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Creating a Standards-Based Economics Principles Course


  • W. Lee Hansen

    () (Department of Economics, University of Wisconsin)

  • Michael K. Salemi

    () (Department of Economics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

  • John J. Siegfried

    () (Department of Economics, Vanderbilt University)


America's adult population is economically illiterate. College economics instruction must shoulder some of the blame for this situation. Forty percent of all college graduates take an economics course. Over 95 percent of principles of economics students do not continue on to major in economics, however. For them, introductory economics is a terminal course. To improve adult economic literacy the authors argue for replacing much of the detail and technical material in the traditional two-semester principles of economics course with a single semester introductory course that emphasizes basic concepts, repetitive practice applying those concepts to real circumstances, and active participation of students in the learning process. The goals of this course should be limited to developing a thorough understanding of basic economic principles such as scarcity, opportunity cost, trade-offs, marginal analysis, incentives, specialization, voluntary exchange, markets, prices as signals, and so on, at the expense of breadth. Twenty appropriate principles are identified in the 1997 Voluntary National Content Standards. The authors argue for omitting cost curves, most graphs, analysis of industry structures, elasticity and multiplier computations, and aggregate demand and aggregate supply analysis from the introductory course. .

Suggested Citation

  • W. Lee Hansen & Michael K. Salemi & John J. Siegfried, 2001. "Creating a Standards-Based Economics Principles Course," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0105, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:van:wpaper:0105

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. anonymous, 1998. "Economic outlook for Alabama varies by region," Regional Update, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, issue Oct, pages 5-7.
    2. John B. Taylor, 2000. "Teaching Modern Macroeconomics at the Principles Level," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 90-94, May.
    3. Peter E. Kennedy, 2000. "Eight Reasons Why Real versus Nominal Interest Rates Is the Most Important Concept in Macroeconomics Principles Courses," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 81-84, May.
    4. John J. Siegfried, 2000. "How Many College Students Are Exposed to Economics?," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(2), pages 202-204, June.
    5. Siegfried, John J & Meszaros, Bonnie T, 1997. "National Voluntary Content Standards for Pre-College Economics Education," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(2), pages 247-253, May.
    6. Becker, William E & Watts, Michael, 1996. "Chalk and Talk: A National Survey on Teaching Undergraduate Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 448-453, May.
    7. Michael Parkin, 2000. "The Principles of Macroeconomics at the Millennium," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 85-89, May.
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    More about this item


    Economic education; introductory economics; economics curriculum;

    JEL classification:

    • A2 - General Economics and Teaching - - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics

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