professor
Xavier Sala-i-Martin

This professor has earned a CULPA silver nugget

Dec 2020

Overall, this class was an enjoyable, though perhaps slightly challenging, experience online. What the reviewer below me says about the jokes, metaphors, eccentricity, and engagement is true. Unfortunately, what they say about the pacing of the class is true too, but I don't think it's as big of a problem as made out to be: while the number of "chapters" (really just pdfs of some notes - there's not an actual textbook) is heavily concentrated in the latter half of the course, the presentation of the material doesn't feel substantially faster or more difficult. While some important topics in business cycle theory are glossed over a bit more, Xavier has the skill of clearly explaining the complex nuances. He's simply more passionate about the growth topics, and I don't see a huge problem with that. Also, lectures always begin with about 10-20 min of a recap from the previous class which helps you get in the mindset of the new content that's about to come. The TAs: did their jobs well but perhaps not outstanding. Personally, I didn't know that they did office hours until the weekend before the final but that's probably on me. I also don't think their response to student complaints were unreasonable: from my understanding, the complaints were variants of "but this is hard." One complaint that the professor didn't handle well was relating to the synchronous nature of the midterm and final. Many international students would've had to take the final at odd hours of the day, but the professor didn't seem to have much sympathy, citing that the only way to make the final asynchronous would require making the final open note which would require increasing the difficulty of the math. I find that reasoning to be erroneous. And of course, as others have noted, I should emphasize Xavier's jokes and metaphors: I think they help facilitate learning, and I think they helped make this course entertaining for me even if I didn't find the content as interesting.

Dec 2020

Having completed the Holy Trinity of the introductory sequence(Gulati, Elmes, and Xavier), I must say Xavier's class is the most disappointing of the talk-ed up intro econ professors. Xavier himself has a truly unique background and eccentric personality, clearly passionate about growth economics, soccer, and Catalonia. The class, however, is a garbage fire. The first half of the semester consists of Xavier's bread and butter speeches about theories of economic growth, his personal anecdotes with leading economists and world leaders, and various quirky metaphors that make otherwise dry material very engaging. The second half of the semester is where the pile-up begins. Increasingly larger, but not necessarily more complex concepts are thrown at you without rest. Whereas the first semseter and midterm cover literally a chapter of Xavier's textbook, the second semester covers 6-7. Pacing as a concept does not seem to exist in this class. While I enjoy thinking about growth economics, I do not even think the first semester is even the most important from intermediate macro! Key differences between the Keynesian and Classical schools, monetary and fiscal policy, all are blazed through unmercilessly. No help is to found from the TAs in this course. Reading other reviews, it seems like TAs are lost every semester, but this cohort was especially disorganized. Conveniently cancelling their office hours before major deadlines, complaining about the unreasonableness of student questions when the majority of us just wanted a clear timeline as to when things might be due, and showing a general lack of initiative in attempting to address student concerns are only a few examples. This is not to say that the TAs did not go above and beyond in other ways: creating video series and holding extra sessions to explain concepts illustrated their personal interest in seeing students suceed. Going above and beyond expectations however, is better appreciated when the bare minimums are being met, namely a clear communication of deadlines and expectations regarding course material. As for the course material itself, it isn't too difficult. The math prerequisite is more than sufficient for the material in the course, and is used sparingly. The homework and exam questions themeselves can get frustrating at times, as though they may appear opinion based, they are really looking for the direct text found in Xavier's textbook. I did not find the midterm particularly hard, and though I have not taken it yet, the final appears to be a considerably larger amount of work. Although one may find it easier than other sections to obtain an A in this course, this comes at the expense of learning fully several of the more foundational topics of Macroeconomics. For this reason, I really can't recommend taking this course with Xavier if you are intending to major in econ. While his energy is infectious, this course was a bust in my opinion.

Nov 2020

I totally agree he's funny, humorous (debatable), well-respected, and genuinely a good guy but his class is very unorganized. What he teaches in the class is not what you will normally learn in other macro class. Some materials include topics from micro (utility function, etc.). Also, he spends too much time on unnecessary stories like how he met Sharon Stone at Davos. But the worst part is there is too much gap between what he teaches in class and pset/exam. It makes things very difficult because he's super against using textbooks so that we don't really have a formalized materials to study, yet his lecture is just different from pset/exam. I understand most of the econ-core lectures at Columbia are terrible, but if I'm given a choice, I wouldn't take his class.

Sep 2020

PROFESSOR X IS AWESOME!!! This is still my favorite class I've ever taken. Prof. Sala-i-Martin is an extremely interesting guy and a great, engaging lecturer (he would get standing ovations from my class lol.) Definitely recommend anyone to take his class. I think the 2019 nobel prize winner in econ was his student.

Jun 2020

This was honestly my favorite class that I've taken at Columbia so far!! Professor X is such an engaging professor and makes every class super fun to listen to. He specializes in growth, so the growth section is particularly good, but this does mean the rest of the course is super rushed and hard to learn. However, there is no textbook, and his TAs release notes for every unit, so the course load is certainly manageable and you have access to all the material that will be on the exams. P-sets can get a bit long, but not unreasonable, and exams are very fair. Grading on everything is very fair as well. Not a difficult class if you show up and read TA notes.

Apr 2020

Don't do it. It's pretty poorly run. Lectures are vague and material is spread very unevenly (1 chapter for the midterm and 7 for the final). Grading is not super hard but it's sort of a waste of time.

Apr 2020

OVERRATED!!! Thought it would be better based on what I've heard but really just ended up just learning about the Solow growth model. The problem sets are not like what we see in class. Midterm was four questions but complex. You barely have time to finish half of it. I ended up doing okay but not as good as I thought I would. His class is big (about 300 students), which makes it harder to ask questions and less approachable.

Feb 2020

Xavier is generally a decent lecturer. But I have a bone to pick with him for a couple of reasons. Tho keep in mind that this is also just my biased opinion. For the first two weeks, instead of actually teaching us economics, he gave us propaganda lectures on how the world has seen tremendous economic growth over the last few centuries(the message being that we gotta stop to smell the roses), and how inequality is really not such a serious issue because a) cross-country inequality is decreasing, and b) a rising tide lifts all boats!! It felt like a very self-serving message. Like hey guys, check out the splendid achievements of economics (btw I am famous growth economist), the people who grumble about poverty and inequality are totally just missing the bigger picture. Then for the first half of the semester, he focuses on the solow-swan model of growth. The model in essence is pretty simple. In a nutshell, the key result is that because there are diminishing returns to capital, economies cannot achieve permanent growth through investing in capital alone (only technological progress can facilitate permanent growth). Okay, not so mind blowing. This also is a highly oversimplified model of the economy of course. But Xavier made a really big deal out of it. He claimed that throughout the latter half of the 20th century, African countries and international aid agencies just kept building more machines because they thought increasing capital was the key to economic growth. But the Solow-Swan model states that you cannot achieve permanent economic growth this way!!! So in conclusion...that's why Africa continues to lag behind in economic development today. Case cracked! Like bro c'mon, that's a seriously oversimplified, distorted picture of reality.

Jan 2020

Took Xavier last semester and had really high expectation after reading previous reviews. I would recommend Xavier because he is a great lecturer but at the same time he is slightly (actually more than slightly) overrated. He is a really funny, passionate guy and he definitely knows a lot about economic growth/development. We spent the first half of the semester discussing the solow-swan model and that was great. However, he rushed through the remaining 8 chapters in the second half of the semester and I still feel like I barely understand the part about tax and budget constraint. Also this class is very disorganized. Dont expect the TAs to respond to questions on Piazza promptly. Dont expect psets to match what was taught in class.

Jan 2020

I would recommend taking Xavier for intermediate macro if you need to fulfill your econ requirement because his grading is very generous. With that being said, this isn't a great class. Lectures move incredibly slowly the first half of the semester, and then frantically speed up the second half. The lecture notes are messy and the tangential TA notes contain errors or additional information that is contradictory or presented differently. All in all, as someone who could not get themselves to pay attention in class, studying for the midterm and final was an absolute mess. The notes were just so disorganized and confusing. There were so many gaps in information. The good news, though, was that with a lot (a loooooot) of studying, the exams were pretty manageable. There's kind of a pattern to his testing. I really recommend understanding the lecture notes and basically memorizing the pset formats. That's how you succeed in this class. Overall, I learned little to nothing--I wish Xavier covered topics more widely taught in macro. Simply put, this class was messy and Xavier seemed a little too preoccupied to provide us with a comprehensive and eye-opening class.

Dec 2019

Most disorganized class I have ever taken. TAs did not know what was happening and problem sets often did not match what was being taught in lecture. 2 problem sets were assigned during reading week to ensure all material was covered before the final. The lecture notes that are given in lieu of a textbook are difficult to navigate and contain errors. I will say that Xavier really is a great lecturer, though. I did learn while in lecture and the exams were not incredibly difficult. I think the class is just too large to manage effectively.

Feb 2017

This was by far my favorite class at Columbia. It was an 8:40 which was unfortunate, but Xavier's lectures were so riveting that I wouldn't actually mind going to class. And I knew I wasn't alone in this, as the lecture room was nearly full every morning. Essentially this course explores the question "why are some countries poor?" The class is a mix of theory, models and mathematics, and Xavier blends the three elements together as if telling a semester long economic narrative, rather than lecturing at you. The math involved isn't particularly terrifying for an upper level economics class- the most complicated it gets is Lagrangian, but it's basically applied in a manner that is no more difficult than it was in micro. I think the most compelling thing about this class was the way in which math was used to help tell the story of economic development. You don't feel like you are learning abstract and pointless graphs and equations, but rather real-life solutions. Also, Xavier is basically the best human being. A funny, passionate, quirky Spanish guy, he explains complex concepts in a simplified yet elegant way. He matches his brightly colored suit jacket to his power point every day, calls Trump our "funny orange man" and uses the game of soccer to explain the concept of idea innovation. It really doesn't get better. And he is very approachable and loves questions. I seriously encourage all undergraduates to take this class. It makes economics relevant, inspiring and challenges you without being overwhelming you. Now, I am a bit biased because development economics is my area of interest. But I will say that a large reason as to why I have taken an interest to that field is because of the some of the things I was exposed to in this class. So take that for what it's worth.

Jan 2017

Xavier's class was a dud to me. Even though it wasn't particularly difficult, I found that I left the class with no new knowledge or expertise about Macroeconomics. The midterm is fairly simple as long as you do the practice tests, the final is quite a bit harder overall, but not too hard. The best tactic for this class is to complete the practice tests before the midterm/final a few times so you can memorize the concepts, and to attend class the second half of the semester. The first half Xavier goes very slowly, and it is not a challenge at all, the second half compensates by going very quickly, so go to class and try to grasp the concepts for the second half/ in preparation for the final. If you do this- you will do well in the class.

Jan 2017

Xavier is the BEST Econ professor I have had so far!!!!!!! Whereas my Micro professor was all about mathematics and proofs and trick questions, Xavier was all about FUN and learning. He explained concepts so well that I could always recall what exactly he said about specific concepts. He uses metaphors ("cookies" as real GDP), animated examples, and his quirky humor. At times, I felt this guy could even teach kindergarteners macroeconomics. The problem sets were usually well written as well. You get a few easy questions and the rest require slight tweaks to the models. The lecture was extremely entertaining as you saw from his famous words about children. But the one I loved the most was the Columbia students as a wicked example of the "borrower" lol. Also, as a non-conventional Growth Economics, Xavier taught us both the classical and Keynesian views. What a good deal for me. At the end of the day, I have learned so much with MINIMUMAL STRESS thanks to a great teacher like this. Although the class size was overwhelmingly large and occasionally someone would ask questions that I would rather ask in the recitations, I appreciated this equal opportunity for 400 people to enjoy such a good class. The Econ department should also do the same thing with CORPORATE FINANCE: provide more opportunities for non-Financial-Econ majors to explore this area and recognize that registration priority is BS, bureaucratic, and anti-intellectual. My ONLY complaint to the class was the fact that the TAs, who made the final, failed to proofread questions and left us with SIX mistakes. COME ON guys. We had 10 TAs and none of them paid enough attention to proofreading. Grade received: A (missed a few lectures due to recruiting and never attended recitation due to my campus jobs but thanks to the good notes that Xavier posted, I was able to pull it through)

Jan 2017

** Had him for Fall 2016. Econ major but not a fan of math. ** He is not the best lecturer. He definitely seemed very interested in development, which is cool, but we end up going really slowly for the first half of the semester, which makes him cram the rest in the second half. My main complaint with Xavier is how unorganized he is. His syllabus is very minimal--it lists topics that are going to be covered without any indication of the timeline (probably because he himself doesn't know what the timeline is going to look like) and grade distribution. Anyways, studying for his cumulative final was a MESS. His "textbook" is essentially long word documents and pdf's that have a lot of typos. They didn't help much with my studying. The final was kind of a disaster overall // a lot of people came out of it dumbfounded (including myself). BUT the curve was very very good. So there's that. Also, rumor has it that Xavier didn't like our class because of an annoying group of people that always sat in the front of class and asked annoying questions. In summary, he's not someone I would recommend, but is also not someone I would strongly speak against. One thing for sure is that he's not worth all the hype.

Dec 2016

I have never been so disappointed in a class. I have never felt like I was wasting my time in a class. That all changed this semester. Xavier is an engaging and fun lecturer and he uses this trait to hide huge laziness with regard to the syllabus and intensity of the class. Basically what he's done is taken the solow-swan model from Intermediate Macro, made it slllliiiiiggghhhhtly more serious, and then added 8 weeks of anecdotal fluff. If you've taken his macro class you will remember his lecture on Pepe Guardiola. it is word for word the same here. If you've taken his macro class you may also remember Nokia. Word for fucking word. When I came into this class i had something very specific in mind as my ideal: rigorous theoretical background (in several growth models - yes, there is more than one) followed by case studies in what did and did not work in different scenarios of growth and development. Given that this was Columbia, I wasn't super hopeful for much of the practical part, but I was hoping for at least some rigorous growth models and maybe one or two half-fluff case study esque things from which we could actually learn something useful about development. I wanted no fluff followed by a little fluff. What i got was prolonged no fluff (that could have been covered in <4 2 weeks max) followed by 7 weeks of ALLL THE FLUFF. If I thought to myself right now, what would you do to help a developing country I think I know a whole lot of things not to do (give candy to children??) but almost nothing about what I or an international organization could do. The fluff got to the point that all lecture I was thinking about that Monty Python sketch about self-defense for fruit. Have you defended yourself against bananas? yess..... have you defended yourself against grapes? yess..... Ah but have you defended yourself against pomegranates? ... ... ... no? AHHHHH THE POMEGRANATE. What about actually learning something useful? I cannot give a full list of problems with this class. This class was a complete fucking waste of my time and that of everyone around me. Xavier is smart, engaging and the top of his field and showed an incredible level of arrogance because of it. 0 stars: I'm happy to be graduating

Jun 2015

Definitely take him for Macro. He's funny and it's not difficult to get an A. There are loads of TAs, and they're usually all great, so it's never hard to reach one if you need to. Go to a recitation near the end of the semester if you can; usually one of the TAs goes over what will be on the final. If you miss a class or don't have notes, all the TAs post their recitation notes every week and some of them have really great, comprehensive ones. Plus, he spends the beginning of each class reviewing last class, so again, not a problem if you missed a class. Problem sets aren't difficult, just pretty long and occasionally tedious. There's also lots of past solutions floating around and he hardly changes the questions, if you want to go down that route. Exams are straightforward. When you study for an exam, make sure you check their notes, as they'll sometimes cover stuff that Xavier doesn't, and then shows up on the exam. Also make sure you review your problem sets--past questions will also sometimes show up. Be warned: his exams are long af. You will be scrambling till the last minute to finish. The midterm is pretty difficult, but the final is more forgiving. Plus with his grading policy, as long as you do well on the final, your midterm doesn't even matter. There's pretty much no math involved, so if you suck at math (like me), that's great news. Overall, I enjoyed his class. I learned a lot, and he's humorous enough to keep your attention for most classes. Some of the more critical reviews below though do have some valid points, i.e. pacing, but I personally didn't have a problem. For the most case, you'll have a good time. If you don't like him, just don't go to lecture & go to recitation instead.

Jan 2015

I really don't understand the hype behind Xavier. He is a funny dude at times, but I found his class and topics covered to be very boring and not engaging. It may have been the sheer size of the class, but it felt like Xavier would be rambling on-and-on forever during class. With no doubt, I can say that I never paid attention to a single lecture, and I never attended a single recitation session. However, one appeal of the class is that it is very easy. Recitation notes are online and all you need to prepare for the midterm and final. If you work hard enough, you can learn the entire course material in a day. If I had to choose again, I'd probably take Xavier again, but wouldn't make the mistake of trying to go to class and pay attention again.

Jan 2014

I highly recommend this class. In my opinion, Xavier is great at presenting the material and keeping the class interesting and funny. It's in a huge auditorium but there's a microphone so you can hear him from anywhere in the room. There are about 10 TA's, so if you miss the lecture you can go to a recitation any day of the week. I would recommend not going to Carlos' recitations, as those are generally packed (Carlos is the long-time head TA). If you don't understand something, there are so many recitations and office hours that you are guaranteed to get your questions answered (also, you should get the emails of the TA's just in case). In terms of the material, there is not actually so much covered. He spends the beginning of each lecture reviewing the previous one. If you go to every lecture and pay attention and do all the problem sets, you will need very little studying. The tests weren't so hard, though I thought they were a huge time crunch. The class kind of slowed down after the midterm because Xavier is into growth, which is the first part of the semester. Overall, there is very little actual math and most of the material is intuitive, which means if you pay attention you'll do great in the class. Also, if you mess up the midterm the final counts instead of it (I completely failed the midterm and still got an A). In summary, Xavier is hilarious and he was able to keep my focus most of the time I was there, the class is not math-based and pretty interesting, and it's not hard to get an A -- so I can't think of one reason NOT to take this class.

Dec 2013

9/4 bright red 9/9 celtic green 9/11 royal blue 9/16 fuchsia 9/18 pink panther 9/23 golden giraffe 9/25 deep purple 9/30 hot pink 10/2 neon green 10/7 shiny red 10/9 violet 10/14 deep pink 10/16 taxi yellow, with smiley tie 10/21 midterm - no xavier 10/23 deep purple 10/28 gold oriental 10/30 lavender python 11/4 holiday - no class 11/6 no xavier :( 11/11 christmas oriental 11/13 serengeti 11/18 teal and pink dots oriental 11/20 celtic green 11/25 columbia blue 11/27 fuchsia 12/2 pink lavender 12/4 teal 12/9 blood orange

Jan 2013

As everyone else has mentioned, there are a lot of great reasons to take Xavier's class. He's funny. He's an expert in long-run growth and has a pretty interesting perspective on current international development, which he discusses at length. He picks a few key points and drives them home, making it obvious what you are expected to learn and therefore obvious what you'll be tested on. And Carlos the TA is awesome, and he will spoil you like no other. That said, I'd like to contest a few common claims about this class: 1) Carlos's recitation notes aren't the best way to learn the material; the new textbook chapters are. They cover all of the material in the class extremely thoroughly -- half the time, the answers to the problem sets were literally written out in the textbook. And Carlos writes them with Xavier, so it's still the same perspective that you get at his recitation. 2. The other TAs are actually more than just graders. After literally standing through Carlos's recitation the second week, I decided to try another section. And the TA teaching the recitation was smart. And she knew the material really well. And she could answer questions and explain interesting digressions because there were three other people in the room. It was great. 3. This is not the best class to take as a way to fulfill the requirements of the econ major. You will come out of it with a very thorough understanding of some aspects of macroeconomics, and granted, things like long-run growth or the impact of changes in productivity are hugely important. But you will not come out of this class with a good understanding of the field of macroeconomics. You will not be able to understand an intelligent conversation about the economy because you won't have even heard of half the concepts that anyone walking out of the Principles of Econ final could explain. You will fully understand every variation of every concept that was taught, but you will not have a basic literacy in macroeconomics. So take this class if you're looking to learn how Xavier sees the world. It's pretty darn interesting. But don't take it if you're looking to cover all the basics of macroeconomics.

Dec 2012

Despite what some previous reviews might suggest, there is really nothing out of the ordinary about this class. The professor is renowned in long-run growth economics, and is well known for his attire, style, and attitude. On the plus side, he's definitely a good lecturer and will generally keep you entertained, the course certainly was not too difficult, and great help was available throughout the course of the semester. The class as a whole wasn't anything to write home about, but it wasn't terrible either, and in the end, it didn't seem like most people in the class felt very strong about it one way or another. The biggest problem with the class was the way that it was paced, and I don't think this was anything new this year. We spent until the midterm, which was in Mid-October, on long-run economic growth. Given that the instructor is a specialist in this field, he certainly has a lot to bring to the table, particularly during this portion of the course. This material certainly was very interesting, but material was very sparse in these lectures. During this time we covered the Solow Model, the AK model, the Solow Residual, and poverty traps,and that was basically what was covered on the midterm. This was certainly valuable material, nobody needed a month and a half to learn it; it could've been covered in a couple of weeks. The reason it took so long was in part due to his tendency to spend 20 minutes at the beginning of each lecture reviewing the previous lecture. Sometimes this was appreciated; other times he went too far and basically repeated entire lectures, wasting valuable time. Also, he spent several lectures on topics that, albeit interesting, were completely lacking in substance; these topics might be worth 5 minute digressions, but certainly not entire lectures. For example, we spent an entire week on the evolution of ideas. Towards the end of the course, the pace of the course picked up dramatically so that we could finish covering all the intended topics. The post-midterm topics included Robinson-Crusoe: Consumption and Leisure Theory, theory of money demand, theory of investment, Classical vs. Keynesian macroeconomics, and government spending. The first few topics were covered pretty slowly, but in the end it was pretty rushed. Government spending was covered entirely during the last lecture, and this material ended up accounting for 20% of the final exam. I found that Carlos's recitation notes were really the best way for me to learn the material; this was true both when I went to class and when I did not. I unfortunately had a conflict with Carlos's recitation time, but based on my experience with his notes and review sessions, he really is as great as everyone says. In addition to putting a ton of effort into the class, he really has a mastery of both understanding and communicating the material that is rare among TAs. I'm sure his recitations were immensely helpful; he's really personable and entertaining, but he is also very efficient with time. Problem set distribution was also uneven throughout the course of the semester. We didn't have a first problem set until three weeks went by, and then they were either weekly or biweekly, until the last three weeks when they were weekly. This was representative of the uneven pacing of the course, as in there were weeks that so little was covered that it didn't make sense to assign a problem set. In the end there were a total of eight. The problem sets were definitely doable and representative of the material that we were responsible for in the class, but at times they were unnecessarily repetitive and emphasized regurgitation of the material over thorough understanding of the concepts. The grading on the problem sets was very harsh, but in the end, the exams are what will decide your grade. Regardless of how many problems were assigned, only one of them was graded, and answers that didn't match the solutions were penalized heavily. The midterm exam was very predictable after doing the problem sets and the previous year's exam. It was basically guaranteed that there would be one problem about the Solow Model and one problem about the Solow Residual. The grading was harsh, and like the problem sets, you will lose points if your explanations do not match those in the solutions. The final exam was twice the length and cumulative, and a bit more difficult. It was still very doable despite demanding a lot of writing. A lot of material was covered in the second half of the course, and all of it shows up on the exam. I was surprised that government spending counted for 20% of the points on the exam despite only being taught on the last day of class, and no problem set was assigned for this topic. Ultimately, this class definitely isn't the worst way to take the course if it's a requirement for your major, but it's nothing to rave about either. Certainly not worth avoiding, but it's also not worth switching up your schedule to end up in the class. If this class is more than a requirement to you, and you truly want to learn the material, I'd recommend taking a look at the other section of the class as well. This class was definitely very light mathematically (a few derivatives on the homework and in lecture, but nothing more), and it took an interesting look at a few select topics. If there is an option between a mathematical derivation and a graphical explanation, the graphical explanation will almost always be used in this class. If you're looking for a mathematically rigorous survey of the most important topics in macroeconomics, you should look elsewhere.

Dec 2012

You probably know most of the most noteworthy things about Xavier, so here are some major sticking points: 1) Yes, it's a funny class. Audit the first one or two just for fun. After the first few, the jokes get fewer and farther between, but there's almost always something good (his explanation of taxes at the end of the semester was priceless). 2) The material that Xavier teaches, he teaches well. You won't leave the class scratching your head because there's something you didn't understand. His explanation of the difference between Keynesians and Classical economists is excellent. 3) That said, the pace is extremely slow, as mentioned before. There was a 2-hour review session before the final, and it really did feel like it covered the whole course pretty hermetically, which shows you how little material there actually was. So I'd wager pretty much any other class in macroeconomics will teach you more. 4) The worst part of the course: assignments and tests. Do not be surprised if your final grade does not reflect your actual capabilities (I'm saying this as someone who has not yet seen his final grade, so this isn't a personal vendetta), because there are many arbitrary issues with the grading. Problem sets are not hard (though you may need help from wikipedia and google sometimes), but only one question (out of 5-6) is graded each time, so if there's one small mistake or way in which you answered differently than what the solution is supposed to look like, it could take 10, 20 or 30 points off. One example: a problem set in which the question asked something like "What the effects of X are". We got an email after the PS was handed in, mentioning that of course this necessitated graphs to show the answer, though this was not mentioned in the question. I had 30 points taken off for that reason. Or take the final test. It wasn't too difficult, and was relatively straightforward. However, there was a rule (unfathomable to me) that you only have one A4 page for each question. On the last question, which had around 8 parts, the last 2 necessitated around 2 graphs each, after some 6 graphs earlier in the question. I had run out of space, but was allowed neither to get a new page nor extra time to re-copy my answers. So I ended up not being able to answer the questions, despite knowing the material perfectly well. I never went to Carlos' recitation (technical issues), but it's not hard to understand the material from lectures and even more from the book chapters posted to courseworks (most of the problem sets can be answered just by looking at those) So if you want a fun class, interesting explanations and overall not a difficult experience- take this class. If you want to learn a lot and are shooting for a sure A, consider other sections.

Jan 2012

Xavier is a great lecturer. He is funny, clever and profoundly knowledgeable. His personal life story and numerous achievements speak for themselves. However, it would be necessary for those of you who are planning on taking this class to know what you are going to face. As written in the different reviews here, Xavier's class is pretty disorganized and no textbook is assigned (although different textbooks are offered). Secondly, Professor Xavier will go through his planned material no matter what- also is that means that he will teach a 30 min material during the last 10 minutes of class. In different occasions you will find yourself lost and confused. You will laugh and smile from Xavier's jokes but then leave the class and wonder. Do not feel overwhelmed. This class can often be deeply frustrating. Again, do not worry. Go to the different recitations, do the problem sets and go over the practice exams and different p.s!! - then you will be ok. Most importantly- if you can, GO TO CARLOS's review sessions and classes!!! Good luck.

Dec 2011

I wasn't planning on writing a review of this class, but after reading the review immediately below I felt a duty to save you, future macro taker, from the TRAP you will fall into if you take this class. I learned more about macroeconomics from my principles class than I did from Xavier's class. To give you a little over-view, we spent over two months discussing and REVIEWING the solow-swan model ad nauseam, something that we could have easily spent two weeks, if that, learning. Xavier dedicated a weeks worth of lectures to "ideas"--now I know Zara makes clothing faster than H&M, thanks Xavier--and even spent a lecture talking about the history of money... did you know ancient civilizations used animal bones and feathers as mediums of exchange? Yup, that happened. Also, as technically the last macroeconomic requirement for econ majors we talked about government spending for 30 minutes in the final lecture of the course. Not only can Xavier NOT teach, but he is also NOT funny. Every time he simplified an equation or gathered terms he, in attempt to get some laughs, called it an "old Japanese tradition"...the only "old Japanese tradition" I wanted to commit in that class was Seppuku. The only redeeming feature of this course was Carlos, our head TA. He was FANTASTIC, and everything I got out of this macro class was due to him. He put together excellent lecture and review notes with extra problems that challenged us and were great review for the midterm/ final. BUT, that being said, if you have the choice between this and ANY OTHER macro class, I would go for the other, it was PAINFUL sitting through Xavier's lectures, and can confidently say I learned next to nothing about macroeconomics.

Dec 2011

Take this class. Xavier is a superstar. And I don't just mean that he is incredibly famous and talented-- he dresses and acts like one too. He wears funky blazers to class and has a sense of humor that will crack up the entire hall and lighten the mood, especially during a confusing lecture (like when he is deriving the Solow-Swan model, or explaining the income and substitution effects). On top of that, he's a great economist. A lot of the reviews say that yes, he's funny and all, but he doesn't know how to lecture. I did not find this true at all. Xavier is very passionate and knowledgable about the material, and goes through everything in an orderly and gradual manner. Even if that leaves you a bit confused, he will go over the main points of the concept during the next lecture to make sure you're up to speed. He has a great way of relating everything to real world issues, and will constantly give you present-day examples or anecdotes that keep the class interesting and relevant. That being said, the class is 300+ students and Xavier is a busy guy. The TAs are very helpful and extremely approachable, especially Carlos. GO TO HIS RECITATION. This guy is indispensable. He wrote notes for every topic we took (which practically became the textbook for the class, as Xavier doesn't assign one), and held weekly recitations that went over Xavier's material and helped solve the problem sets. Trust me, you will be completely lost in the class without Carlos. He is very nice, holds extra office hours, and always responds promptly to e-mails. He also held 3 hour review sessions for the midterm and the final, which were extremely helpful. Most of the questions on the exams were similar to those he did in the sessions. Seriously... make use of this guy. You will not survive the class without him. All in all, I loved this class. It was challenging and the problem sets were sometimes annoying, but there were always TA sessions and office hours that helped. I came out of this class having learned so much and not regretting any of the effort I put in. If you love macro and want to have a fun, interesting, and engaging semester, take Xavier's class.

May 2011

If you want to learn macroeconomics, then find another professor. If you are easily amused by outlandish attire and sporadic vulgarities, and you are not paying for the course, then take Intermediate Macroeconomics with Martin. Course was very disorganized, no textbook and problem sets were assigned inconsistently. TA's were amazing for the most part, and exams were generously curved. If all else fails, you can claim you went to a crappy comedy club twice a week...

Jan 2011

I'm siding with the more ambivalent reviews. Xavier is an outrageously funny guy and you'll enjoy going to class most of the time. But if you think you're going to use the material in this class one day--in another class, a job, or wherever--try another section first. The growth theory part of the course (first 2/3) was pretty good--I'll give Xavier that much. However the business cycle part, what people will expect you to know after taking a class like this, was too simplistic and rushed to be of much use. I can do Xavier's problem sets and I'm happy with my grade, but I didn't learn much macroecon. That said, I thought the workload was manageable and grading was very fair.

Jan 2011

9/8 turquoise 9/13 orange 9/15 yellow 9/20 lime green 9/22 neon hot pink 9/27 lilac python print 9/29 smurf blue 10/4 black with red chinese characters (actually was a li bai poem) 10/6 neon yellow + smiley face tie 10/11 teal with shiny blue flower design 10/13 leopard print!! 10/18 metallic teal/green/pink flowery design 10/20 mustard yellow 10/15 lime green 10/27 dark orange/coral 11/8 lilac/fuchsia/purple with blocky design 11/10 highlighter orange 11/15 neon bright orange with green/yellow flower design (fruity) 11/17 metallic gold with black circular symbols (they look like chinese fortune telling symbols) 11/29 forest green 12/6 tiger print!! 12/8 gold/yellow Yes I know I'm missing a few, but you get the idea. Xavier is awesome. "Children are inferior goods." Yup.

Jan 2011

Did I miss something? Sure, Xavier is a smart guy. Sure, Xavier is kind of funny sometimes. Sure, he's famous. But is he a good teacher? I didn't think so. And here's why. The design of the macroeconomics course is insane. There's no textbook-- meaning it's, like, impossible to have certain things directly defined in a completely go-to source. Also, Xavier sometimes repeated entire lectures. Don't get me wrong; he is a decent lecturer. But there was little sense of direction. Problem sets were indiscriminately distributed; we were given one on a Sunday night during midterms due that Wednesday. Were we ever given our problem sets back? I'm still not sure. The midterm and final were very harshly graded and needlessly nit-picked (though generously curved). This course was designed such that concern for student learning was completely absent. Oh yeah, and you're sitting in a class of 300+, so you really won't get any attention from Xavier, unless it's to ask some douchey question to pet your own ego, as many in the course were wont to do. The TA that everyone came to know and love, Carlos Montez-Galdon, was absolutely indispensable. Honestly, it's unbelievable how much he cared about us learning. He singlehandedly crafted a textbook from the lectures and provide his own lectures with notes. And he was highly approachable. And helpful. Without him, I wouldn't have learned macroeconomics. And he routinely sent us e-mails apologizing for Xavier's faux pas, empathizing with us when we were expected to jump through ridiculous hoops. Why can't he create a macroeconomics course and teach us? He certainly cared more about us learning than Xavier did. In short, If you have a genuine intellectual interest in economics REALLY want to learn macroeconomics-- not just scrape by, but REALLY understand it and, above all, be taught in a course designed to teach you, I don't recommend this class. If you want to be a Wall Street suit and are content scraping by with Bs and As with relatively little actual understanding of how things work, this class is decent. It's certainly not unreasonably difficult. It just wasn't created with your learning as the top priority.

Jan 2011

Professor Sala-i-Martin is a great professor. Which explains his army of TAs and 300-student lectures. He gave a good framework for each kind of problem that was asked on homework. He tells lots of neat stories, and always relates the material he's covering to the real world. He also has over 350 blazers, and will soon have enough for each day of the year, and then some. The class was unorganized, however. Problem sets weren't assigned in a timely manner. The material covered in recitations was sort of a crapshoot, because they could be covering material that was covered in a recent lecture, or from a week before, or a week ahead. The problem sets were fair and manageable. There were few at first, but by the end of the class they were weekly. The exams were fair in terms of material, but not in how long we had to complete them. Also, the midterm graders were very harsh. The curve was good though. The final is a good 50%, which can make or break your grade.

Dec 2010

Yes, Xavier is amusing. Fancy jackets, relaxed teaching style and good sense of humor. But after a while that gets stale. Humor levels, as mentioned in earlier reviews, decline over the course of the semester. Compared to other classes I've done in the Economics Department, this one seemed to lack substance. I guess it's more Macroeconomics' fault than Xavier's, but it's the same concepts recycled in different forms over and over again. After a while, it gets predictable, and needs X to spruce up the class atmosphere. Unfortunately he often fails. There may not be many around who can match his classroom delivery, and so taking the class with him is probably the best option. But don't build the hype too much, and don't expect a riot of laughter every class. I did, and at the end of the course, was left slightly disappointed.

Sep 2010

Don't buy the hype. Xavier is entertaining, but this class was a mess. The volume of people make it very easy for things to go wrong, like having your final disappear and receive an incomplete grade through no fault of your own. While Xavier is also a sharp man, the material that he must cover doesn't truly seem to excite him, and so he'll treat it flippantly. This is a problem, since you don't actually learn much about macroeconomics.

Apr 2010

Intermediate Macroeconomics with Xavier was the best class I have taken at Columbia thus far. His lectures were engaging and was well-suited for non-quantitative economics majors. Though there was derivation and some curve drawing, the class was based on theory and intuition rather than strict mathematical modelling. The course tended to cover growth theory for the majority of the class (Solow-Swan model and its limitations). This is due to Xavier's current research on economic growth and poverty levels in developing nations. I felt that the second half of the course was a bit rushed, in that he went over consumption and leisure theory, classical supply and demand, demand of money, and Keynesian economics too quickly. That said, the class is taught intuitively and as long as you understand the logic of the material, it shouldn't be difficult to do well (A or higher).

Feb 2010

Nothing I can write could possibly describe the utter brilliance of Xavier Sala-i-Martin. Best class I have ever taken - ever. Xavier has a unique way of making the most boring topics utterly hilarious. It is true that he gets progressively less funny throughout the semester, but he always surprised me with a legitimately funny joke. I don't mean dry, Columbia professor funny. I mean actually funny. I think one of the most important things about Xavier that tends to get neglected in his reviews is ... not only is the man hilarious and engaging, but he's a GREAT lecturer. This was the first economics class I ever took, but I still came away understanding (almost) everything he explained to me. If you simply manage to pay attention (I also highly recommend the TA sessions - take Sean's if you can, he's great), you will see the Xavier is very well organized, great at explaining confusing concepts, and he does a good job of spending enough time on the most difficult material. Take this class - you'll thank yourself for it.

Jan 2010

I though Xavier taught the material very well without putting anyone to sleep (although of course, a few people did sleep in class). The classes gave basic information on the material, the TA session reinforced the material and the notes posted by the head TA on Courseworks cleared everything up and were a great study guide. The only thing I would complain about was the organization of the class, although it was a huge class. Midterm grades were given back about a month after the midterm was taken, final grades were given the week before second semester started and problems sets were given back at least a week (maybe more) later. How well you did in the class was very much correlated to how hard you tried (going to class, the TA session, reading the notes, etc.). Also, there was a pretty generous curve (10% received A+, 20% received As, etc.) so don't fret if you did poorly on the midterm or final (final was very, very hard).

Jan 2010

Xavier is a brilliant growth economist, and extremely funny lecturer. He is very charming and the first couple of lectures are ridiculously entertaining. His class is definitely amusing, and he makes dull topics come to life. Professor Xavier talks openly about a wide range of subjects, with raunchy humor, and wit as well. He's rather shy when you approach him personally, but he always stays for 10, 15 minutes to answer questions. A few interesting things to note are that he often delivers very important commentaries where he explains that he believes macro is more important than micro, and that growth theory, is exceedingly more important short run business cycle disputes. We also can tell he's more of a free-marketeer libertarian, especially when he comes to making jokes of politicians, bureaucrats and governments. Xavier's class is structured into two sections: growth and business cycle theory. He's usually traveling the world, so he's not really at office hours, but he actually responds to e-mails rather promptly. Xavier is an entertaining lecturer to listen, but he makes it difficult to follow and take notes, although he also spends 20 minutes reviewing the key points from the previous lecture. You learn a lot more from the TA's office hours and recitation, and they are usually rather good. Try to take Sean David Spielberg's TA session. After attending all the TA sessions, I confess he's the best. Detailed notes are posted on Courseworks and solution sets as well. The problem sets are challenging but easy if you work in groups of two or three. If you can do them on your own, then you'll have no problem on the exam. (Its also no lie that the answers to the problems circulate everywhere) The midterm and finals are extremely challenging, and the final is even more ridiculous. It usually involves a lot of intuitive reasoning and requires you to be agile and think on your feet. Many have said that the final is so explicitly difficult to weed out the true economists from the econ majors and the non-econ anybodies. Everyone walked out scared, thinking they failed so the curve is generous. I was personally a defined economics major prior to taking this class. Walking out of the final, I'm not longer certain. If you can rock this class, you're an economics major for sure.

Aug 2009

If you like to go to the circus, then yes, you will enjoy Xavier's macro class. Be warned that the glowing reports on culpa are more about Xavier himself than the course. Yes, Xavier is one of the most charismatic, politically incorrect, dazzling, and best dressed men on campus. He is also a superb lecturer who understands what he is teaching and hopes to pass that clarity on to his students. HOWEVER, this class is literally a circus in terms of how it is run. For starters, there is no connect between Xavier and his TA's. Homeworks are not returned in a timely manner, the TAs do not know what is going on with the exams [perfect example: last year's head TA told her recitation that a certain concept would not be on the exam because it seemed too easy, and ended up smack in the middle of the final], and forget solving grading disputes. No one will be there to listen. There is also no textbook suitable for this course as it is designed at the whim of the lecturer. You are really left to survive a sea of mismatched topics and Xavier's vocabulary in which "cookies" stand for GDP and tequila shots explain 3D utilities. The man himself is incredible, the course is severely lacking in transparency.

May 2009

I have to disagree with all the positive reviews of this professor; Xavier is a nice guy who may keep you entertained for fourteen weeks, but he will not do a good job teaching you macrecon. First, I have a few quibbles with the way the course was organized. Growth theory was definitely overemphasized at the expense of Business cycle theory, but I suppose that was Xavier's prerogative. As others have said, the problem sets prepare you well for his exams since most exam questions are just like HW questions, so do the hw multiple times if you want to do well. That said they didn't help me much in understanding how the models worked or how to apply them. I don't know exactly what it is students typically learn in a class like this, but from glancing at other course sites Xavier's approach is pretty idiosyncratic. That brings me to the real problem with this course. Xavier's idiosyncratic models and techniques wouldn't have been so bad if he had spent more time actually teaching them instead of, say, talking about some NGO in Africa for 45 mins. I've got nothing against the flamboyant costumes or canned humor but this man has a pathological self-indulgent streak. As for his his infamous classroom persona, I thought it was boring and predictable but probably would have got a kick out of it if I had been a few years younger. Take that for whatever it's worth. Mainly I think he spent too much time trying to get his students to like him instead of just teaching the material and doing his job. When he does get to talking about economics it's usually vague, semi-intuitive statements with a rushed derivation and some Q&A thrown in. Xavier is smart guy, reputed to be a first class researcher, and obviously cares about his students but he just doesn't make it come together. I would sit in class wondering when he was going to write definitions on the board and derive equations, and then go home and try to teach myself the material. I can honestly say that almost everything I learned in this class came from recitation, supplementary notes from the TAs, and Barro's textbook (it's not quantitative and doesn't follow Xavier's approach but it's still good). In the end, you could do worse than Xavier, but if you're majoring in econ or are seriously interested in the material you would stand to benefit from shopping other sections or even waiting until the next semester.

Jan 2009

One thing to know is that there is a textbook on courseworks, under one of the folders, that would really be helfpul to use along the way. he claims that there is no textbook, but there is!! i realy dont understand why he didnt tell us about this explicitly. i discovered it before the final ,and wish i knew about it during the semester.

Dec 2008

Great professor, Great Class. Huge class tho about 300 kids, but Xavier is a great professor. People talk about his jackets, which are cool, but he is a really great economics professor. Really teaches the material well especially for a macro course. Would highly, highly reccomend taking his course.

Dec 2008

While Xavier is probably one of the best lecturers I have ever had, I would venture to say be careful before signing up for this course. While Xavier offers excellent explanations in class of the theories we cover, he moves incredibly fast and I found that my notes could not often keep up with his logic. This is espeically important because there is no textbook for the class, though I agree that the Problem Set solutions are practically a textbook. The TA's are helpful enough, but in a lecture of 400 people it is difficult to nail all of the concepts before the final. I also think that the material covered in the class is specifically catered to Xavier and his interests. While this is amazing because we study theories that he himself developed, it may also make further study of economics difficult. You cannot refer to books and materials outside of the classroom because they simply don't follow the Xavier logic of things (which is incredible and fun, but not always obvious). If you are not overloaded for the semester and are able to put in a lot of time to understand the course material, then I would say take it. If not, you might be better off taking a more streamline Macro class and perhaps Xavier's elective later.

Jan 2008

Xavier lives up to his name as a funny lecturer. He has some interesting things to say but a lot of it is very repetitive. I learned more probably from the TA notes but he is entertaining.

Dec 2007

Bright! You'll be blinded when he enters the room by his jackets of fuschias and tiger stripe--he wears a different one every day. Dazzled! You'll be taken aback by his amazing explanations and lectures--the man is a genius. Laugh! You'll think he should have minored in stand-up comedy; many jokes are sprinkled in part of every lecture. Awww! You'll fall in love with him on the first day--I did.

Mar 2007

In terms of teaching skills, Sala-I-Martin a bit hard to follow if you don't know what he's teaching before hand. His board-work is a little messy, though not completely terrible. He is extremely engaging and entertaining, so whether you understand what’s going on or not, you’ll likely be tuned into the lecture. Be ready to take some of his less than politically correct comments in jest. (However, as politically incorrect as they may be, you’ll laugh at how on-the-mark they really are!) Out of class, and in his hours, Sala was very approachable, and helpful. He is both theoretical and pragmatic, making the course a good learning experience overall – in the end you end up getting the big picture better than in most classes. The class is taught at a Master’s level; it’s not as easy as intermediate macro, but not as hard as a PhD Econ class. It follows that a lot of SIPA grad students take the class, some advanced undergrads, and one or two (lazy) PhD students at most. You’ll be expected to be on point with your multi-variable calculus, though not much beyond that. You’ll need to use basic Lagrangian optimization techniques quite often. No econometrics is used. The class deals with mostly super-long run classical economic theory, so focus on that if you want to brush up on the intuition. He developed endogenous growth-theory based on R&D/innovation at the end of the class, a concept that he built from the ground up, starting with the Solow-Swan growth models and even their immediate precursors. You’ll be exposed to some of progression of the models and ideas that have led to more recent endogenous-growth ideas. The final is difficult, mostly because you don’t have a clue what will be on it (and he covers a fair amount of ground). Like another reviewer correctly mentioned, he’ll throw some curve balls at you while he’s at it. He didn’t test very excessively on the mathematics (since most SIPA students are weak in this field), but he did push some theoretical ideas he didn’t very much develop in class. A recommendation: if you want an easy A, don’t take this class, since it’s all-or-nothing on the not-so-easy 100% weighted and cumulative final. In terms of workload, HW is optional and upgraded, but you’ll be screwed come the final if you don’t do it. I can conclude by saying that the class was an excellent experience, and I recommend it to anyone that has a true desire to learn from one of the top growth economists on the face of the planet.

Jan 2007

There isn't much to say about the man. He's an excellent instructor, who keeps the class engaged through vivid presentation skills, and an aptitude to say the politically incorrect things in a funny, and acceptable manner. His exposition is clear, but quick paced if you didn't read before hand. For being a tremendously busy man, who teaches in Barcelona, manages a charity in Africa, serves as acting president of FC Barcelona, and edits the Davos Global Competitivness Report, he is incredibly receptive during his office hours, and for post-class questions. All in all, Sala is quite possible the best instructor I've ever had. Take his class if you want to learn, and while having fun doing do.

Dec 2006

Sala i Martin is a great prof. Unfortunately he is the only aspect of the course who makes this course worthwhile. Despite my deep interest in economics, I found this course very difficult to follow. The course was taught in an unconventional way and order, which limited student comprehension of the material. As a TA mention, without having the skill taught in later classes, we were trying to asses difficult concepts which are normally not introduced in an economics class. Confusion was futhered by the fact that there was no book to accompany the lectures. Rather the students wereleft to try to make an order of what was learned with documents formulated by the TAs. This class has enormous potential. But it seiously needs either one of two things. Either Xavier writes a text to accompany the class, or he begins to teach it in a way that is more in line with another book he suggests. That there are no books to accompany the class, simply indicates the bizarre nature and order of the class. Few days from the final, I can say that the class was an amazing experience, yet I worry as to whether this sort of unconventional grounding in macro will now be enough to further my study in economics.

May 2006

A lot of reviewers say that this class has a light workload because there are no reading assignments. But in fact there is a text, written by Xavier himself: the solutions to the problem sets. They constitute a textbook that anyone who wants to succeed in this class should read after handing in each problem set. They read like a textbook, and they're pretty comprehensive.

Jan 2006

Fantastic professor. Very very entertaining. But has a way of getting across everything he needs to. Easily one of the best professors in the department. The one drawback was that this course was a little math-lite, and as such, became confusing at times if you used his book in conjunction. (Sometimes, in his lite-version models, a market here or there just vanished!) There is no textbook, by the way, so you have to attend all the lectures (and recitations).

Jan 2006

Professor Xavier is clearly brilliant in his field, and knows his material very well (was always prepared to lecture), but his attitude towards the undergraduates was sometimes condescending and dismissive. He seemed far more interested in grad students. I do not feel this is a good course for undergrads to take. The course management of this class was ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE. As far as disorganization and disservice to the students, this was BY FAR THE SINGLE WORST COURSE I HAVE EVER TAKEN, PERIOD. Problem sets turned in were returned to students weeks late, disorganized, or not at all. Problem sets were often made available late, even though the Professor is simply recycling old material, which means out lateness in getting them was due to pure laziness. Midterm started nearly 15 minutes late due to poor organization, in spite of being promised we would start on time to reward students who arrived early (and time was not extended at the end). Complaints made about these issues to the Professer were ignored (never once received a reply to any email I sent him, though he listed that as his preferred method of contact), TA's were only slightly more helpful. The course being large is no excuse for such poor management and streamlining; the environment made it extremely hard to learn and get good feedback, even for dedicated students. RIDICULOUSLY bad considering the money we are all paying for this class. A disgrace.

Jan 2006

I must say, I have NEVER actually looked forward to going to class like I did with his class. It was a great experience, he is by far the best professor I have yet encountered at Columbia. He made it enjoyable to be in class with all of his hilarious jokes/impressions and his teaching methodology made it very easy to learn. I recommend this class A LOT. Since there is no textbook, it is VITAL to attend each and every one of his lectures- that won't be as burdensome as it sounds either, since he's such a great lecturer!

Jan 2006

Very fun professor. He tells great jokes and I really enjoyed going to his class. My favorite professor at Columbia by far. I highly recommend him. Do not pass up an opportunity to take his class.

Dec 2005

Xavier is a truly gifted professor. He understands the material so well, and is so good at conveying the information, that he doesn't even use a textbook! His lectures are usually very interesting, and his sense of humor hilarious. This was one of the best classes I've taken at Columbia. Since the instruction was so excellent, I find myself thinking about what I've learned on a frequent basis -- it "sticks." His homework and exams don't test nonsense questions -- they are interesting, real-world examples of macroeconomic concepts. If you take this class, you will learn a lot and have great fun doing so.

May 2005

What a funny guy! His sense of humor is golden. However, he does a great job teaching as well! Some people get so carried away with his jokes that they don't pay attention to the serious stuff, which is dumb. He doesn't use a textbook, so be sure to take organized and detailed notes. Fully understanding his notes will be essential to doing well on the final. His problem sets also help clarify concepts. The midterm is taken DIRECTLY from problem sets. He is actively involved in issues concerning poverty, esp. in Africa. He even has a foundation that deals with that matter. A great guy to take macro with. You'll get quite a few good laughs, and most importantly, you'll learn some macro concepts well. Check out his website and you'll WANT to take the class with him.

Apr 2005

Xavier definitely made class slightly more interesting than the average econ class, but it was still painful to sit through. I can see how some students love his class, but his jokes get really old in the end. Simply lecturing in his haphazard, but more engaging manner, made it difficult to study for the final. (midterm was simply based on problem sets) Sure, compared to other professors, I would take him again, but he really isn't ALL that, so don't expect to be blown away.

Jan 2005

ATTENTION: DO WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO TO TAKE THIS CLASS WITH XAVIER SALA-I-MARTIN!!! THE MAN IS INCREDIBLE!!! Allow me to begin by saying that the majority of people who review professors on CULPA usually either had a fabulous experience with a professor or a horrible one. I had a great experience! That being said, Professor Sala-I-Martin's class was extraordinary. The man is a genius in the world of Macroeconomics, in particular in the areas of Economic Growth theory. Please do not be alarmed by those who say he is "condescending;" although he calls us kids, he never does so in a negative or condescending way. He is of Spanish descent where teachers and professors are culturally considered to be your parents away from home and thus his calling us kids is a mere expression of care and not one of arrogance. Concerning his teaching abilities: the man is an extremely avid and talented communicator. There was never a time when I did not understand what he was talking about. Moreover, he catered to questions throughout every lecture, so there is really no reason to not understand any aspect of the subject material. I also appreciate his vivaciousness and flambuoyancy; economics can be exciting, especially for those of us who are Econ majors, but he makes it even more exciting through his jokes and comical personality. Regarding the subject material itself: I found it to be more than appropriate. There were some students who did not appreciate the Econ Growth part, especially since a significant portion of the class was dedicated to this area, but I found it rewarding that we could learn these revolutionizing theories in economics from a leader in the field. Econ Growth is primarily focused on eliminating poverty, particularly in Africa; it amuses me to think that so many so-called Columbia "Socialists" and "Left-wingers" would much rather have spent an entire semester focusing on Business Cycle Theory, i.e. the economics of rich nations.

Jan 2005

Professor Sala-i-Martin was thoroughly mediocre. Beyond being patronizing and demeaning to his students, he was not a particularly good teacher. He used his own methods, which the TAs did not understand, and made things much more confusing than was necessary. Xavier was more of a showman than a teacher, something which I appreciated the first day, but regret at the end of the semester.

Jan 2005

The class' "theoretical" lectures did not prepare you for the "practical" calculation based homeworks. If you are looking for conceptual understanding, there is nothing like his "cookies" and "left-side; right-side" explanation of things. However, his lectures did not prepare one for the homeworks and midterm-by the final you can study hw solutions, etc. You HAVE to pay attention in lecture and not miss one because everything is covered and based on the lectures -no textbook required. I found the lack of any textbook a challenge because it was not there to refer to when I didn't understand Xavier and the TAs weren't that great, nor on the same page with Xavier. I can say -the curve is beautiful. You don't have to think too hard to do well. "well" being a relative term.

Dec 2004

I found Xavier to be decent. He had moments of brilliance; I found some lectures to be particularly interesting. Other lectures were entirely consumed by silly jokes and even sillier questions that followed them. If you want a relatively low-workload macro experience and don't mind his wild outfits and crazy website (it's an experience unto itself), take his class. If you want a serious macro class, look elsewhere.

Nov 2003

Well I didn't think he was that great. He wasn't all that bad, but I wouldn't put off Macro until he is teaching it because he really isn't all that spectacular.

Apr 2003

For kids of all types: -class was TONS of fun ... every 3 lectures or so -is he degrading? he is currently listed as one of the top 20 economists in the world and therefore, at least at this point in our careers, better than all of us ... so what if he calls you 'kid'? -don't buy the book -if you do the problem sets, actually do them, not BS, you wont panic around reading week cause you didnt learn anything -as far as grades, you'll make what you make in all your other classes. i did.

Jan 2003

A 6pm class in 417 IAB (capacity 395 people) -- full? Xavier seemed to have managed it. His class was funny and he did a good job of teaching economics to those who have previously had no background whatsoever in finance and related fields. Principles of Econ is suggested by the professor, but I did fine without it. I have no complaints about the midterm or the final. If you show up to class, don't sleep through class, take clear notes, and are responsible throughout the semester, there is no way that you could do poorly in the class. It's not hard work, and students who have never taken economics are strongly encouraged to take this class to learn both basic to more intermediate economics and to get a really good laugh. And yes, you don't need to buy the book; as long as you're taking good notes, you'll get the required information for the problem sets, the midterm (which comes straight from the problem sets), and the final.

Jan 2003

funny but a horrible teacher. didnt' teach out of the book, so you had to go to every class and he taught his own version on macro. treated students like children, gave out candy which may sound nice, but it sucked.

Jan 2003

The over-enrollment in this class ruined a potentially good class in the economics department. Yes, Xavier does spend a lot of time on jokes, etc, but considering the fact that over half the class was only there for that purpose... Its not hard to do well in this class with the enormous curve. Don't even bother getting the textbook though- you'll never use it.

Dec 2002

this is the most over rated class. this term he was so caught up on his jokes that he ran out of time to give two midterms so he just gave a midterm and final which kicked everyone's A**. plus he never grades problem sets, so its easy to slip behind, and none of the 10 TA's were willing to hold office hours during reading week.

Nov 2002

Most everything has been said at this point, but to state my experience. 1) Most engaging lecturer I've ever had. 2) Clear an concise in his explanations... and still covers the material in depth. 3) IS EXTREMELY condescending in his language towards students (we are not kids anymore, thank you); although, I really think this just reflects his happy-go-lucky persona. 4) Easy grading system. I do want to challenge the posts saying you will not learn anything from Xavier. You will!! Like any class, however, you make of it what you put into it. Yes, the grading system of the class makes it easy to slip by without learning anything while still making the grade. But, I put the effort into it (as do many people) and found that I learned more with Xavier than any of the other econ professors thus far. Highly recommended!

May 2002

This is the most overrated class possible! Sure, the guy may be funny, but you get so caught up in the jokes that you realize you're not learning anything! The problem sets are ungraded and the midterms are so easy (straight from the problem sets, and the TAs even tell you which question to memorize!--the mean on the first midterm was 58/60!!!) that when it's time for the final you have no clue about anything and you just go in knowing the curve is going to have to be huge. I truly feel like I learned nothing, and he's not as fun of a guy as some of these reviews will have you think--much of the time, the class was quite boring, and he talks down to you like you're 12 years old. But if you like M&M treats and Disney characters, this might be just the class for you.

Jan 2002

Frankly, I enjoyed this class. He made the subject matter very accessible, which was a boon to non-econ majors like me (although referring to GDP as 'cookies' gets old after about 2 lectures). Also, the occasional jokes made it far easier to stay awake in class (essential for the exams, considering that the textbook was mostly irrelevant). This has been the best lecture class that I've taken at Columbia, and I only wish he taught more undergraduate courses. The Bottom Line: YMMV (your mileage may vary), but I'd suggest going to the first lecture to check out this class. Then decide.

Jan 2002

wow this guy is amazing. After having been through a number of boring econ classes, this guy finally adds some life to a very dry subject!! When you compare him to any of the other econ profs at columbia this guy is miles ahead. A text book is really not required and the mid term is exactly like the psets. A possible A+ class.

Jan 2002

All past, present, and future students of Xavier's macroeconomics class shall not doubt that this review speaks the truth. The good: Despite claims of a classical bias, Xavier's conservative stance is quite rare among prominent economists and he effectively balances classical and Keynesian theory. For a class of 350+ students, Xavier effectively engages students with questions and the M&M peanut board/ceremony are creative ideas. The bad: It's odd to see a teacher respond seriously to student questions/comments and yet still treat the class like children, just moved up from "kindergarten". Occasionally amusing anecdotes, but there was this long stretch of lectures where Xavier could not avoid take that single moment to interrupt himself to say f-ck this or f-ck that, which had very little to do with macro and wasn't even funny (no comment on the people who actually found that stuff amusing). To be blunt, the disney themes (of the problem sets) are stupid, but that reflects the weirdness of his webpage, which also contains an attack against an unnamed economist (turn off meta-refresh in your browser, load www.columbia.edu/~xs23/) . Perhaps these are just results of Xavier's paying too much alcohol tax (Morris, Nat, this is NOT libel! Xavier even joked he pays no tobacco tax, but a lot of alcohol tax). The major reason Barro's Macroeconomics is on the syllabus is because Xavier's co-written a book with Barro and Barro was his PhD advisor at Harvard. Just go to class and use other macro texts as necessary. Verdict: Yes, it is overrated. Some of these overwhelmingly positive reviews seem to suggest that if you have strong enthusiasm for econ or are an econ major you'll suddenly want to specialize in macro because of Xavier's class, or major in econ if you weren't that interested in the first place. The course is too inconsistent. It is possible to be annoyed by Xavier's attempt to be too much of a showman (a condescending one at that) instead of a teacher.

Dec 2001

okay, but final was tough because midterms were so easy and students were taken by surprise.

Dec 2001

This class is tremendously overrated. Do not expect to learn truly serious economics. Xavier is a renowned economist and he knows his material, but most of the time he tends to treat the class like children. This might be because of the class' makeup: lots of jocks and lots of people uninterested in economics. Thus, the 300+ class size played a problem. Take advantage of the 6 or 7 TA's and get to know them. Also, arrive in class 5-10 minutes early so that you have a seat. Content wise, we focused on certain areas way too much and altogether neglected topics such as internation trade and exchange rates. If you are a serious economics student, take macro with someone else other than Xavier.

Dec 2001

What can I say about Xavier that hasn't already been said... well, you should know that he's a monster in international economic theory, is on the NBER and IMF boards, etc... he knows his stuff cold, and his exams are quite easy. At times his classical bias shows through but all in all he is fair to both Classical and Keynesian economics. A wonderful, funny man who makes his class as much a stand-up comedy routine as a lecture. Don't need to buy the book - go to class (it's not difficult) and do the problem sets and you'll be fine.

Oct 2001

I reserve my highest praise for professors such as Sala-i-Martin: I simply would not miss a class. Immensely entertaining, yet he also imparts a thorough understanding of the material. Top-notch!

Aug 2001

Even if you're not interested in econ (like me), it's worth taking Macro just for the chance to enjoy Xavier. In fact, even if you don't register for the class, it's worth going just to watch the stand up comedy. I know of at least one person who went to the class regularly even though he wasn't registered because it was so much fun. Xavier is a riot, is by far the best professor at Columbia, and most definitely deserves his spot in the M&M Hall of Fame

Jan 2000

This guy is great-he's brilliant and even more amazingly when you consider this department, he loves to teach! Be prepared to entertain and learn. A great course in macroeconomics-even for the non-economics major. A very generous grader. No other professor offers M&M questions of the day, dress in hot pink suits, and hold office hours at 1 in the morning.

Jan 2000

You must be living in a cave if you haven't heard about this guy yet. He's the best teacher in the economics department, and quite possibly one of the best teachers on campus period. He really seems to love to teach macro, and could very well influence you to love macro as well. He only teaches in the fall so you should rearrange your schedule to ensure that you get him. He's the best macro prof, hands down.

Jan 2000

You will learn nothing in this class, since there is almost no thinking involved. If you are really interested in economics, Xavier's class is not for you, as he tends to believe that his students have the intellectual prowess of kindergarteners. If you want to challenge yourself, and if you do not intend to work for Goldman Sachs (like every other moron at this school), then find another section. All of the work is graded by the TA's, so get to know them, they might be able to fudge some of the grades for you. I will admit, it was one of the easiest A's I have ever earned at Columbia.

Jan 2000

I agree with all the positive lectures above. I just want to add that you DO NOT need to buy the book. Don't buy the book because it will only confuse you. The only reason why Prof Xavier orders the book is to calm down the anal econ majors who need the security of holding a textbook and because his good buddy Robert Barro over at MIT can make some extra $$$ by redistributing wealth from Columbia student's pockets to Mr. Barro's pocket. I would also like to add that I petition that Xavier (Sha B A) teach more undergraduate classes. Screw the grad students, let's improve undergraduate economics!

Jan 2000

Though Xavier is dearly beloved among Economics students for making his Intermediate Macroeconomics class as lively as possible, students looking for incisive economic analysis should know that he is also a sometime advisor for the IMF and a hardcore free trade advocate with little comprehension of opposing views.

Jan 2000

No one will doubt that he is one of the most entertaining and exciting professors in Columbia. He explains concepts very well and it is obvious that he cares about what students think of him. This is one of the few classes where you must attend class in order to do his problem sets. I found the class textbook to be of little use and I relied mostly on his lecture notes. There are weekly problem sets that are due, including two midterms and one final exam.

Jan 2000

Flamboyant and witty lecturer. He explains concepts so that people not only remember them, but understand them. Good jokes and flashy threads. Grading is very generous. Be sure to bring plenty of M&M's on his birthday -- he deserves them.