would share with you, in two parts, the topics that I have selected for the papers. Suggestions are very much welcomed. On the course site, each topic has a paragraph explaining it, as well as some general guidelines for how I would like students to proceed. I have a nagging thought that the most interesting of these questions to me will be least interesting to students. They will be assigned topics by me, so that each gets coverage, but I wonder what would be most popular if they had a choice?

  1. 10 CDs for a Penny! Really?
  2. Are American Families Degenerating?
  3. Are CEO’s Paid Too Much?
  4. Are Pay-Day Loans, Rent-to-Own Stores, and Credit Card Companies Exploiting American Consumers?
  5. Are Professional Sports Teams and Sports Arenas Good for Local Economic Development?
  6. Are Volunteers Good for America?
  7. Can a Charitable Organization be Run as a For-Profit Enterprise?
  8. Can Microfinance Help the American Poor?
  9. Can the Volt Save General Motors?
  10. Compare and Contrast the Massachusetts, Maine and Tennessee Health Care Plans
  11. Compare the Largest Companies and Richest Americans from the late 19th century, mid-20th century, and today.
  12. Do Unions Cause Higher Wages?
  13. Evaluate the Causes and Consequences of (Traffic) Congestion Pricing
  14. Evaluate the Energy Plan of Oklahoma Oilman, T. Boone Pickens.
  15. Explain the Current “Sub-prime Mortgage Crisis” to a Lay-Audience
  16. Gas Prices and Automobiles
  17. Has the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Alleviated American Poverty?
  18. How Can We Mitigate Cigarette Smoking in Youngsters?
  19. How Do Unskilled Immigrants Impact the American Economy?
  20. How Serious is the Problem of Offshoring?
  21. Is Commercial Society Complementary to, or Anathema to, Culture?
  22. Is Home Ownership a Good Investment?
  23. Is Religious Fundamentalism Rational?
  24. Is the American Manufacturing Sector being “Hollowed-Out”?
  25. Provide an Economics Explanation for America’s Relative Religious Vitality and Europe’s Relative Religious Decline
  26. Repeal the Gas Tax?

One Response to “Economics for the Layman, Part I”

  1. Speedmaster says:

    Good list.

    When people ask me about basic economics, I refer them to the Hazlitt book, or for something even more concise I think this series of 10 columns is spot-on. 😉

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