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Go Teach Your Students: Introducing The Econ 101 Database

January 29th, 2015 · 4 Comments
Administrative · Econ 101

So I made something new for you:

A couple of years ago, I was told a story about how Milton Friedman would teach his Principles of Economics courses by walking into the classroom each day, opening the newspaper, and discussing the economics behind the stories that he saw. Now, I don’t know whether this tale is an urban legend or not, but the idea is quite solid, since it’s of crucial importance to tie back what is taught in the classroom to what students see out in the world. The downside of this approach, of course, is that the outside world isn’t organized for the purposes of providing examples in a logical order that students can easily follow and instructors can piece together into a syllabus in real time.

That’s where this document comes in- as an instructor and consumer of information myself, I spend a number of hours each day looking for interesting things that happen in the world that illustrate (or, in some cases, are at odds with) economic theory. Such an activity, with its high fixed cost and low marginal cost (when quantity is measured as number of instructors served), has the structure of a potential natural monopoly. In this case, however, the document has the features of a public good, since I’m making it open to everyone. Whoever said that public goods wouldn’t be provided by the free market? Oh right, (non behavioral) economists. 🙂

I hope that this database of Econ 101 examples (or, technically, spreadsheet, as some persnickety individuals have pointed out) is helpful to you! I will continue adding to it, hopefully almost daily, as I come across new things to talk about. There are a few features that I’ve put in to make the document easy to navigate and use:
— Sheets: The examples, not shockingly, are on the sheet labeled “Examples.” (This is the “Overview” sheet- see the tabs at the bottom left of the sheets to toggle between them.)
— Description/Comments: I’ve tried to provide enough information so that you don’t have to click through to the sources to understand what they are and whether you want to use them. In addition, I often give suggestions on how you can use the source in your classroom.
— Date: Where possible, I’ve added a date so that you can avoid sources that you feel are outdated. You can (reverse) sort by date and stop looking when you feel that the sources get too old. Note, however, that not every item has a date- such sources are obviously timeless!
— Date Added: You can (reverse) sort by date added in order to look at only those items that you haven’t already examined.
— Course: You can filter by course to only see items that are relevan to what you are teaching. Note, however, that some items are assigned to both Micro 101 and Macro 101, and this designation gets its own filter category.
— Tags: Created to help you find relevant items more easily, and I would search this column rather than trying to sort of filter, since a lot of items have multiple tags. When possible, I recommend scanning the items rather than relying solely on the tags so that you don’t miss anything relevant- for example, an item I’ve tagged as “price ceiling” when you’re looking for “price controls” or something like that.
— EDIWM Post: Where applicable, I’ve added links to posts on my web site that give more extensive discussion on the sources presented.
— Submitted By: For the most part, I am compiling this document myself with some help from a few econ friends. That said, I want to give proper credit where credit is due! In related news, email  econgirl at if you have something relevant/fun to share, and be sure to let me know how you would like to be credited.

I hope this is helpful to you and makes economics more interesting to your students! You can also follow my Twitter- @jodiecongirl- in order to see most if not all of the items as I find them (as well as other econ stuff). If you want even more Econ 101 materials, be sure to check out the “Econ Classroom” section of my web site (listed below).

Happy Econ-ing,

Jodi Beggs
Lecturer, Northeastern University Department of Economics

My current plan is to update the database as I find new examples and then post a summary of new items once a week as a reminder. I also added a link to the document at the top of the Economics Classroom page for easy reference.

Tags: Administrative · Econ 101

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 tim perri // Feb 4, 2015 at 11:32 pm

    Friedman taught his graduate price theory class using current events. As far as I know, he never taught undergrads. at UC. More than 1 of his grad.students have mentioned his teaching technique, so, other than the fact it was not undergrads., it’s not an urban legend.

  • 2 cdbragg // Feb 7, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    Hey Jodie,

    Great resource. Any chance you can change the vertical alignment so that they align to the top, not the bottom?

    Sorry for being pedantic!!


  • 3 econgirl // Feb 12, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    Yep! I’m not sure why the default is bottom alignment.

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