FINAL PAPER & PROPOSAL ASSIGNMENT
Proposal: March 15, 2018
Presentation: approx. 5-7 min. presentation on your topic and the literature related to it (will occur in either the last or 2nd to last class)
Final Paper: April 10, 2018
Proposal (10%, 2 double-spaced pages)
The proposal is the first step to a successful final paper. For the proposal, students should identify their topic of interest for the final paper. A topic should be related to public economics broadly defined and should be an open question in the public economics literature (that is, there is no 100% consensus on the answer). Examples of topics could be:
Under what circumstances does a minimum wage increase reduce employment?
Why is top income inequality growing particularly quickly in English-speaking
Why does moving a child to a “better” neighborhood greatly improve her outcomes?
For the purposes of the proposal, you should then include the following:
Motivation: Explain why this question is important, drawing on the economics literature
and economic theory rather than personal anecdotes or experiences.
Literature Review: Survey the literature related to this topic, including both papers we
discussed in class and related papers outside of the required readings on the syllabus. You should focus on papers from “top” economics journals (e.g. the set of journals we listed in class #2, with examples including the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Journal of Political Economy, American Economic Review, Econometrica, and Review of Economic Studies, Journal of Public Economics, Journal of Labor Economics, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, and American Economic Journal: Economic Policy). For the purposes of the proposal, discuss how the papers try to answer your question and what they find. Hint: To identify other papers of interest, look at the works cited sections of the papers on your topic we read for class.
In-Class Presentation (5%) (Will take place either March 22 or March 29)
Prepare slides for a short, 5-7 minute presentation explaining your topic. You must send these slides to me and the TA before class to upload. There will be no extensions on this assignment since it requires in-class presentation except in very extreme circumstances. You should use your time effectively to convey the key points from your prospectus and your final paper to your classmates:
What is your question and why is it important?
What are the key papers related to your question (can choose 2-3) and what conclusions
do they draw?
What are the key gaps in our understanding that need to be filled to answer this question?
Final Paper (30%, 10 double-spaced pages)
This paper builds on your proposal. Based on the feedback on your proposal, you should edit and sharpen the motivation for your question and the literature review that appear in the proposal. Additionally, you should address the following:
For the papers in the literature review, focusing on the 2-3 most closely related papers, describe not only what the papers do but their shortcomings. Explain which papers you find most convincing and whether you do/don’t believe their results.
Identify where more research is needed to answer your bigger question and what kind of data or “natural experiments” are needed to make progress. For example, if your question is, “Why does moving to a better neighborhood improve a student’s outcomes?”, perhaps one useful thing would be a natural experiment that varied both the
neighborhood and the school or just the school so that you could identify if the value of
moving came from better schools or other aspects of the neighborhood.
Given the areas where more research is needed, what would be the ideal experiment
and/or data set to make progress on this issue? How could this ideal experiment or data set be approximated by a research in the real world and what assumptions would need to be true for the feasible data or experiment to produce a good answer to your question (e.g. what would have to be true to obtain unbiased estimates)?