Short Writing Assignment #1







Economists conduct quantitative analyses to obtain key numbers, tables, and figures and explain in words what these results mean. These short writing assignments help you build an essential academic and workplace skill: writing.

In 150 to 300 words you will answer questions about an excerpt from current research.

This is a short writing assignment and is not much longer than the writing students have done in timed term tests and final examinations over the last five years. The substance of the questions in this assignment is very similar to term test and exam questions.

A key difference is that we expect you to engage in significant revision, which is essential to effective writing: good writing involves rewriting. A timed test/exam setting affords too little opportunity because of the timer and because answers are handwritten. This assignment avoids those limitations and gives you more flexibility: you have two weeks and you type your submission in Microsoft Word in Office 365 ProPlus.

Give yourself ample time to revise your first draft, not only so that it meets length expectations, but also for substance, clarity, precision, concision, and coherence.

A good suggestion would be to start by taking 30 minutes to type your first draft, as if you had a timer and it were a test or exam question. Step away. Reread this entire assignment, including the marking rubric, and then read your first draft with a critical eye and start revising. Come back multiple times to revise your writing and refine your thinking, studying the related course concepts where necessary. This assignment should take you roughly 2 to 4 hours overall.

See Section 12.4 of our syllabus.

How to Submit

You must type your submission using Microsoft Word in Office 365 ProPlus, which produces a .docx file type. Recall

x             Upload your .docx file to our Quercus site under Assignments: Short Writing Assignment 1. We use Turnitin.

x    Upload your .pdf copy to Crowdmark. PDF export is built into all the O365 apps. Either under “File -> Save As Copy” and specifying the file type as .PDF or via “File -> Export -> Create PDF/XPS File.”

Both submissions are required: failure to submit either or discrepancies between the .docx and .pdf files will result in an automatic mark of 0.


You must complete your submission – both to Quercus and to Crowdmark – by noon on Friday, November 20.

You can earn a small early bird bonus for completing both of your final submissions more than 24 hours before the deadline, which means before noon on Thursday, November 19.

There is a short grace period of 5 hours after the deadline but beyond that we do not accept late submissions: an automatic mark of zero.

There are no make-ups and no extensions for any reason.


No Collaboration, No Plagiarism

There is absolutely no collaboration allowed for any short writing assignments. There is not an academic integrity statement for this short writing assignment, but academic integrity remains critical.

Also, make sure not to plagiarize. An excellent resource is the U of T Writing Advice page titled “How Not to Plagiarize” by Margaret Procter. See

Marking Rubric

Marking TAs will be looking to see how well you answer your assigned questions.

While there are many factors that make writing effective, here are three guideposts. The second point is the most important of these three, but they are all interconnected.

  1. Identification and understanding of relevant course concepts: How well are relevant concepts identified and explained?
  2. Precise application and integration of relevant course concepts: How well have the relevant concepts been applied to the specific context? Are the concepts clearly applied (well-integrated) or are they discussed in a more generic manner with only superficial connections to the issue and context? Are the sentences precise in their meaning or somewhat vague or lacking in relevant numeric details?
  3. Effective communication: How easy is it for the reader to understand the ideas and train of thought? To what extent are the answers expressed in clear, complete, and concise sentences? Are ideas explained or is jargon overused? Is the discussion logically ordered? Are paragraphs well-structured with a clear topic sentence for each?

Understanding Word Counts

There is no fixed numeric deduction for being outside the word count requirement of between 150 and 300 words. However, submissions shorter than 150 words will almost surely lack depth and inadequately address the questions asked. Submissions exceeding 300 words are more challenging to read and comprehend and are less likely to be effective.

Questions for You to Address (one question with multiple parts)

Your short writing assignment should address the questions listed next. Review your research excerpts in the next section. Make sure to address all the questions asked: DO NOT offer a general discussion of the research excerpts, but rather DO create a coherent piece of writing that addresses all the questions asked.

Overall, how has the age composition in the U.S. population changed from 1999 to 2018? Why is it important to notice the change in the age composition when investigating the 0.038 difference between 0.643 and 0.604 – called out in Table 1A with a grey box? If we wish to hold age constant, which numbers should we compare, and which conclusions should we draw?

Research Excerpts

Consider an academic article “Explaining the Decline in the US Employment-to-Population Ratio: A Review of the Evidence” published in the Journal of Economic Literature in Fall 2020 ( (This case appears on Test #1 in October 2020.)

Excerpt (Abstract): This paper first documents trends in employment rates and then reviews the various factors that have been proposed to explain the decline in the overall employment-to-population ratio between 1999 and 2018. Population aging has had a large effect on the overall employment rate over this period, but within-age-group declines in employment among young- and prime-age adults also have played a central role.

Excerpt (p. 586-590): We begin with some basic facts about the trends in the employment-to-population ratio in the US labor market. Tables 1A, 1B, and 1C display simple tabulations for the overall, male, and female population ages sixteen and older, respectively, showing annual average employment-to-population ratios and population shares by age and education. The reported numbers are based on monthly Current Population

Survey (CPS) data for 1999 and 2018. [One of those three tables is on the next page.]