ECON 490 - Current Topics in Economics
Section: 101 Economics and the Markets for Human Beings
Term: SP 2008
Subject: Economics (ECON)
Department: LSA Economics
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
Enforced Prerequisites:
ECON 401 and 402 with a grade of at least C-.
Advisory Prerequisites:
ECON 404 or 405.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

How much are you worth if you die? Why do ova cost more than sperm? Is it acceptable to sell your kidney? These questions, while gruesome and perhaps unsettling to consider, address realities about markets today. In this class, we will work through the economics of pricing human beings.

  • How do markets associated with people arise?
  • How do such markets function?
  • What are the ethical questions associated with markets in people or body parts?
  • Where does the law prevent such markets? Where not?

We will discuss the actual pricing of human beings or body parts(as in slavery or kidney markets) and attempts to assign a value to a human life when an accidental death occurs (wrongful death). We will consider cost-benefit analysis, the role of standard economic analysis, the roles of altruism and the profit motive, and the consequences when certain markets for people, parts of people, or genetic components are allowed to exist. In our ethical inquiries, we will examine the ideas of repugnance and commodification. Among other topics, we will explore the international market for babies, the market for cadavers, and the markets for human organs, tissue, blood, sperm and ova.


  • Class participation in all class discussions. This class is not a lecture.
  • Class participation during presentations and problem solving
  • Acceptable research on the semester’s theme topics

This class will require multiple writing assignments. We will work together at every stage to improve the quality of your arguments and writing. Students may work together to acquire or set up a data set, work through the literature, and deal with research problems. The papers are individual projects.

The advisory prerequisite of ECON 404 or 405 is very strongly recommended for this class.

ECON 490 - Current Topics in Economics
Schedule Listing
101 (LEC)
TuTh 10:00AM - 1:00PM
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