Search the Site

Poor Economics in an Economics Department

Three weeks until classes start, including my 500-student section of micro principles. Unlike in past semesters, I won’t be assigned any smart undergrads to lead review sessions. Budgets are limited, but all other “large” sections–some less than half the size of mine–have undergrad assistants assigned. “Why not?” I ask. I’m told it’s because I do a good job and don’t need the sessions.
Flattering, yes; but a display of bad economics, focusing on average instead of marginal benefits. Unless the goal is to equalize student performance, a rational allocation would assign undergrad assistants where the marginal impacts on the total of student performances will be greatest. My class is the biggest; and unless the average impact of the undergrad session leaders on average student performances is much smaller than in others’ sections, this is an uneconomic allocation of scarce resources. Rather embarrassing in an economics department!