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American Economic History

Spring, 2013
Rutgers University Camden
Economics Department
Course Syllabus

Course title:  American Economic History (50:220:305:40), 3 credits
Day Time Place: Tuesday Evenings: 6:00 to 8:40 PM, ATG 212
Instructor: Robert Vaden
Phone: 856-582-9325
Email: robert.vaden@rutgers.edu  

Prerequisites:  Principles of Microeconomics (102) or Macroeconomics (103)

Catalog Description:  Overview, analysis of such selected topics as population, government, capital accumulation, and technology contributing to the development of economic life and institutions in the United States.

Course Overview: The course will provide a detailed review and discussion of the American economy’s growth and evolution.  Emphasis will be placed on trends and developments over the last century.  However, selected topics from earlier in the country’s development will also be discussed as appropriate. 

Topics to be covered will include a review of the American business cycle over time, the role of monetary and fiscal policy at different times in the country’s history, and issues related to the growth and development of the nation’s labor force.

The objective of the course is to provide the student with an appreciation of how the American economy has evolved over time and to promote a better understanding of the challenges facing the American economy today.

Required Text: American Economic History by Jonathan Hughes and Louis  Cain. 

Note:  it is not necessary to purchase the latest edition of the texts.  The texts will be used primarily for information and data on the earlier periods of American history.

Recommended Reading: A suggested reading lists will be provided early in the semester. We will monitor current economic data, such as monthly labor force trends as measured and reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics  (BLS) or quarterly changes in GDP growth as measured by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). 

Course objectives:

  • Increase the student’s awareness of this country’s economic history and create an understanding of how economic policy in the past is impacting the economy today. 
  • Improve the student’s knowledge of select topics in the U.S. Economy, such as the how the business cycle has behaved historically and how policy makers have addressed the business cycle at different points in history. 
  • Give the student an improved  understanding of the causes and magnitude of the recent recession and the limitations of monetary and fiscal policy in combating recessions.  
  • Make the student aware of key official economic data sources on variables such employment, unemployment, economic growth, etc.                                

Attendance: Attendance is strongly encourage.  However, you are allowed two (2) absences. Your final grade will be reduced by 2 points for every absence after the second.

Grades:  There will be two tests and a final exam.  NOTE THAT ALL TESTS AND THE FINAL EXAM ARE CUMULATIVE. This means that each test and the final exam will include all material covered to date.   In calculating your final grade, each test will make up one-third of the course grade.

Final grades will be assigned as follows: 90+=A; 84-89=B+; 78-83=B; 72-77=C+; 66-71=C; 60-65=D; 59 or less= F;

Unannounced or “pop” tests may be be given.   

Make-up tests will be given on an individual basis. However, all make-up tests must be taken within two weeks of the exam date.

Paper: A six to eight page paper on an appropriate topic is required.  The due date is April 23.  A satisfactory research paper is required to receive a passing grade for the course.

                                                            Course Outline *

Class of:Topic
January 22 Introduction, the U.S. Economy Today and Yesterday
January 29 U. S. Population Growth:  1790-present
February 5/12 Overview of the U.S. Economy 1920-present
February 19/26 The U.S. Business Cycle over Time, The Great Depression    
March 5 EXAMINATION I
March 12 Keynesian economics, monetary and fiscal policy
March 19 SPRING BREAK  NO CLASS
March 26 March 12  (continued)
April 2 EXAMINATION II
April 9 Post World War II, the 1950’s and 1960’s
April 16 The challenging 1970’s/ Supply Side Economics and Fiscal challenges of the 1980’s
April 23 The Great Recession and Parallels to the Great Depression
April 30 Distribution of Income and Wealth,  Federal Income taxes:  Yesterday and Today
May 6 Wrap-up and Review
May FINAL EXAM  DATE TO BE DETERMINED                        

*  Topics are subject to change.