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The Macroeconomics Learning Portfolio

This learning portfolio consists of a series of short writing assignments. You will be required to complete and revise these assignments throughout the semester, and to compile and submit your completed portfolio by the due date.

General Directions:

  • BE HONEST! It is strictly forbidden to copy things from the internet or work with other students, for any reason. If I provide an example, do not use it as a template. If you represent someone else’s ideas or work as your own, you will get a 0 on this assignment. Do not search the internet and try to “rephrase” things to disguise plagiarism… I have very powerful technology that searches the entire internet for anything in your portfolio, so I will catch any of this behavior. Because of this, the policy regarding internet searches is extremely clear: do not use the internet for anything in this learning portfolio unless specifically directed to, and do not visit any sites other than the one(s) specifically mentioned. If you violate this policy, you will get a 0 on this learning portfolio assignment, which is worth 18% of the final grade for the course. This learning portfolio is based on your experiences and understanding, so there is no reason to search the internet beyond the sites I specifically mention, or to work with other students. If you have questions, you can ask me, and if you don’t understand something you can review the provided course materials until you do, or you can use the tutoring services provided by the college. In general, the internet is NOT a permitted resource for this assignment.
  • Please complete ALL of the individual assignments listed below, and compile them into one document to submit by the due date. Note that some chapters do not have a corresponding assignment (e.g. chapter 1).
  • Do NOT include the assignment questions in your learning portfolio. I already know what the questions are.
  • Please submit your compiled and revised learning portfolio using one of the following programs/formats: Microsoft Word/.doc, Open Office/.odt, or Adobe Acrobat/.pdf. Other formats are not acceptable since I cannot read them. If the formatting gets messed up when submitting the document, don’t worry about it -I am used to it.
  • Follow the directions for each individual assignment closely. This sounds simple, but most of the points people lose are due to failure to follow the directions. To help with this, many assignments are broken down by components, for example A, B, C, D, etc. Please respond to these assignments by specifically addressing each component with its own paragraph. After you complete an assignment, re-read the directions and analyze whether you did what was asked. Do not simply do what you are “comfortable” with, do what is asked. If you are not comfortable with what was asked, then go back and try to relearn the material or feel free to ask me questions.
  • Use your best writing skills. This assignment should reflect college-level writing ability and will be graded significantly lower if it does not. High school-level work uses proper grammar, punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, and reasonable paragraph lengths, so these components are absolutely mandatory in the learning portfolio. I suggest reading each sentence and treating as its own entity… ask yourself these questions: Does this sentence sound like something an educated person would say? Does it support the point of the paragraph, and does the paragraph support the point of your response to the prompt?
  • There are no length requirements for the individual assignments, so please do not try to lengthen your submission by including fluff, by being redundant, or using formatting tricks. But at the same time, do not provide superficial responses. Take your time to respond to the assignments in a complete, meaningful way, and whatever length it ends up being is the “right” length.

Individual Assignment Directions:

Chapter 2:

Chapter 2 shows and discusses the gains from trade that can result when individuals, firms, or countries specialize in producing goods for which they have the comparative advantage, and trade those goods with others.

Gains from specialization and exchange can be seen in many situations. For example, most people that we pay to do things for us (e.g. grow our food, cut our hair, tutor us, etc.) perform the task for a lower opportunity cost than we would bear if we were to do it ourselves. This is where the gain from trade that benefits both parties comes from, and is why it is rational for you to pay for the service.

To show that you understand how comparative advantage works in the modern economy, please discuss a good or service you recently purchased and address the following prompts:

    1. What is the item or service, and how much did you pay for it?
    2. What is a reasonable estimate of how long it would take you to make the item or perform the service at the same quality level of the one your purchased, if you had been unable to buy it? You need to come up with a number of hours or days or years, or whatever time measurement you want, for how long it would take you. Don’t try to avoid this. If you can’t figure it out, pick another good or service.
    3. Who worked to get the money to pay for the item, and how long did they have to work to get the money? If your money came from the government, see the how the government gets money page.
    4. Based on your answers to 2 and 3 above, was it rational to buy the good? Explain. Make sure you compare the time it would take you to make the good or perform the service (mentioned in part 2) and the amount of time that had to be worked to get the money (mentioned in part 3). It is only rational to buy something if you give up less resources working to earn money to pay, than you would have if you made the good or perform the service yourself. If it turned out to be irrational, why did you buy it?

If you want to see an example, check out the “great work” linked above. But do not copy the example or even the wording. There are many ways to express these ideas if you understand the material. Please find your own words or face the consequences of academic dishonesty.

Chapter 3:

In chapter 3 we learn that the supply and demand for a good or service can shift in response to changes in certain variables, and about how supply and demand interact to determine the market equilibrium price.

  1. Please identify a price change you have observed in the last few years. Do not choose gasoline or smart/cell phones, please pick something else.
  2. Use the supply and demand model to explain the price change you identified in A) above. You should be talking about what happened with supply and demand curves, so please be sure you talk about both of these. You don’t need to search the internet for information about this, because I don’t care if you are correct. I just want to see if you can use the model to explain price changes, so if your explanation would create the change you observed, that is all I’m looking for.
  3. Summarize your explanation with one sentence that mentions what you think has happened to both supply and demand, and how this interaction has resulted in the price change you observed. If both curves are moving, you will need to comment on the relative size of each shift to justify the price change you observed.

Please do not try to explain price changes in gasoline or cell phones. Please pick something else.

Helpful tip: be sure you discuss both supply AND demand, as they both play a role in determining the price.

Chapter 4a:

In our everyday lives as consumers we purchase many goods and services, and we derive consumers’ surplus for most of them. With that in mind, please:

Identify 3 goods or services you have purchased in the last year, and estimate the amount of consumer surplus you enjoy from those purchases. For each good, please state specifically:

  1. The highest amount you would have been willing to pay.
  2. The price you actually paid.
  3. The amount of consumers’ surplus you received from each item.

You should have 3 short paragraphs, one for each good. Do not use a chart, please use words.

Helpful tips: Be sure to state exactly the highest price you would have been willing to pay, the price you actually paid, and what your consumer’s surplus is. There are many different phrases you can use to communicate the highest price you were willing to pay, but note that the following are incorrect:

  • The price you were willing to pay. Just because you were willing to pay $20 for a good, doesn’t mean this is the highest you were willing to pay.
  • The price you expected to pay. Again, this is not necessarily the highest price you were willing to pay.

Chapter 4b:

We are about one third of the way through the course. How is it going for you? Are your grades where you want them to be? If not, what can you do to remedy the situation? If you want a different result, it is imperative that you change your strategy.

Chapter 8, 9, and 10:

We have begun our exploration of the macroeconomic statistics that describe total output (and the business cycle), unemployment, and inflation in our economy. In recent times we have seen significant variation in output and employment due to the “great recession” of 2008/9 and the recovery that has followed. In this assignment we will use interactive maps on the internet to visualize these variations, and see if we can identify any relationships between changes in output and changes in employment.

There is a bar at the top of the page that says “Datasets”. Click on Datasets, then select “World Economic Outlook” on the upper left part of the screen. On the World Economic Outlook page, scroll down and select “Gross Domestic Product”, then select “Real GDP Growth” on the page that pops up. You will now be taken to a page that will give you the data on GDP growth rates for different countries and groups of countries.

On the GDP growth rates page, you will see 4 panels. On the upper right panel, scroll down and select United States (by double clicking on it) so that you will be able to see our GDP growth rates. You should see United States added to the lower right panel. To make the graphs more readable, I suggest deleting anything else besides the United States in this panel.

Now in the lower left panel, drag the sliding selector thingy to the left, and notice that the number next to United States in the right lower panel is changing. This number is the value for the real GDP growth rate for the year currently selected. Please write down the annual rates of real GDP growth for the United States for the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.

Next we will now look at changes in the unemployment rate over this same time period. We can make this change by going back to the “World Economic Outlook” data set, and selecting the “People” subject, then “Unemployment Rate”. You will then be taken back to the “data mapper page” you were on when we looked at real GDP growth rates, but now we have data on the unemployment rate. Please use the same approach described above, and write down the unemployment rates for the United States for the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.

  1. Please tell me the numbers that you collected. I don’t care if you do this in a table or not.
  2. Compare the data on GDP growth rates and unemployment you have gathered for the years in question. What phase of the business cycle were we in during 2009? Note that “trough” is not a phase of the business cycle –it is a moment in time.
  3. Unemployment is something economists call a “lagging indicator”, which means that it lags behind changes in productivity (firms wait to hire and fire people until they are sure they need to). Do you notice a relationship between the GDP growth rates and the unemployment rate (hint: you should)? What is the relationship?
  4. Do you think there is a causal (meaning changes in one variable cause changes in the other variable) relationship between GDP growth and unemployment rates? If so, please explain exactly how the mechanism of causality works… i.e. Why does a change in one variable cause the change in the other? Think hard here, for yourself, and absolutely DO NOT search the internet for help. Think deeply about the real activities that each variable is measuring and summarizing, and how these activities are related to each other.

Chapter 10b:

We are about two-thirds of the way through the course. How is it going for you? Are your grades where you want them to be? If not, what adjustments can you make to improve the situation?

Chapter 11:

We have described economic growth as a function of increased worker productivity, and have argued that worker productivity has risen due to increased levels of capital and technology. We have argued that the more capital a country has, the more it will be able to produce. This is true on a macro level, but also on a micro level –that is, our individual productivity also increases when we acquire machines that help us be productive.

  1. What machine(s) do you use in your daily life that help(s) you be more productive? Please be specific.
  2. Without this/these machine(s), what would you be unable to produce or do? Would you have to give up some leisure activities?
  3. Can you think of any machines that you could buy (thereby accumulating more capital), that would help you produce more? Would you be likely to experience diminishing returns? Why or why not?

Chapter 12:

Whenever the economy goes into recession (as occurred most recently in 2008), consumption in the United States decreases.

  1. If the economy went into a recession, but you were not directly affected, do you think you might change your consumption patterns/choices? Do you remember if you or your family changed your spending habits at all during or after the 2008 recession? That recession was over a decade ago, so you might want to ask someone (a family member, friend, or whomever) about their recollections and decisions if you don’t remember what happened. Feel free to discuss any of these.
  2. Following the recession of 2008, the rate of savings in the United States doubled. Why do you think this is? How do you think the increase in savings affected overall consumption? Since, on average, 70% economic activity in the United States is based on consumers (just like you) purchasing goods and services for consumption, how do you think the increase in savings affected aggregate expenditure? Please respond to these questions using your understanding of the aggregate expenditure model.

Chapter 14:

Keeping your money in a bank seems like a good idea. However, from time to time, depositors lose confidence in banks. In chapter 14 we learned that when many people lose confidence in a bank at the same time it is called a “bank run”, and when this happens to many banks at the same time it is called a “bank panic.” Runs and panics typically occur following the realization that banks may have made bad loans, and may be unable to provide depositors with access to their funds. So it’s clear that there is some risk in keeping your money at a bank.

  1. If your bank was experiencing a run, would you join in, or would you be confident that the FDIC would be there to insure your account?
  2. Since the European Union does not have a unified banking system (and possibly other reasons) there is no deposit insurance at most European banks. If you had a bank account in Europe, would you be more, less, or equally as likely to participate in a bank run?
  3. If it was a panic instead of a run, would you feel safe? Why or why not?

Chapter 15:

Choose your own monetary policy adventure!

  1. Imagine that either the economy is in an expansion or a recession. In the next few prompts you will talk about responding to this situation, so choose wisely. This choice is yours to make, so please now state what is going on with the economy you are pretending to observe.
  2. Would you use expansionary or contractionary policy to help the economy?
  3. Why would you use the policy you mentioned in 2 above (i.e. what are you trying to affect or prevent)?
  4. What changes could you make to reserve requirements, the discount rate, and in open market operations that could help you pursue the policy that is appropriate for the situation the economy is in?
  5. How will the changes mentioned in 4 actually help the economy? In other words, how will the changes you want to make translate into real people making different decisions that will ultimately help the overall economy? You probably want to mention how the market for money is affected, how the interest rate might change, how people respond to changes in the interest rate, and how this behavioral change in many people can change the overall economy.

This assignment is meant to be challenging and will do a great job assessing whether or not you understand how monetary policy works. DO NOT try to search the internet for help or you will get a 0 on the entire learning portfolio. Please review the provided course materials if you don’t know how to answer the questions. If you don’t understand monetary policy, I suggest doubling the amount of time you put in and/or utilizing the free tutoring provided by the college.

Grading:

This assignment will be graded out of 100 points, based on the content quality, presentation, and completeness of your final learning portfolio submission. However, only 4 of the above 11 written assignments will be graded. I will definitely grade the chapters 8,9, and 10 assignment and the chapter 15 assignment. I will grade 2 other assignments, but I will not tell you which ones, so you need to make sure they are all top quality. If you skip one of the assignments I choose to grade you will immediately lose 25% of the points for the learning portfolio.

Your portfolio content will be evaluated for presentation (12%), content quality (88%), and completeness using roughly the following framework.

Presentation:

Neatness:

___ Excellent (3) ___ Good (2) ___ Needs Improvement (1) ___ Poor (0)

Organization:

___ Excellent (3) ___ Good (2) ___ Needs Improvement (1) ___ Poor (0)

Overall Effort:

___ Excellent (6) ___Good (4) ___ Needs Improvement (2) ___ Poor (0)

Content Quality:

Four of your portfolio assignments will be graded roughly according to the following rubric:

Grammar and Sentence Structure:

___ Excellent (3) ___ Good (2) ___ Needs Improvement (1) ___ Poor (0)

Appropriate Application of Theory (Demonstrated Learning):

___ Excellent (17) ___ Good (11) ___ Needs Improvement (5) ___ Poor (0)

Overall Effort:

___ Excellent (2) ___ Fair (1) ___ Needs Improvement (0)

Completeness:

After your score is calculated, it will be multiplied by a “completeness factor” if you don’t do some of the assignments, equal to the percentage of assignments you completed. For example, if you only complete and submit 10 of the 11 assignments, you will only receive 91% of the points you earned on the assignments that were graded.

Example: Say you earned 80 of the possible points, and only submitted 10 of the 11 assignments. You will then be awarded only .91*80 = 72.8 points.

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