course
Advanced Microeconomics

May 2014

One of the best classes I've taken at Columbia and certainly one of the best Economics courses. If you are interested in graduate school or advanced studies in economics, take this course. It requires some pure math, but at a very reasonable level- there are very few really challenging proofs in HW, nothing like you might have seen in Modern Analysis. The tests are manageable to easy (see below), the problem sets long but not too hard, and you can do them in pairs. The material itself is hard, but… Susan Elmes' legendary teaching abilities are even more manifest in this course than in her better known intermediate micro course. She elucidates concepts and performs proofs in such a clear way that you will hardly ever be confused even by very complex material. She's also much more light hearted in the class, so it's a real treat to listen to lectures- I was often on just a couple of hours of sleep in class but never felt even the slightest bit tired or bored. Note: I found recitations pretty useless, since you learn the math through lectures and especially PSets, but it might be different in a different year. The material is extremely interesting, because it is an economics course from a pure math point of view- everything is proven, axioms are created and challenged, and the last chapter has mathematical axioms leading to conclusions about social welfare, like Arrow's impossibility theorem and axioms behind Utilitarianism and Rawlesian theory, which to me was really mind-blowing. However, you don't learn that much that is new per se, it's mostly the same material as intermediate micro, just with a completely different methodology (much like advanced metrics). So if you're looking for fascinating new ideas and new directions in economics you hadn't explored before, and aren't really interested in advanced methodologies and thinking- this might not be for you (especially if you're allergic to proofs and higher math). But otherwise- you owe it to yourself to check this out. It's a sight to see, and legitimately fun and awesome.

May 2013

Hands down the best class I have taken at Columbia. The material in this class is much more difficult than anything you've ever had to do in your econ classes, but I couldn't imagine anyone better suited to teaching it than Susan Elmes. As other reviewers have mentioned, her ability to elucidate difficult concepts is basically unmatched and she will teach you so much. Looking back at the first couple of classes, I remember being very challenged by the material then, but a semester later I was able to easily use those concepts in new ways and apply them to the material from the later part of class. As someone who took this class with the bare minimum of math (Linear Algebra + taking Analysis and Optimization concurrently) I thought that the math was challenging, but by no means impossible as she makes a point of introducing every advanced concept from mathematics, and I found myself learning a lot not just about econ but about math as well and improving my proof-writing skills immeasurably. In fact, she would often explain concepts to completion that we would go over in my Analysis and Optimization class weeks later (sort of defying the purpose of making me take that as a co-requisite...). The material in the class is basically the same as in Intermediate Micro presented in a much more generalized/abstract manner. It's not exactly the kind of material that most people want to learn because they really want to know, but there are nonetheless many interesting results that are achieved in the class and I recommend it to anyone who wants to challenge himself or improve his mathematical abilities. Professor Elmes will teach you a lot, she is nice and funny in class (dry sense of humour) and she will push everyone to the border of their abilities and even further, without ever being unfair. Some of the stuff she does in class is rather insane, but she doesn't ask you to reproduce proofs of similar difficulty on the exam, and it is a rather impressive testament to her knowledge of the material. She's doing insanely long, involved proofs on the board without so much as glancing at her notes as if she were doing basic arithmetic. Really quite impressive to even just watch, and probably the best professor I've had here.