The public sector is complex. Instructor
Dr. Andrew Heiss
357 Andrew Young School
Office hours: Sign up here.

E-mail is the best way to get in contact with me. I will try to respond to all course-related e-mails within 24 hours (really), but also remember that life can be busy and chaotic for everyone (including me!), so if I don’t respond to your e-mail right away, don’t worry!

August 29–December 4, 2019
7:15–9:45 PM
Classroom South 301

Public administrators, managers, and policy makers need to be fluent in the language of economics and need to be able to engage in and understand quantitative analysis of social policies.

In this class, you’ll learn how to speak and do economics.

Course objectives

By the end of this course, you will (1) be literate in fundamental economic principles, (2) understand the limits of economic theory and free markets, (3) justify government and nonprofit intervention in the economy, and (4) make informed policy recommendations by analyzing and evaluating public sector policies. Specifically, you’ll be able to:

Course materials

Most of the readings in this class are free.


We will only use one physical textbook. There are two official textbooks for the class:

CORE Econ is a special new project that aims to make economics education accessible to all, replacing textbooks that cost hundreds of dollars with an open source textbook complete with videos and quizzes and other online resources. It’s even been lauded by The Economist.

CORE’s original book, The Economy, was designed to serve as a 1–2 semester introduction to economics for economics majors. CORE recently created a version of their materials specifically for those interested in public administration and policy. Economy, Society, and Public Policy is designed for non-economics majors who have no interest in becoming economists, but who want to understand economics and policy. This is an ideal book for our class and I’m so excited to use it. It’s still a beta project, and there might be errors and quirks and bumps in the road, but (1) it’s free, and (2) it’s state of the art and you’re some of the first students to ever use it. So live with the quirks :)

Register for a student account at the CORE website.

Articles, book chapters, and other materials

There will also occasionally be additional articles and videos to read and watch. When this happens, links to these other resources will be included on the reading page for that week.

Podcasts and other journalism

Finally, you’ll need to listen to at least one economics-related podcast episode every week (or read economics- and policy-related articles). We will spend the first few minutes of every class session discussing current events or recent research related to micro, public, or behavioral economics, and podcasts are one of the best ways to do this.You can listen as you commute, wash the dishes, fold your laundry, eat breakfast, or work on homework for other classes!

Here are some of the best ones—subscribe to 3–4 of these:You can listen to all these shows on your computer, but it’s best to listen on your smartphone.

On iOS, you can use Apple’s built-in Podcasts app, or download a third-party app like Overcast (my personal favorite).

On Android, you can use… something, probably.

And these shows are excellent, but not always econ/policy-focused (but they’re definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re interested in behavioral economics and psychology):

Importantly, if you’re not a fan of listening to podcasts, the majority of these shows provide transcripts for their episodes, and you’re welcome to read the transcripts instead of listening.

You can also read economics- and policy-related journalism at places like The Economist, Vox, The Wall Street Journal, etc.

The point of this part of the course is to expose you to real-world, relevant, and real-time discussions of policy and economics. You shouldn’t stress out too much about this—if you’re not a fan of podcasts, read articles; if you’re not a fan of reading articles, listen to podcasts. I’m super flexible about this and am only grading this based on completion. That said, over the course of the semester it’ll generally become apparent if you haven’t been listening/reading, so try to stay on top of this.

Course policies

Be nice. Be honest. Don’t cheat.

We will also follow Georgia State’s Code of Conduct.

Course evaluation and evolution

This syllabus reflects a plan for the semester. Deviations may become necessary as the semester progresses.

I’d love your help to help improve the class as we go. To facilitate this, at the end of every class, there will be a link to an anonymous Google Form with a few quick questions asking about the clearest and muddiest things from that day. Please fill this out regularly. It will be hard to remember, since we get out so late, but it’s extraordinarily helpful for me.

Also, please take the time to fill out the official GSU course evaluation at the end of the semester!

Office hours

Please watch this video:

Office hours are set times dedicated to all of you. This means that I will be in my office (wistfully) waiting for you to come by with whatever questions you have. This is the best and easiest way to find me outside of class and the best chance for discussing class material and concerns. Please come by!

Outside of regularly scheduled office hours, you can easily make an appointment with me online.

This can be a difficult class. Do not suffer in silence! Come talk to me!

Class conduct and expectations

On the first day of class, will come up with rules, expectations, and policies regarding laptop use and other issues. Those will be listed here.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS)

Life at GSU can be complicated and challenging. You might feel overwhelmed, experience anxiety or depression, or struggle with relationships or family responsibilities. Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) provides free, confidential support for students who are struggling with mental health and emotional challenges. The CPS office is staffed by professional psychologists who are attuned to the needs of all types of college and professional students. Please do not hesitate to contact CPS for assistance—getting help is a smart and courageous thing to do.

Basic needs security

If you have difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or if you lack a safe and stable place to live, and you believe this may affect your performance in this course, please contact the Dean of Students for support. They can provide a host of services including free groceries from the Panther Pantry and assisting with homelessness with the Embark Network. Additionally, please talk to me if you are comfortable in doing so. This will enable me to provide any resources that I might possess.

Lauren’s Promise

I will listen and believe you if someone is threatening you.

Lauren McCluskey, a 21-year-old honors student athlete, was murdered on October 22, 2018 by a man she briefly dated on the University of Utah campus. We must all take action to ensure that this never happens again.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911 or GSU police (404-413-3333).

If you are experiencing sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking, please report it to me and I will connect you to resources or call GSU’s Counseling and Psychological Services (404-413-1640).

Any form of sexual harassment or violence will not be excused or tolerated at Georgia State. GSU has instituted procedures to respond to violations of these laws and standards, programs aimed at the prevention of such conduct, and intervention on behalf of the victims. Georgia State University Police officers will treat victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking with respect and dignity. Advocates on campus and in the community can help with victims’ physical and emotional health, reporting options, and academic concerns.

Academic honesty

Violation of GSU’s Policy on Academic Honesty will result in an F in the course and possible disciplinary action.So seriously, just don’t cheat or plagiarize!

All violations will be formally reported to the Dean of Students.

Special Needs

Students who wish to request accommodation for a disability may do so by registering with the Office of Disability Services. Students may only be accommodated upon issuance by the Office of Disability Services of a signed Accommodation Plan and are responsible for providing a copy of that plan to instructors of all classes in which accommodations are sought.

Students with special needs should then make an appointment with me during the first week of class to discuss any accommodations that need to be made.

Assignments and grades

You can find descriptions for all the assignments on the assignments page.

Assignment Points Percent
Preparation (≈ 16.5 × 15) 245 22.2%
Problem sets (8 × 40) 320 29.0%
Economic briefing 40 3.6%
Exam 1 150 13.6%
Exam 2 150 13.6%
Final project 200 18.1%
Total 1105

Grade Range Grade Range
A 93–100% C 73–76%
A− 90–92% C− 70–72%
B+ 87–89% D+ 67–69%
B 83–86% D 63–66%
B− 80–82% D− 60–62%
C+ 77–79% F < 60%

Red pandas

Hungry red panda

Once you have read this entire syllabus and the assignments page, please click here and e-mail me a picture of a red panda. For real. Brownie points if it’s animated.