Economics 464: Economic Problems of Latin America (Fall 2010)

Course objective

The objective of Economics 464 is to analyze economic growth, crises, policy reform, and the (mostly) successful avoidance of the global financial meltdown in Latin America.  This is a good chance to (1) learn about Latin America and (2) practice using what you have learned in economics classes in a real world setting.  We will focus on the region from approximately the end of World War II to the present.  We will consider the reasons for the leftward drift of Latin American countries since the mid-1990s (Lula, Correa, Chavez, Ortega, Lagos and Bachelet, Zelaya, Garcia, Kirchner and Fernandez), ask whether there is a new shift underway (Piñera, Serra(?), Santos, Fox and Calderon), or whether economic policy in Latin America has become less ideological and more pragmatic, as some are saying. 

After taking this course, you should be able to:

Required Texts

  1. Franko, Patrice.  The Puzzle of Latin American Development, 3rd Edition.  We will read the whole book, please buy it in the bookstore or online. 
  2. Web sources to be assigned in class.

The bookstore under-ordered copies of the text and said they cannot have more in the store until the second half of September.  In the meantime, I have placed two copies on reserve.  One is the 2nd edition (2003) and the other is the 3rd edition (2007).  The 3rd edition is preferred but if it is checked out, read the 2nd.  You will need the call numbers when you go to check them out:

3rd edition HC 125 F682 2007
2nd edition HC 125 F682 2003


There are 1 midterm, 1 final, 2 short papers, several quizzes, and other regular written assignments. The exams are a combination of short answers and longer essays.  Weights of each item are:
Midterms = 25 points
Final = 25 points
Two short papers @ 10 points each  = 20 points
Multiple quizzes = 15 points
Notes on the readings = 15 points
I do not grade on a curve.  Grades are based on the following scale:  85-100% is in the A range, 75-84 is in the B range, 60-74 is a C, 50-59 is a D.

Midterms and final

I will post a series of essay questions throughout the semester.  The midterm and final will be 4-5 essay questions taken from the posted questions.

Short papers

There are 2 required short papers.  Please see the Writing Guidelines on the Bb site for a description of my expectations, grading rubric, and proper format. Each of the papers is built around a dataset and requires you to analyze the data.  Since I don’t want to grade 75 papers all at once and since you would probably like some choice of the paper topic, I will ask you to sign up for one of 4-5 topics in the first half of the course and again in the second half.  Each topic will be limited to 25 students and each will have a different due date.  Late papers will be accepted, but you will lose one-third of the points each week beyond the due date. Once you sign up for a topic, that is your topic unless you arrange with me to change it before it is due.  Once the due date arrives, you are stuck (I learned this from the airlines....).

Reading notes

I know you will be shocked to learn that some of your classmates (not you!) never read the assigned text.  SHOCKING!  As part of your grade, you must turn in your chapter notes (typed) for the readings.  You should have about 1-2 pages (single spaced) per chapter.  I will collect these every other week for 2 chapters at a time.  You must turn in 5 of these (I will give you the opportunity to turn in 7).  No extra credit is available for turning in 6 or 7 instead of 5.  I don’t care about grammar or style for this assignment.  I just want to see that you seriously took some notes on the reading.  I will grade this as follows:
3 points = you did it, looks good.
2 points = you did it, but it’s half hearted, not really a full effort.
1 point = you turned it in, but we both know you put zero effort into it.
0 points =  you did not turn anything in.

Course notes

Everyone is strongly encouraged to take notes on the assigned readings and class lecture and discussion. Note taking on readings is a more active form of learning and has been shown to raise grades and increase retention. It also cuts down on the amount of time you have to study for the midterms and final (by providing you with a summary of each of the readings so you don’t have to re-visit the assigned reading).


There are eight quizzes given in class.  I will ask you to answer a short question related to the readings (usually). You will have 5 minutes to answer (usually).  I will grade the quizzes the same as the reading notes.  You need five for your grade.  No extra credit will be given for doing more but I will throw out low scores, so if you do more than 5, I will take the 5 highest with the following exception: Everyone must do the map quiz. I will not throw out your score on it so it will stay as one of your five. 

Make-ups and missed exams

No make-up exams or late exams and papers will be allowed except under extraordinary circumstances. 


We have become so rule bound at SDSU that they tell me I cannot impose penalties for plagiarism unless I put it in my syllabus.  So here it is:  I reserve the right to fail in the class anyone who plagiarizes. 

Course outline

We will read one chapter per week. So, Week 1 is Chapter 1 in Franko; Week 2 is Chapter 2, and so forth.

Week: Class meetings

Assignments, due dates, midterms

Week 1: Aug. 31, Sept 2

Sept 2,  Turn in memo:  Why I am in this class (counts as a quiz)

Week 2: Sept 7, 9

Sept 7, Map quiz.  Sept 9, notes for C1, C2.

Week 3: Sept 14, 16

Sept 16, Short paper: Growth rates

Week 4: Sept 21, 23

Sept 21, Quiz on ISI.  Sept 23, notes for C3, C4

Week 5: Sept 28, 30

Sept 30, short paper:  Current account

Week 6: Oct 5, 7

Oct 6, quiz on inflation.  Oct 7, notes for C5, 6

Week 7: Oct 12, 14

Oct 12, short paper:  Corruption.  Oct 14, Quiz on capital flows.

Week 8: Oct 19, 21

Oct 19:  Midterm.  Oct 21, notes for C7, C8

Week 9: Oct 26, 28

Oct 26, class MAY be cancelled.  Oct 28, short paper:  Trade flows, trade profiles.

Week 10: Nov 2, 4

Nov 2, quiz on growth and competitiveness.  Nov 4, notes for C9, C10

Week 11: Nov 9

Nov 9, short paper on the HDI

Week 12: Nov 16, 18

Nov 16, quiz on inequality.  Nov 18, notes for C11, C12

Week 13: Nov 23

Nov 23, short paper on dependency ratios

Week 14: Nov 30, Dec 2

Dec 2, quiz on education policy, notes for C13, C14

Week 15: Dec 7, 9

Dec 7, quiz on environmental issues


Last Update: 9/23/14