The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Department of Economics, ECON 87100

Labour Economics has traditionally been thought of as “the economics of work and pay,” the study of markets in which individuals exchange their time with firms for a money wage.

This is certainly complicated because unlike other markets the services in which firms have an interest are embodied in a human being, and while time is exchanged, effort and productivity are not directly purchased, and the sellers are innately interested in the conditions of work. The wage rate is a complicated price, needing to clear markets, but also to motivate effort, offer insurance, compensate for working conditions, and represent in some undefined way a “just” or “fair” standard of living.

As if this is not complicated enough, this exchange has implications not just for individuals, but for families and children influencing partnership formation, fertility, and human development. And more than in any other markets, the outcomes in the labour market are influenced by institutions and public policies, ranging from unions, to minimum wages and other regulations, to taxes and transfers.

General Objectives

This course is about labour markets and is intended for graduate students of economics who have had exposure to microeconomic theory and econometrics during their undergraduate or graduate studies. Upon completion students will have the skills and knowledge associated with an advanced level in labour economics. They will be able to critically read public policy documents dealing with labour market issues, and many related articles published in academic journals. Students will also have developed most of the skills needed to formulate and complete a research project in applied labour market analysis.

Learning goals

To develop knowledge of microeconomic theory used to understand contemporary labour markets.

To use theory to construct empirical models of the most important issues in labour market analysis.

To understand the most common econometric methods, identification strategies, and data sets used in used in applied analyses of labour market issues.


Be present at each class, but also in a way that demonstrates your sincerity and engagement in a way congruent with your personality and learning style.

Be prepared for each class by having done the readings beforehand.

Be constructive and contribute to the development of a positive learning environment for all members of the course, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Resources and Evaluation

Download the full course outline.

Readings and lectures

Consult the course outline, but also return to the tabs nested in the “My teaching/Labour Economics” tab for more information about each lecture as it becomes available.