Economics Major

Economics Major



Economics is the study of how to make optimal decisions in a scarce environment. Cadets in this major will focus on applying economic theory to the practice of leadership.

Offered by the Department of Social Sciences.

The economics major provides critical thinking skills applied to human behavior and answers the following questions: What is produced, how is it produced, and to whom is it allocated? Mathematical models are used to develop and test optimal resource allocation mechanisms. These models also provide the necessary foundation to analyze policy regimes within individual markets as well as aggregate economies. These skills are directly applicable to decision makers in tactical command positions who must achieve desirable outcomes with personnel and equipment constraints as well as national strategic decision makers who face similar aggregate constraints. The economics major also provides deep proficiency in quantitative methods, particularly nonlinear optimization, for more specialized areas such as operations research, resource management, and strategy. 

Economics is the study of how to make optimal decisions in a scarce environment. Leadership and economics go hand-in-hand. In our economics program, we focus on principles that we call "The Economic Leader," where students take what they learn in the classroom and apply economic principles to effective organizational management and leadership. 

This major offers an honors track. 

Economics is about decision making.  We study how individuals and organizations optimally allocate scarce resources. 

At its foundation, economics is the application of simple, but powerful ideas that govern how people make decisions, how they interact, and how an economy works.  Mastering economics will allow you to maximize benefits in your life.

Economic theory also has important implications for the practice of leadership that we call The Economic Leader Principles:

  • There is a trade-off in every decision a leader makes. What we give up constitutes the opportunity cost of a decision.
  • Rational leaders think and decide on the margin.
  • Life is a coordination problem, and people respond to incentives.
  • Leaders realize the benefits from trade by facilitating specialization and comparative advantage.
  • Leaders take appropriate risks, balancing gathering additional information and being decisive.
  • Leaders have a normative responsibility to balance efficiency with equity.

To learn more about the Economics discipline and about majoring in Economics at West Point, check out the videos below as well as the following outside resources: 

To learn more about the program, contact the Economics Department Academic Counselor!

Required Course for All

  • SS201 Principles of Economics (Offered every semester)
    • This introductory core course, which covers fundamentals of micro and macroeconomics, educates and inspires cadets in the economic way of thinking. With the ultimate goal of understanding how societies optimally allocate scarce resources, we study individual and firm decision making, the role of government, economic growth and business cycles, macroeconomic policy, and personal finance.  

Required Toolbox Courses

  • SS382 Intermediate Microeconomics (Offered every semester)
    • In this course cadets use microeconomic theory to analyze individual and firm decision-making. Cadet gain a deeper understanding of partial and general equilibrium analysis, and are introduced to expected utility, risk aversion, asymmetric information, and moral hazard. 
  • SS388 Macroeconomics (Offered every semester)
    • Macroeconomics takes an aggregate perspective on the interactions of consumers, firms, and the government.  In this course, we develop the theoretical underpinnings of labor markets, financial markets, banks, economic growth, and international finance, and apply these models to address government policy intervention due to short run economic shocks.
  • SS368 Econometrics (Offered every semester)
    • This course covers the economic, mathematical, and statistical tools needed to identify causal relationships and to plan and execute empirical economic research. Topics include research design, statistical inference, ordinary least squares (OLS) regression, differences-in-differences, instrumental variables, and regression discontinuity.

Integrative Courses (one of three required)

  • SS380 Labor Economics (Offered once a year) [SPRING]
    • This course introduces common microeconomic models and econometrics techniques used by labor economics to understand wages and employment. Specific topics discussed may include education, technological change, immigration, discrimination, and the gender wage gap.  
  • SS387 Public Economics (Offered once a year) [FALL]
    • This course explores the role of government in the economy. It applies the tools of Microeconomic Theory and Econometrics (from SS382 and SS368) to questions of public policy, focusing in particular on issues of market failure (e.g. externalities, public goods, and asymmetric information) and redistribution (e.g. taxation, poverty, and inequality).
  • SS484 International Economics (Offered once a year) [SPRING]
    • This course integrates economic principles taken in SS382 and SS388. International Economics first explores trade theory and policy and the justification and effectiveness of both. The second part of the course explores the open macro-economy and how exchange rates, interest rates, and monetary policy are linked together.

Policy / Theory-Focused Electives

  • SS364 Game Theory (Offered once a year) [SPRING]
    • Game Theory teaches the modeling of the strategic interactions between rational actors to include auctions, bargaining, oligopolies, networks, voting systems, and mechanism design. It is used in behavioral economics, information economics, industrial organization, and political economy … to name a few.
  • SS385 History of Economics (Offered once a year) [SPRING]
    • This course explores the history of economics and economic thought by examining the philosophies of various economic thinkers from Adam Smith to modern economists as well as some of the historical schools of thought.  It then traces America’s economic development in a historical context while looking at American history through an economic lens.
  • SS390 Behavioral Economics (Offered once a year) [FALL]
    • This course will cover how insights from psychology and behavioral economics relate to the foundational economic model of rational choice. This course will examine how individual preferences tend to deviate from a rational choice model, how cognitive limitations alter individual choice, how social preferences and social influence impact decisions, and how public policy interacts with individual behavioral tendencies.
  • SS461 Leadership Economics (Offered once a year) [SPRING]
    • This course combines insights from contract theory and organizational economics to understand incentives and team management. We extend microeconomic theory with a mathematical model that incorporates insights from neuroscience, behavioral economics, organizational behavior, and positive psychology for optimizing individual and team performance.
  • SS462 Economic Growth and Development (Offered once a year) [FALL]
    • This course uses both theory and empirics to better understand the determinants of economic growth and development.  It exposes cadets to a wide range of development economics topics including, among others, theories of economic growth and structural change, institutions, foreign aid, health, education, credit and insurance markets, and conflict.
  • SS487 International Political Economy (Offered once a year) [SPRING]
    • This course serves as an introduction to the complex and fascinating fundamental relationship between politics, economics, and society at the international and domestic levels. How do political institutions, structures, actors, and policies shape international economic phenomena? How do these economic phenomena influence political forces. The course explores the mechanisms that link politics and economics across a variety of issues that are central to the field of IPE.

Finance-Focused Electives

  • SS394 Firm Analysis (Offered every semester)
    • Fundamentals of Financial Analysis teaches cadets: 1) the principles of financial statements from the standpoint of a user of financial statements (as opposed to a preparer of financial statements); 2) the tools of interpreting financial statements including ratio analysis, competitive analysis, and economic analysis; and how to apply the fundamentals of analysis in a wide range of complex, real-world business cases.
  • SS391 Finance for Army Leaders (Offered once a year) [SPRING]
    • More than a personal finance course, SS391 will prepare young officers to be able to mentor Soldiers (regardless of rank or personal financial circumstances) on the myriad, and often complex space of financial readiness. We address the behavior and psychology behind personal financial decisions and arm cadets with quantitative tools to help articulate best practices in achieving financial goals.
  • SS463 Investments Theory (Offered once a year) [SPRING]
    • Investment Theory and Application is designed to give cadets an appreciation of the theoretical underpinnings for investing as well as the way investors think about and approach the markets today. This course pulls from concepts in statistics, microeconomics, econometrics, accounting, and finance.
  • SS470 Money and Banking (Offered once a year, every sem. starting 24-2) [FALL]
    • SS470 is a senior level economics course whose primary purpose is to provide background and understanding of macroeconomics and US Financial System. The course begins by discussing the various types of financial instruments and markets, then the institutions that perform financial intermediation, and finally the role of the US Federal Reserve.
  • SS494 Principles of Finance (Offered once a year) [FALL]
    • This course applies economic principles to the financial decisions that businesses make every day, and to the capital markets in which households and firms interact. The course covers topics including project analysis using net present value techniques, risk and return of assets and projects, efficient capital markets, corporate capital structure and dividend policy, and valuation of assets.

Required Capstone Course

  • SS477 Economics of National Security (Offered once a year) [SPRING]
    • This is a capstone course for the economics major that is designed to integrate microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics. Coursework and classroom discussion require students to apply theoretical concepts and models from the major's toolbox courses, electives, and the core curriculum to policy issues inherent to the provision of national security.

Thesis Track Courses: 

Interested? Find out more.

  • SS489C Research Methods (Offered once a year) [SPRING]
    • This is a challenging course that is the first of the Thesis Sequence. It is a hybrid between a guided tutorial-style independent study and a standard course with a focus on developing empirical intuition (building on SS368), developing economic research ideas, writing like an economist, and data management/analysis in STATA.
  • SS469 Econometrics II (Offered once a year) [FALL]
    • This course is designed to hone a student’s critical thinking ability and deepen their understanding and execution of the econometric methods used to produce causal estimates. Among the topics covered are Difference in Difference, Instrumental Variables, Regression Discontinuity, Simultaneous Equations, and Time Series analysis. 
  • SS498C Senior Thesis in Economics (Offered once a year) [SPRING]
    • This is the final course of the Thesis sequence that is taken in the spring of first class year.  It is an independent study culminating in the cadet writing a thesis and defending it in front of faculty during Project’s Day.  Admission into the course will be determined based on the quality of a Thesis Proposal submitted prior to the semester.

View the full Economics Major Curriculum.

Cadets in this major have the opportunity to apply for a summer Academic Individual Advanced Development (AIAD) program, USMA-run academic enrichment experience. They can also engage in activities outside of the classroom with events hosted by organizations such as the Investment Club. This major offers an honors track. 

Honor Societies:
Golden Key - International Honour Society
Phi Kappa Phi - Oldest and Largest Collegiate Honor Society

To learn more about enrichment for this area of study, visit the Department of Social Sciences or the Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis.