I want you to construct a research paper on an applied “real world” area related to the microeconomic topics/issues we have studied in class. This could be a national, state, or local issue, but must be at least somewhat relevant to the topics we have and will explore in class. Sample topic ideas are provided below, but you are welcome to study issues not mentioned below, provided that I approve of their relationship to micro-economics. Remember to keep the topic narrow so that you can thoroughly analyze the issue. For example, “pollution” is too broad a topic, but “local economic impact of pollution in Lake Menomin” might be more appropriate. The papers should go beyond what was covered in class or focus on a particular aspect, if you choose something we discussed in lecture.
Your final paper will be due on the date of our final exam period. Then, during the final exam period you will have an opportunity to present your work to the class with a brief 5 minute-ish summary. It’s a good idea to get started right away thinking about this if possible…the last few weeks of school will be hectic, and you don’t want to have to leave this to the last minute. I will be willing to look over rough drafts and discuss ideas with you as you develop them.
The final paper should be well structured, integrated, and thoroughly proofread. You should provide full bibliographic citations for any sources you draw from. The paper should be approximately 4-6 double spaced pages (10 or 12 point font), PLUS graphs, figures, etc to illustrate your points. Included in the paper should be a discussion of the background information, data, and/or facts for the issue, sound economic analysis of the problems and solutions or causes and effects relating to the topic. Analytical tools such as graphs, tables of data, and statistical results are an important part of conveying economic concepts and arguments, and should be used when appropriate.
The paper will be evaluated with the following considerations:
a) The quality of economic analysis is the most important part of this assignment. I want you to consider all sides of the issue, and think about as many possible factors as you can which may influence the situation, and especially those which may have been ignored or understated in previous analyses. (Is something happening to shift supply or demand? Is the market in equilibrium? Is there a shortage or a surplus of something? Is elasticity a particular concern in this issue? Do we have a public goods problem? Is there a policy that is creating dead weight loss? Is there an externality present in the market that is being overlooked? Etc…if you’re having trouble with these things, come talk with me and we can try to figure out what’s going on with the econ)
b) The quality of the writing is also important and will factor into my evaluation. The paper should be well integrated and coherent, and will also be evaluated for grammar, style, and spelling. When you leave UW-Stout and enter the work force, you will be expected to provide reports, etc. which are well put together and edited, and its best to start getting in the habit now. This is not a text message to a friend and so it should appear professional. I encourage you to get a friend to read over your paper for you and do some editing.
Possible Topics and some ideas to get you started thinking about questions to consider with them (you’re not limited to these ideas, they are just suggestions):
- Take one of the readings we’ve done this semester and research the topic in more depth, bringing together multiple sources to analyze a topic you were interested in with more detail.
- Pick your favorite bar, restaurant, shop, or business in Menomonie and talk to the owner about how they determine prices for their products. Come up with a list of questions about supply, demand, and cost issues and conduct a short interview. Find out if their behavior is anything like what we’ve been learning about.
- Why is Lake Menomin so dirty? What are the economic issues involved here? (don’t give me a biology essay – stick to the issues involved in how it got the way it is, and what might be done about it)
- There is a field of economics which focuses on the economics of crime. Pick a crime from the “Smooth Criminals” column in Stoutonia or Volume One and discuss whether this particular issue is of economic concern. Think about whether the costs of enforcing the punishment outweigh the benefits of discouraging the behavior, etc.
- A number of computer games (both online and off-line) have fairly realistic functioning economies embedded in the game (Warcraft, Fable, Second Life, etc.). Investigate and describe the economy in one of these games and the supply and demand issues within the game.
- Students on this campus invent some amazing things (art, video games, designs, engineering projects, etc.) Research the economic issues behind copyright protection and patents, and thing about how these might apply to these innovations being produced at Stout.
- To what extent should the government be involved in the provision of health care? What is the current involvement of the government, and what are some of the proposed forms of involvement? Is there something unique about health care which would lend itself to government involvement and sets the market apart from other markets that the government has no role in?
- Tax increases on beer are currently being considered in Wisconsin. Should taxes on alcohol (so-called “sin” taxes) be increased? Are they justified at all? What evidence do we have about the impact of these taxes on alcohol consumption? (elasticity?)
- A tax on junk food, high sugar soda, and other “unhealthy foods” is currently being debated. On what economic grounds might this be justified? What are the statistical facts and projections about such a tax?
- Many economists argue that the most efficient means of controlling environmental externalities is the use of “green taxes.” What is the advantage of using tax-based incentives in addressing environmental problems? What evidence do we have? What is a “double dividend” tax?
- What is the case for and against agricultural price supports and subsidies? What sorts of programs are in place for Wisconsin farmers and what do they do? Should we continue these programs? What are their costs to the US and/or the state? What are their costs to the rest of the world?
- A bill was introduced to the Wisconsin state assembly in February 2010 to require that state organizations purchase at least 10 percent of their food from local producers, with that number growing to 20 percent in 10 years. What effect would this quota have on the food market, the organizations, and the local producers?
- Investigate the “Pay-what-you-want” pricing model. Where has this proven successful or unsuccessful? Why? What is the economic explanation in each case? (Here’s a starting point:
***Note, I’m completely sick of reading “economics of marijuana legalization” papers, so that topic is off-limits this semester.***
For your research, you should incorporate a mix of newspaper/magazine sources, books, statistics, internet sources and even academic journal sources if needed. Some useful sources you might start looking at include:
General info websites:
www.economist.com The Economist
http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/ Freakonomics Blog
www.centives.net Centives blog
www.wisconsin.gov Wisconsin State website
http://www.stoutonia.com/ UW-Stout Student News
Come talk with me early and often if you need some guidance or help with any aspect of this project. I know if may seem daunting before you get started, but this is your opportunity to develop research skills and investigate something that is of particular interest or importance to you, and hopefully you may even enjoy doing some of the research and learning more about what economic analysis is all about. If nothing else, you’ll be developing skills to use in your later academic or professional career.