Syllabus for Community/Regional Economics Courses

The idea of this webpage is to provide a collection of syllabuses for community & regional economic courses.  The CRENET group did this a number of years ago and several newer members found the collection to be very useful in the development of their own courses.  The classes are listed in no particular order.


Here is a corresponding collection of syllabuses that have more of an urban focus:


This is a paper by Dave Hughes and Bruce Weber (1995) where they outline how rural development courses are structured and offered.

“The Teaching of Rural Economics in U.S. Departments of Agricultural Economics: Some Impressions.”  Journal of the Community Development Society 26(2, 1995):206-223.

A 1993 survey of United States agricultural economics departments found twenty-five departments teaching thirty-five courses in rural economics that focused on the economic well-being or development of rural people, communities or regions in the United States. A similar survey 10 years ago found more departments (thirty-one) teaching more courses in “rural economies” (forty-four). In the intervening decade, the courses have become more focused on community economics and regional economics tools and have given less attention to broad social issues, to the long-run dynamics of development and to analytical traditions that emphasize disequilibrium and institutional change. Slow enrollment growth in colleges of agriculture and shifts in emphasis towards agribusiness are plausible explanations for the decline in course offerings. New concepts such as teaching networks offer the possibility of increasing the emphasis on broader social issues while retaining instruction in the use of analytical tools.



This is a group effort set of papers by John P. Blair, Roger E. Bolton, M. Jarvin Emerson, Frank Giarratani, James A. Kurre, William R. Latham III where the authors talk about teaching undergraduate regional economics.

Teaching Undergraduate Regional Economics. Review of Regional Studies, 22(2, 1993):116-153


At the 38th North American Meetings of the Regional Science Association International (RSAI) held in New Orleans in November 1991, a three-hour session was devoted to the teaching of regional economics. In this session, organized by James Kurre of Pennsylvania State University-Erie, eight individuals described “how” they teach the undergraduate regional economics course at their home institutions. Two panels were convened. In the first, John Blair, Roger Bolton, Jarvin Emerson, and Frank Giarratani described course structure and content. In the latter panel devoted to course projects, participants included Andrew Isserman, James Kurre, William Latham, and Karen Polenske. All of those participating in these presentations agreed that such an exchange of ideas was very beneficial and would likely be of interest to a larger audience than that attending the RSAI meetings. Given this potential interest, the editors asked the six participants who currently teach undergraduate regional economics within economics (as opposed to planning) departments to prepare short papers describing their courses for publication in the Review. Each author (teacher) was requested to comment upon: (1) the “goals” for his course, (2) the nature of the students in attendance, (3) the text employed as well as any supplementary reading material, (4) course content, and (5) any special projects or assignments. Although reading lists and other class material are not included in what follows, each contributor has agreed to make such information available upon request.


University of Missouri:  AG EC and PA 8350: Regional Development Policy Issues and Analysis

Tom Johnson and Judy Stallmann

Course Description: This course introduces students to a variety of theoretical concepts, analytical techniques and relevant policy issues useful for analyzing regions and their economies. Upon completion of this second class in the Regional Development Policy specialization, it is expected that students will have achieved a level of proficiency in the basic techniques of regional analysis that are essential to developing informed and rigorous regional policy.
1. Students will understand the theoretical justifications for the role of government in regional development and be able to apply these to the analysis of specific programs.
2. Students will achieve a basic understanding of the theories of regional growth and development.
3. Students will be able to use the basic tools of local economic analysis.
4. Students will have a basic understanding of more advanced tools of economic analysis and be able to interpret the results of such analysis.
5. Students will be able to evaluate the use of incentives for regional development.
6. Students will be able to analyze a region and recommend specific strategies to address regional dev development issues.
This course contributes to the TSPA competency: Analyze, synthesize, think critically, solve problems, and make decisions. The outcomes are 1) decision making and 2) policy evaluation. The artifacts for your portfolio are analysis of a regional economy and policy recommendations


University of Kentucky: AEC/PA 653  LOCAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

David Freshwater

General Objectives:
The subject of this class, local economic development occupies a fairly small part of the larger discipline of regional economics. In general regional economics deals with relatively large geographies and populations – urban metropolitan agglomerations or sub-national political units – states and provinces, where there are clear scale economies, complex economic systems, strong agglomeration effects and the concepts of macroeconomic theory prevail. By contrast, local economic development deals with small economies, but which can occupy large geographies in the case of sparsely settled rural regions. These local economies are small, open and specialized and the tools of microeconomic analysis are more relevant.

The topic is sometimes called community economics or rural development, but local economics seems to better capture the idea that we are examining why and how some small, semi-autonomous economies in the OECD countries grow and others do not. Most importantly, this is not a course in traditional development economics, which mainly focuses on the national economies of developing counties. There are however, important overlapping concepts, including theories and models of economic growth, but the main distinguishing feature is that the economies we discuss are embedded in a larger advanced market economy that conveys important advantages and disadvantages in growth opportunities and strategies.

The primary geographic focus of the course is the rural United States, although development issues and practices employed in other OECD countries, will also be studied. By rural we will mean both the open countryside and small urban centers. What constitutes a small urban center is an arbitrary decision, but in North America it typically will include all free-standing cities smaller than 50,000. The course mainly relies on the basic paradigms of economics, but includes theories drawn from public policy, sociology and other disciplines to develop a more coherent picture of the problems and opportunities in small regions outside major urban centers.
A central element of the course is an assessment of the role of public policy in the development process. Students will have the opportunity to examine the potential for development for a particular locality in Kentucky and develop a research paper that discusses how the opportunities and problems can be addressed.


Clemson University:  AP EC 412/612 & CRD 412/612  Regional Economic Development Theory and Policy

David Hughes

Course Objectives
By the end of the semester, the student should be knowledgeable in the following areas:
1. Economic theories explaining the location of economic activities and the growth or decline of regional economies (multi-state regions, states, counties, communities).
2. Consequences of regional economic growth and development in terms of the distribution of benefits and costs across space and among local interest groups.
3. Public policies proposed to encourage local economic development and influence the distribution of benefits and costs resulting from development.
4. Shortcomings or trade-offs inherent with alternative public policies for local economic development.
5. “Hands on” experience with data and theory in a “real world” case study for an actual client relevant to the course.
6. Enhanced understanding and use of computer-based software.
7. Enhanced presentation skills.


Mississippi State University:  AEC 6323 Applied Regional Economics, Distance Education

Rebecca Smith

Course Content: The disciplinary content of this course is consistent with the goals and objectives developed by the Department of
Agricultural Economics. This course will introduce you to the basic tools of regional economic analysis which support
community development decisions on growth strategies including opportunity costs; benefit-cost analysis; data
collection and interpretation; multipliers; trade areas; location quotients; shift-share; feasibility studies; and
economic impact studies. This course will give student the opportunity to apply the material to local communities in
Mississippi to deliver a relevant and accessible resource for local decision-makers.


Oklahoma State University:  Agricultural Economics 4723   Rural Economic Development

Brian Whitacre

Course Overview:
This course deals with economic and social conditions in rural areas of Oklahoma and the United States. It begins by describing rural areas and discussing patterns, trends, and problems in these areas. We review basic economic concepts that help in understanding and analyzing rural communities, and move on to theories of growth and economic development. These allow us to begin to understand how rural economic policy can be constructed and evaluated.

Upon the completion of this course, the student should be able to:
a) Understand and analyze conditions and problems facing rural areas;
b) Apply economic theory to firm location and regional distribution of economic activity;
c) Understand basic theories of economic growth;
d) Evaluate alternative policies and programs for rural development using economic concepts.

University of Wisconsin-Madison:  AAE /URPL/RE 520 and PA820: Community Economic Analysis

Steven Deller

The intent of this course is to expose students to economic theories and policies as applied to small open economies. Small open economies can range from urban neighborhoods to remote rural villages. Policy aimed at affecting economic change is a central focus. A particular emphasis is on application of the theories in real world situations. Theory helps us understand the complex and often confusing aspects of reality. Community economic development at its roots is truly interdisciplinary blending economics, sociology and political science to name the primary disciplines. In this course we will focus on the point of view of the economist.
You will notice that there is a distinctive domestic “rural bias” in this course and that is due to the nature of the instructor’s own research and Extension outreach educational focus. The concepts and ideas are not limited to rural communities. Indeed, one could almost do a word search and replace “rural community” with “urban neighborhood” and the logic of the argument will in all likelihood transfer. If your professional preference is to think within an urban setting, I challenge you to recast the concepts and ideas within an urban setting.

1. Gain a systematic overview of economic theory as applied to small open economies.
2. Develop a toolbox for analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the community’s economy.
3. Explore alternative processes for affecting change at the community level.
4. Improve the economic literacy of students interested in affecting change at the local level.

Kansas State University:  PLAN 699: State & Local Economic Development Policy

Katherine Nesse

Course Overview

This course is designed to introduce students to the practice of economic development. Students will become acquainted with the practice of economic development at the sub-national level through the study of how many different strategies have been implemented in cities around the United States. Students will apply these lessons by recommending an economic development strategy for Blue Township in Pottawatomie County, Kansas.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course students will …

…be aware of…

• several programs and strategies to accomplish a variety of economic development goals.

• several sources of funding for economic development.

• economic theory and how it applies to local economic development.

…be competent in…

• the details of proposing and implementing one economic development program.


 Colorado State University:  Regional Economics Economics 563

Martin Shields

Economic development is one of today’s most pressing policy concerns. Federal, state and local decision-makers are keenly interested in job and income creation; goals that are particularly important in rural and poor places. However, there are competing beliefs about what, if anything, government can do to foster local economic growth. Furthermore, there are often concerns that some “pro-growth policies” can have substantial negative effects on a region. In this course we will study regional development, looking at both its causes and consequences.

Theoretical and empirical regional development models will serve as the course’s base. We will examine how a region’s growth is affected by local characteristics, such as its endowment of natural resources and human and physical capital. We will also look at how regional growth is affected by technological change, the spatial concentration of economic activity, and national trends. Recognizing that non-economic factors can influence growth, we will carefully study the effect of public policy, institutions, law, geography, and culture.

Because growth invariably has “winners” and “losers,” special attention will be given to its distributional impacts. In this context, we will examine growth’s relationship with migration, unemployment, poverty, and other measures of well-being. Additionally, growth’s inter-relationship with the environment will be an important subject.

While the course will have a rich theoretical foundation, the course is really about policy. Accordingly, extensive time will be devoted to problem formulation and analytical methods. To this end, one of the primary objectives is for students to strengthen their ability to frame, analyze, discuss and argue “real world” issues, using both quantitative and qualitative methods. To further ground the class in reality, outside speakers will address current issues and challenges in economic development policy-making.

Due to the material, some classes will be primarily a “lecture,” while other classes will be discussion oriented. Regardless of topic or format, you are expected to be prepared! You will be evaluated based on two in-course team presentations, occasional homework assignments and a take home final exam. Pre-requisites include a good understanding of micro-economic theory and statistics, especially regression models.


Idaho: Regional Economic Development Theory AgEcon J486/J586

Philip Watson

This course focuses on the causes and nature of regional economic growth and development with a special focus on rural economic development and the role of natural resources. Students will learn to understand the underlying economic forces that are acting on struggling communities who are attempting to deal with broad economic change; whether they are agricultural dependent communities, commercial fishing dependent communities, or forestry dependent communities. While each community is unique; they face many common economic challenges.
The material presented is grounded in economic theory, but the challenges facing communities require literacy in broad range of approaches to regional economic development. Students in this class are expected to gain technical literacy and proficiency in the use of economic theory and language to address economic development, planning, and public policy challenges while also appreciating the relationships to other development approaches. We will discuss the importance of social welfare theory; the power and limitations of markets to organize an economy; the significance of institutions in a community; the role of space in regional economic analysis; the importance of community capitals, attributes, and assets; and we will emphasize the interconnectedness of all of the different segments of a regional economy.
1. Gain a systematic overview of economic theory as applied to small open economies.
2. Develop a toolbox for analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the community’s economy.
3. Explore alternative processes for affecting change at the community level.
4. Improve the economic literacy of students interested in affecting change at the local level.


Idaho: Community Economic Development Methods AgEcon 587

Philip Watson

This course is the second part to the Community Economic Development suite and builds on the Community Economic Development Theory course. This course focuses on the methods and tools employed by regional economists to analyze, describe, forecast, and make recommendations regarding a community’s economy.
1. Understand how to apply regional economic methods for analysis in community economic development
2. Develop a toolbox for analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the community’s economy.
3. Explore alternative processes for affecting change at the community level.
4. Improve the economic literacy of students interested in affecting change at the local level.


University of Wisconsin-Madison: Regional Economic Problem Analysis  URPL/Econ/LaF 734 

David Marcouiller

This course focuses on the economics of regional change. With equal emphasis on theoretical foundations and empirical applications, we will analyze contemporary regional economic problems. This analytical basis will then be used to understand, contrast, inform, and critique alternative public policy choices as they affect change in regional economic, social, and environmental conditions.

Course objectives/intent: Understanding regional economic theory, analytical techniques, and relevant impacts of policy are central to understanding local economic, social, and environmental problems. These three components (regional theory, analytic technique, and policy impact) provide the basis for key course objectives. At the end of this course, students will better understand the theoretical basis of regional science, be able to outline and apply basic regional analytical tools, and more fully describe relevant consequences of regional policies that target economic, social, and environmental change.

University of New Hampshire: Economic Analysis for Development, DPP 902

Jill Fitzsimmons

This course provides the practitioner with tools of economic analysis that are necessary for effective development practice. Economic theories and principles are examined in relation to development policies and strategies. We will draw upon both microeconomics and macroeconomics. The course explores how markets, property rights, social institutions, government policies, environmental conditions and cultural values interact to produce development outcomes. Domestic and international economic development issues that affect countries in all stages of development are explored.

• Master the language, theory, and tools used in economic development.
• Develop the ability to describe your community’s strengths and challenges in the context of economic development.
• Develop the ability to frame your project’s proposed impact in terms of economic development, for community members, policy makers, funders, and other key leaders.