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Main question: "It is more effective to teach an introductory course in micro-economics first before an introductory course in macro-economics"

For clarity, we provided the following extra guidance to panellist to vote:
  • Agree / strongly agree - if they think it's better (to some extent) to teach micro before macro
  • Disagree / strongly disagree - if they think it's better (to some extent) to teach macro before micro
  • Uncertain - if they think it doesn't matter at all whether micro or macro is taught first
  • No opinion - if they don't have any views on this proposition.
For transparency, we also asked the panellists to answer the following question:

Additional question: "On balance, I consider myself: a) more of a microeconomist than a macroeconomist or b) more of a macroeconomist than a microeconomist"

Overview of poll results by Professor Ross Guest

Professor Ross Guest

It is an oft-debated topic in economics departments. First, economists have their own preferences for micro or macro and the relative importance of each to an education in economics. From a marketing perspective, some argue that it is better to start students with the sort of economics that is likely to be more appealing, or that is more likely to provide the necessary building blocks for further learning in economics.

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Responsesresponses weighted

micro macroeconomist split

Panellist responses for main question

Name Response Confidence Comment
Peter Abelson

ABELSON, Peter
Disagree 7I think economic education should start with presenting big picture concepts to students - the subject matter of economics, circular flow model of the economy,  GDP, employment, role of capital and labour, role of government, income distribution, inflation, productivity and growth. Logically, macroeconomics comes next and then microeconomics.
Kym Anderson
ANDERSON, Kym
Strongly agree 10  
Gary Banks

BANKS, Gary
     
Gary Barrett
BARRETT, Garry
Agree 8  
Harry Bloch
BLOCH, Harry
Strongly disagree 8  

Jeff Borland
BORLAND, Jeff

Strongly agree9So many concepts that are integral to micro also these days seem to provide the underpinning for macro (such as optimal choice and equilibrium).  Beginning with the study of single decision-making units and markets, and then proceeding to study the national economy, is a logical and building block structure that I think students find it easy to grasp.  Sometimes it is said that starting with macro makes it easier to engage students, but I think there are at least as many interesting and relevant examples/applications in micro that can make students enthusiastic about studying economics.
David Butler
BUTLER, David
Strongly agree7I believe macroeconomic explanations are easier to follow if students have already been introduced to the economic way of reasoning about how decisions are made. Otherwise the assumptions behind rational expectations or long run model of economic growth might seem to be arbitrary.
Matthew Butlin
BUTLIN, Matthew
Agree 6 On balance, I believe it is more effective to teach macro-economics first, provided it is well-motivated in terms of its connection to real economic issues.  However, I note that I am not in the business of teaching economics although I do the odd guest lecture that undoubtedly sits in the general area of micro economics.
Lisa Cameron
CAMERON, Lisa 
Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree) 6 I don't think it matters much. Ideally they would be taught at the same time. An advantage of teaching micro first is that it introduces the student to the assumptions at the micro-level that are implicit in many of the macro models.
Fabrizio Carmignani
CARMIGNANI, Fabrizio
Disagree 8 It is an interesting question with no simple answer. If we are talking about a first year course in a Bachelor of Economics, then the answer is probably yes: micro first and then macro is likely to be more effective, albeit I would still devote the first couple of sessions of this course to the presentation of a broader macro picture of economics. But if instead we are talking about a first year course that goes into programmes like the Bachelor of Commerce or the Bachelor of Business, then the answer is no: micro first is not necessarily the best approach. This is because for most of the students in the BCom or the BBus, the first year course in economics will be their only exposure to economics. In that case, I think it would be better to have a course that tackles the "big" issues: growth, unemployment, inflation, debt, etc..., and this necessarily will have to be a more macro course, with possibly a few sessions on the micro fundations of the big issues.
Bruce Chapman
CHAPMAN, Bruce
     
Deborah Cobb-Clark
COBB-CLARK, Deborah
     
Max Corden
CORDEN, Max
     
Lin Crase
CRASE, Lin 
Agree 9  
Kevin Davis
DAVIS, Kevin
No opinion 10  
Brian Dollery
DOLLERY, Brian
     

Uwe Dulleck
DULLECK, Uwe

Agree 7Not particular interesting this question, but yes, I am still believe it makes sense to understand the foundations first. I feel one of the more interesting questions is how this will change with the change of the micro curriculum given the advent of behavioural approaches. We may enter a time where its less clear that macro builds on micro.
Mardi Dungey
DUNGEY, Mardi
Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree) 10Choosing between teaching microeconomics or macroeconomics first is like asking a teacher to choose which of literacy or numeracy needs to be taught first. As we teach our young children to operate in the world we teach them concepts of both literacy and numeracy as complementary and equivalently necessary skills to function in the real world. Teaching microeconomics or macroeconomics first is not the issue. Good teaching requires stimulating the student with interesting ideas and a desire to learn. Different folk are going to be excited about different aspects of the discipline. This is particularly relevant when we hear about recent calls for greater gender diversity amongst economics students for recruitment to places such as the RBA - maybe teaching in one particular way is more likely to engage one set of students and another way engages a different set of students. We need to find ways to make the subject relevant, interesting, engaging and accessible to a large variety of students with a variety of different opinions and viewpoints. We want to give them skills to articulate those viewpoints and hence influence policy and business decision making in the future.
Chris Edmond
EDMOND, Chris
Agree 8  
Henry Ergas
ERGAS, Henry
     

Saul Eslake

ESLAKE, Saul
No opinion 9  
Allan Fels
FELS, Allan
Agree 8  
Gigi Foster

FOSTER, Gigi
Agree 7 The reasons why macroeconomic aggregates move as they do are found ultimately in the responses of individual economic actors - consumers, producers, exporters, importers, workers, employers - to changed circumstances.  Each agent reacts individually to changes in the prices, constraints, competitors, information, and so on that s/he personally faces.  These myriad individual reactions combine to create dynamism in the whole economy that we can analyse using the tools of macroeconomics.  Teaching how single agents are likely to respond to changes in their economic circumstances, which is the focus of basic microeconomics, is therefore a natural first step on which to build a deep understanding of macroeconomics.
John Freebairn
FREEBAIRN, John
Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree) 10 Provided a general introduction about the economics discipline is provided, coherent subjects for either microeconomics or macroeconomics can be offerred as the initial subject. While there are overlaps of questions and methodologies, and there is a compelling case for students to understand both micro and macro, one does not necessarily require the other as a prerequisite.
Paul Fritjers
FRIJTERS, Paul
     

Lata Gangadharan

GANGADHARAN, Lata

Strongly agree 9 I think it is more effective to teach Microeconomics first as it can help lay the foundations for macroeconomics. Most students would be able to relate to individual behavior and firm behavior and this helps them connect later to aggregate behavior.
Ross Garnaut
GARNAUT, Ross
     
Robert Gregory
GREGORY, Robert
     
Stephen King
KING, Stephen
Strongly agree 10 To understand intro macro students need to understand the basis of trade and where prices come from - basic microeconomics.
Geoff Kingston
KINGSTON, Geoffrey
Disagree 7 Starting an economics course with macro helps to ground the subject. Students can more easily relate their classes to stories in the media, and learn that facts trump theories, at least to the extent the two things can be separated. Notably, the national accounts are very educational. Macro controversies can be used to enliven the course. Caveats here are that the introductory macro course should be applied (not overloaded with multiplier formulas of dubious veracity) and should present both sides of the controversies.

Michael Knox

KNOX, Michael
     
Rodney Maddock
MADDOCK, Rodney
Disagree 6 Personally I prefer to teach macro first because I found students easier to motivate around macroeconomic issues. In part this is because I regard macro and microeconomics as entirely different disciplines, using entirely different methodologies, so that it does not make any intellectual difference which order they are taught in: the choice is practical, not principled. Obviously this puts me well outside the mainstream of current academic macroeconomics. My work outside academia has reinforced the view that the two fields are separate.
Tony Makin
MAKIN, Tony
Disagree 7 Macroeconomic phenomena - financial crises, inflation, unemployment, government budgets, public debt, interest rates, asset prices, exchange rates, competitiveness, trade balances, economic growth, wages, and productivity  - affect households' livelihood, now and in the future.  For that reason macro issues are always in the news.
  
Because macro tends to be more topical - and controversial - than micro (as indispensable as it is) it has the potential to better engage students in the first instance, especially those who've not studied economics before.
Warwick McKibbin
MCKIBBIN, Warwick
Agree 6  
Doug McTaggart
MCTAGGART, Doug
    
Menezes photo Flavio Menezes
MENEZES, Flavio
     
James Morley
MORLEY, James
Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree) 7 Samuelson's classic textbook started with macro. People seemed quite capable of learning economics well enough when his text was ubiquitous. But I think people are just as capable learning economics if they start with micro. I have yet to see a compelling pedagogical argument for a specific ordering. My guess is that it is only people who don't really believe macro exists who would suggest it is essential to start with micro. I'm not one of those people.
Margaret Nowak
NOWAK, Margaret
Agree 6 Grounding in micro-economic concepts is important for achieving full appreciation of the issues in macroeconomics. However, this should also include an introduction to behavioural economics which is contributing now to deeper understanding of the limitations of economic man as a guide to policy and thus depth to policy discussions.
  
A problem based approach to teaching economics combines the insights of Micro, Behavioural and Macro to look deeply at selected policies/issues and will facilitate deeper learning /understanding than either standard micro or macro courses which can seem by students to be very removed from the world they live in.
Adrian Pagan
PAGAN, Adrian
     
John Piggot
PIGGOT, John
     
John Quiggin
QUIGGIN, John
Strongly disagree 8 My argument is spelt out here http://crookedtimber.org/2013/10/25/the-macro-foundations-of-microeconomics/  My only doubt is that I am less sure about teaching strategy than about the logical relationship
Rana Roy
ROY, Rana
    
Peter Sheehan
SHEEHAN, Peter
     
Jeffrey Sheen
SHEEN, Jeffrey
Disagree 8 Macroeconomics can be  taught easily an effectively at an introductory level without having introductory microeconomics as a prerequisite. Of course, both micro and macro analysis at all levels benefit from a good understanding of the other.
Hugh Sibly
SIBLY, Hugh
Agree 9 All economics is built on the key foundations of microeconomics, i.e opportunity cost, individual choice, issues of competition etc. So that it is important that those studying macro have exposure to a micro course. Ideally micro would come first, so students can fully understand the underpinnings of macro analysis while they are learning it.
stepledon photo (2)Nigel Stapledon
STAPLEDON, Nigel
     
John Tisdell
TISDELL, John
     
Joaquin Vespignani
VESPIGNANI, Joaquin
Strongly agree10It is critical to understand demand and supply principles because it is applicable to many macroeconomic issues such as: demand and supply for: money, labor, etc.

Panellist responses for additional question

Name Response Comment
Peter Abelson

ABELSON, Peter
a) more of a microeconomist than a macroeconomist  
Kym Anderson
ANDERSON, Kym
a) more of a microeconomist than a macroeconomist 
Gary Banks

BANKS, Gary
  
Gary Barrett
BARRETT, Garry
a) more of a microeconomist than a macroeconomist 
Harry Bloch
BLOCH, Harry
a) more of a microeconomist than a macroeconomistOne advantage of teaching macroeconomics first is that, if taught properly, it is more likely to engage the interest of students as it relates to aspects of the economy with which they all have at least some familiarity. A second advantage is that it would work against the current tendency to present macroeconomics as an aggregated form of microeconomics, which contributes to the view that economists have nothing useful to say about the instability of capitalism.

Jeff Borland
BORLAND, Jeff

a) more of a microeconomist than a macroeconomist 
David Butler
BUTLER, David
a) more of a microeconomist than a macroeconomist 
Matthew Butlin
BUTLIN, Matthew
a) more of a microeconomist than a macroeconomistI now regard myself as more of a micro economist than a macro economist. That said I note my original training (undergraduate and PhD) leaned heavily towards open economy macro economics as did the first fifteen years of my post graduate career.  I suppose it goes to show the flexibility of a sound training in economics and economic principles!
Lisa Cameron
CAMERON, Lisa 
a) more of a microeconomist than a macroeconomist 
Fabrizio Carmignani
CARMIGNANI, Fabrizio
b) more of a macroeconomist than a microeconomist 
Bruce Chapman
CHAPMAN, Bruce
  
Deborah Cobb-Clark
COBB-CLARK, Deborah
  
Max Corden
CORDEN, Max
  
Lin Crase
CRASE, Lin 
a) more of a microeconomist than a macroeconomist 
Kevin Davis
DAVIS, Kevin
a) more of a microeconomist than a macroeconomist 
Brian Dollery
DOLLERY, Brian
  

Uwe Dulleck
DULLECK, Uwe

a) more of a microeconomist than a macroeconomist  
Mardi Dungey
DUNGEY, Mardi
b) more of a macroeconomist than a microeconomist  
Chris Edmond
EDMOND, Chris
b) more of a macroeconomist than a microeconomist 
Henry Ergas
ERGAS, Henry
  

Saul Eslake

ESLAKE, Saul
b) more of a macroeconomist than a microeconomist 
Allan Fels
FELS, Allan
a) more of a microeconomist than a macroeconomist 
Gigi Foster

FOSTER, Gigi
a) more of a microeconomist than a macroeconomist 
John Freebairn
FREEBAIRN, John
a) more of a microeconomist than a macroeconomist 
Paul Fritjers
FRIJTERS, Paul
  

Lata Gangadharan

GANGADHARAN, Lata

a) more of a microeconomist than a macroeconomist 
Ross Garnaut
GARNAUT, Ross
  
Robert Gregory
GREGORY, Robert
  
Stephen King
KING, Stephen
a) more of a microeconomist than a macroeconomist 
Geoff Kingston
KINGSTON, Geoffrey
b) more of a macroeconomist than a microeconomistNotwithstanding my responses up to this point, the micro foundations of macro are an important topic, at least in advanced macro courses.

Michael Knox

KNOX, Michael
  
Rodney Maddock
MADDOCK, Rodney
a) more of a microeconomist than a macroeconomistI got converted to microeconomics when I was working and living in Colombia where the payoffs to better utility pricing, better rules, better regulation etc were very obvious.
Tony Makin
MAKIN, Tony
b) more of a macroeconomist than a microeconomist 
Warwick McKibbin
MCKIBBIN, Warwick
b) more of a macroeconomist than a microeconomist 
Doug McTaggart
MCTAGGART, Doug
   
Menezes photo Flavio Menezes
MENEZES, Flavio
  
James Morley
MORLEY, James
b) more of a macroeconomist than a microeconomistOn the existence of macro, please see this document
Margaret Nowak
NOWAK, Margaret
b) more of a macroeconomist than a microeconomist 
Adrian Pagan
PAGAN, Adrian
  
John Piggot
PIGGOT, John
  
John Quiggin
QUIGGIN, John
a) more of a microeconomist than a macroeconomist 
Rana Roy
ROY, Rana
   
Peter Sheehan
SHEEHAN, Peter
  
Jeffrey Sheen
SHEEN, Jeffrey
b) more of a macroeconomist than a microeconomist 
Hugh Sibly
SIBLY, Hugh
a) more of a microeconomist than a macroeconomist 
stepledon photo (2)Nigel Stapledon
STAPLEDON, Nigel
  
John Tisdell
TISDELL, John
  
Joaquin Vespignani
VESPIGNANI, Joaquin
b) more of a macroeconomist than a microeconomist