Spring 2022 - ECON 453 D100

Seminar in the Economics of Education (3)

Class Number: 7999

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 10 – Apr 11, 2022: Mon, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 20, 2022
    Wed, 7:00–10:00 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    ECON 201 or 301 and ECON (or BUEC) 333, all with a minimum grade of C-.



The application of economic theory and empirical analysis to issues related to the role of education in economic growth and individual earnings, the organization of the education system and education policy. Specific topics covered will vary from term to term.


Economists and policymakers often seek to measure and understand how educational inputs and/or educational interventions impact students. These impacts may have significant short and long-run consequences on students, particularly as they enter the labor market. More generally, we often want to assess the real-world effects of some potential “cause” on an “outcome.” For example, does a university degree increase future earnings? Does the type of university one attends matter? Do school peers have any short- or long-term impact on students? Can teachers impact students’ long run outcomes? Do role models in education matter?

This course will first introduce you to the statistical and econometric methods that applied researchers use to answer causal questions in the economics of education. These methods include randomized experiments, regression discontinuity, difference-in-differences, and instrumental variables.  We will then discuss theoretical foundations of how economists approach questions of education. There will be regular graded assignments to make sure that you are keeping track of the class. Additionally, I will be occasionally holding in-class pop quizzes to make sure you are keeping up with the weekly readings. By the end of the course, you will learn how to critically evaluate statements about causal relationships in education. Additionally, you will be able to evaluate and come up with your own research ideas in the economics of education.


1-Introduction---The education production function: How economists think about education

2- Review/Introduction of empirical methods: OLS and Random Assignment, Instrumental Variables, Differences-in-Differences, Regression Discontinuity Design.

3- The returns to education: Where it all began!

4- The returns to quality of education---Higher Education

5- The returns to quality of education---Middle and High Schools

6- Peer Effects in Education

7- School Tracking

8- Role Models in Education Part 1: Do teachers and professors matter?

9- Match Effects in Education: The role of race and gender

10-Role Models in Education Part 2: The role of high school counselors and university advisors

11- Signaling versus human capital: Do we know why Education Matters?

12- Online and virtual education

Time Permitting:

13- Recent COVID-19 papers related to Education.



  • Participation and in-class quizzes 10%
  • Assignments 20%
  • Leading and discussing a paper in class 20%
  • End of semester presentation of a paper 25%
  • Writing a full developed research proposal 25%



None. This class will be based on my class notes and academic papers that I will post online.


Lovenheim and S. Turner “Ecomonomics of Education, First Edition”

D. Angrist and J.-S. Pischke “Mastering ‘Metrics: The Path from Cause to Effect,” Princeton University Press (2014).

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Please note that, as per Policy T20.01, the course requirements (and grading scheme) outlined here are subject to change up until the end of the first week of classes.

Final exam schedules will be released during the second month of classes. If your course has a final exam, please ensure that you are available during the entire final exam period until you receive confirmation of your exam dates. 

Students requiring accommodations as a result of a disability must contact the Centre for Accessible Learning (CAL) at 778-782-3112 or caladmin@sfu.ca.


Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2022 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with safety plans in place.  Some courses will still be offered through remote methods, and if so, this will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the spring 2022 term.