Friday, 21 July 2017

Health economics and the economics of education in introductory economics

Sometimes it's good to receive some affirmation that what you're teaching is also taught in a similar way, and at a similar level, at top international universities. In the latest issue of the Journal of Economics Education, two of the articles have demonstrated to me that the material I teach in the health economics and economics of education topics in ECON110 is current best practice.

In the first paper (sorry I don't see an ungated version), David Cutler (Harvard) writes about health economics:
Health care is one of the biggest industries in the economy, so it is natural that the health care industry should play some role in the teaching of introductory economics... The class that I teach is an hour long...
In his hour-long class, Cutler covers medical care systems, the financing of medical care, and the demand and supply of medical care. In ECON110, I have a whole topic (three hours of lectures, and two hours of tutorials) devoted to health economics, and we cover the peculiarities of health care as a service (peculiar due to derived demand, positive externalities, information asymmetries, and uncertainty), cost-minimisation/cost-effectiveness/cost-utility analysis (including consideration of expected values to deal with uncertainty), the value of statistical life and cost-benefit analysis, and health systems. Obviously I can cover more ground because I have more time available, but it's good to see that the things that Cutler covers at Harvard are part of my topic.

Similarly in the second paper (also no ungated version), Cecilia Elena Rouse (Princeton) writes about the economics of education:
There are many aspects of the “economics of education” that would make excellent examples for introductory economics students... I chose two related topics that are central to the economics of education and to human capital theory: the economic benefit (or “returns”) to schooling and educational attainment as an investment.
Again, those sub-topics that Rouse identifies are part of the ECON110 topic on the economics of education. In that topic, we cover human capital theory and the private education decision (including introducing the concept of discounting future cash flows), the public education decision (including consideration of the optimal subsidy for education, and dealing with credit constraints). Recently, I've also been discussing the economics of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).

Both papers gave me a few small points to follow up on, but overall it looks like the fact that Harvard and Princeton teach similar topics in a similar way is a good sign of the ongoing quality of the ECON110 paper.

No comments:

Post a Comment