Personal fulfillment and effective citizenship require some understanding of the principles of human interaction in society. Economics is the scientific study of choosing how best to use technology and limited resources to maximize individual or social welfare. Through its analysis of behavior, economics can add much to our understanding of vital public-policy issues. A grasp of the principles of economics enables students to analyze problems such as unemployment, economic growth, pollution, inflation, monopoly power, race and gender discrimination, and international trade.
Economics can also be defined by its methods of analysis. In seeking to understand and predict social behavior, economists build, test, and revise models. Economics students learn to work with models of the behavior of consumers, producers, suppliers of labor and capital, and government. They study the markets in which these economic agents interact. This technique for understanding the experience of men and women in society differs sharply from the literary and intuitive methods of the humanities and fine arts.
Economics is a highly integrated discipline in which most economists work simultaneously with theory, analytical models, data, quantitative research methods, and public-policy issues. Each economics course at Kenyon introduces all of these elements, in varying mixes. The common thread among the courses is reliance on models that explain and predict human behavior. Economics courses at Kenyon are designed to help students develop the ability to think in a rigorous, analytical fashion and to develop communication skills. This emphasis places economics at the heart of liberal arts education.
ECON 101 and ECON 102 are the complementary set of foundation courses in economics. Both are lecture and discussion courses, with usually between twenty and thirty students in each section. The introductory courses survey theories of producer and consumer behavior and show how these theories can be used to predict the consequences of individual, business, and government actions. Current public-policy issues are also studied. Different instructors teach sections of these courses using different teaching styles. All sections, however, feature several examinations each semester, and in most sections there are also homework assignments or quizzes. In addition to a major text, most sections also introduce readings about current issues. These courses are an excellent introduction to economics for those who plan no further work in the discipline, but they are also the foundation and prerequisites for all upper-level courses and the first courses in the economics major.
When should one enroll in ECON 101 and ECON 102? Even though ECON 101 and 102 are challenging introductory courses, most first-year students who take these courses perform well. Those students who are most successful in the principles courses have a strong general preparation for college, reasonably good study habits, and academic motivation to keep up with reading and homework assignments every week.
There are significant advantages in taking ECON 101 and ECON 102 as a first-year student. The courses prepare one to take virtually any other economics course starting in the sophomore year. Students who are seriously considering an economics major often find this early start helpful.
Can economics majors participate in off-campus study in the junior year? Yes, but those who plan to major in economics and study off campus should seriously consider enrolling in ECON 101 and 102 as first-year students and ECON 201 and 202 as second-year students to provide a sound base for off-campus study.
Requirements for the Major
Successful completion of ECON 101 and ECON 102 with a grade of at least C in each is a prerequisite for admission to the major program. Students who do not earn a B or better in ECON 101 and ECON 102 are strongly discouraged from majoring in economics. A minimum of 4.5 units within the department is required, including: ECON 201 and 202, an economics seminar, and ECON 205, which has a prerequisite of a college introductory statistics course.
The Senior Exercise involves a systematic effort to understand social behavior using economic principles. The exercise allows majors to gain an appreciation of the integrity of economics as a discipline. Majors must answer two essay questions. Students typically sit for the closed-book exam during the spring semester. Honors majors must answer an additional essay question. An honors oral examination is conducted by an outside examiner.
The Honors Program in economics provides an opportunity for more independent research and study than is available in regular courses of study. Honors candidates are required to participate in the senior honors seminar and in ECON 205. In the honors seminars, students present and discuss with their peers the results of their research. Those interested in the Honors Program should discuss this possibility with a member of the department.
Transfer Credit Policy
For those majors who spend a semester abroad, the department will transfer no more than 1.0 unit of credit in economics. For those majors who spend two semesters abroad, the department will transfer no more than 2.0 units of credit in economics. Students with scores of 4 or higher on the Advanced Placement (AP) microeconomic and macroeconomic exams are given 0.25 unit of credit, per exam, in economics. The Economics Department will award economics credit for no more than 0.50 units for an accounting course taken at another institution.