professor
Pierre Andre Chiappori

Mar 2021

This class is the hardest Econ (or course for that matter) I have ever taken at Columbia. Granted, I was a junior and most of the students were seniors, but the class was insanely difficult, and I would not recommend it unless you want to be the next great theoretical insurance economist (Chiappori being the current). The book is not much help (but definitely read it, because otherwise you will be even more lost), and classes are so fast-paced that you will have to rewatch them many times (I do not know how you will ever learn the material in person). The TA, David Rosenkranz was a gem and saving grace, but even he couldn't cover half the material Chiappori covered. Because Chiappori is a distinguished scholar in the field, and one of the only ones to publish anything useful, you can't google your way to the answers, because Chiappori has written everything there is, so he knows which questions to ask to make it impossible to answer unless you have a deep understanding of the material. Chiappori seems like a genuinely nice guy who is passionate about the material, and I am sure that he is very accomplished in his field. It also seems that he wants his students to understand the material and do well. That being said, the class is very very very difficult, and the amount of time and emotional distress spent on it could easily cover two, if not three, other econ electives. I ended up doing well in the course because I gave it my literal all - at the cost of my other courses because I was genuinely worried that I would fail - and I would still not recommend it to anyone unless you want to write your PhD about the econ of uncertainty and information or Chiappori was the reason you picked Columbia.

Feb 2021

This class is significantly more difficult than the other economics electives. It relies on technical skills far more – calculus, probability theory, etc. – and if you are not comfortable with doing lots of math, this class may not be for you. He covers a wide range of topics, but he discusses the fundamental ideas of uncertainty, portfolio theory, risk sharing, insurance markets, risk aversion, asymmetric information, and more. For me, this class falls into the category of 'serious' economics. If you are interested in graduate school, I think this class is excellent; for me, it felt like an introduction to a much more technical, much more rigorous form of economic thinking. If you want an easy A, this is certainly not the class for that. The first midterm (which we were given 24 hours to do) had an average of 78. It was open note (if I remember right), so if students could only get an average of a (raw) C+, that indicates how difficult it is. Chiappori is a great professor. He is very willing to answer questions, he explains things in pretty good detail, and his class organization is excellent. This class is very hard, and very very well taught. In short: very hard, very well taught. Highly recommend for those interested in doing serious economics.

May 2014

I have no idea how I feel about this class yet. I can't really say whether I'm glad I took it, but what I CAN say is that it was by FAR the hardest class I took this semester and honestly the hardest Econ elective I've ever taken. I've generally done really, really well in all of my Econ classes, including the Math sequences and what-not, but this class was by far the most difficult. I haven't gotten the grade back yet but I wouldn't be surprised if it were the lowest Econ grade I've ever had and maybe lowest grade in general. The class relied WAY too much on Calculus (some of it stuff that Econ majors aren't really required to know, like Taylor expansions which are only taught in Calc II). You NEED to know how to do a Lagrangian and maximize it, and prof. Chiappori even brought in some Linear Algebra issues that are clearly not a requirement for the class or for the Econ major (he started talking about the rank of a matrix of financial assets, and how these assets should be linearly independent, which isn't too advanced linear algebra, but still too much considering that it's not a requirement). The class would have really benefitted from a more guiding force that made things clearer. And this very much felt like a more advanced class, like something grad students would take in their first years of PhD or Master's studies. I don't think I ever knew what was going on 90% of the time. At the end, once I took the final I realized I'd learned a LOT more than I thought I had. But this class requires you to work REALLY, REALLY hard and rely on the TA's a lot. This class would be IMPOSSIBLE without them. The problem sets (only two of them) were long and beyond difficult (we found out after handing the first one in that we were basically replicating this study that an economist had done on CARA utility functions), and so were the midterm and the final. The only redeeming quality (if you like this kind of stuff) is that a bunch of classes were cancelled because we did a simulation game that took like three hours on a Saturday. All in all, I would recommend this class only to people interested in graduate work in Economics, or who don't mind working really, really hard to hopefully try to do well, and who don't mind feeling incredibly inadequate and lost. This is not for the faint of heart.

Apr 2014

This is a pretty tough class, it mostly incorporates Micro. The material is interesting, it's all insurance. I'm currently taking the class right now so I haven't finished it (just a few more classes left), but you'll probably never use the learned material in your life. The professor is nice as are the TA's, but the lectures seem never ending (even more so than usual). I'm personally not bad at math, A+'s in the Calc sequence and did alright in stats, but this course is the 2nd toughest class I've taken at Columbia after Econometrics. I wouldn't suggest this class to anyone because of the stress of the ridiculous (graded) problem sets. There are many "ungraded problem sets" that you will certainly want to look at when studying for the exams. Speaking of which, he releases old exams and solutions that all have the same format. So he's consistent, no surprises as to what the test will be like. Even so, its a challenging class (midterm average was a 59, I'm assuming the median was below that).

Jul 2006

I liked Prof. Chiappori. His lectures are ver clear, and slightly funny at times, and the french accent is not at all difficult to understand. There is a book for the class, but he doesn't use it at all, everything comes from his head. Furthermore, the problem sets do not follow the book, and lagged about a month behind the lectures (more at the end) so we were still doing first semester problem sets towards the end of the year. This makes them very difficult, as they are very challenging to begin with, and then the material isn't fresh. The exams are quite simple, however, compared to the problem sets, as they are half true or false, with only one numerical problem. The class is pretty calc basd, and there is a lot of lagrange, so it should be avoided unless you are comfortable with calculus. Finally, don't expect person attention from Chiappori. He bolts the class at the end faster than any other professor I've seen. You put your notebook in your bag, look up and he's already long gone.

May 2005

Yeah, so, from day 1 i knew this would be my hardest course. I thought uncertainty and information would have to do with decision making, not risk sharing and a WHOLE LOT of finance. but it did. i think ultimately P-A knows his stuff, but he just came from graduate students at Chicago, and i think he expected WAY too much from us in class/on problem sets, then the exams rolled around and they were like cakewalks. After he used tons of complicated and sophisticated math all through the class, the tests were math free, ultimately, if you like insurance/finance and are looking for a challenge, it'll be ok, but not totally worth some of the worries