MSc Development Finance

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Economic Analysis of Social Norms and Development

Course unit fact file
Unit code MGDI60462
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Why do people do what they do? Does individual behaviour and action depend only on what they think personally or does community and society have a role to play? This course will discuss the societal role in framing up individual or collective behaviour, how it impinges on health, education and welfare outcomes, and the associated policy response. In particular, it will focus on recent research on how existing norms, trust and population can influence individual and collective behaviour and the implications that these social aspects may have on development policy.


The course aims to:

  • Introduce students to the key issues on the economic analysis of social norms and development.
  • Provide students with a solid understanding on issues surrounding social norms, trust, diversity and public good provisioning and human capital.
  • Explore how these issues are related to pandemics and COVID-19 in particular.
  • Enable students to critically evaluate different explanations coming out during the entire course that are relevant in different contexts.
  • Assess alternate policies based on social norms, trust and diversity to improve educational attainment and health behaviour.


Topic 1. Social norms and behavior - Measurement and conceptualisation of social beliefs, norms and expectation and how they relate to behavior; relationship with pandemic compliance behavior (3 lectures)

Topic 2: Social Trust- concept, determinants and implications for economic development; relationship with pandemic compliance behavior and vaccination (2 lectures)

Topic 3. Social and ethnic diversity- Theory, measurement, empirical illustration of the effect of social and ethnic diversity on welfare outcomes; relationship with pandemic appropriate behavior (1 lecture)

Topic 4. Education- Non-market benefits of education that include changing social norms, related policies, behavioural economics of education (2 lectures)

Topic 5. Health – Mental health, chronic diseases and pandemic, bringing social aspects to health policy making in low-income countries,  (2 lectures)

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching will mainly comprise of lectures and seminars. The teaching material draws from a mix of theoretical papers and country specific empirical studies. Books and peer-reviewed academic papers would be used as reference along with short videos and policy reports.

The theoretical exposition and debates will be introduced during weekly lectures along with empirical application. In preparation for the weekly seminars (i.e., tutorials), students are required to go through the readings and review the theories covered during the lecture. There will be ten lectures and four tutorials taking place approximately every fortnight. This activity will involve discussing the findings of specific articles. This should improve students’ understanding of relevant ideas, key controversies and their application to policy issues.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Explain, evaluate and measure social beliefs and expectations.
  • Understand the different ways, population diversity might have implications on welfare outcomes.
  • Assess how social trust can be measured and understand its linkage with development outcomes.
  • Understand emerging issues pertaining to human capital in general (education and health) especially in the Global South that include proximate and isolate literacy, government interventions and mental health among others.
  • Relate some of these issues to their own understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Intellectual skills

  • Critically engage with different sets of literature discussing the social norms, trust, and diversity and evaluate the core debates.
  • Students are expected to learn measurement of social norms, trust and diversity.
  • Understanding emerging issues on education and health in developing countries.
  • Develop theoretical arguments depending on context of the study.

Practical skills

  • Based on diverse set of literature and countervailing theories on each of the topics, the student should be able to think and form precise arguments.
  • Use country/ region specific case studies to critically evaluate the relevance of these theories and arguments.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Write independent research papers, blogs, and articles or engage in consulting independently or as part of a team.
  • Analyse critically the success and failure of interventions in developing economies.
  • Communicate articulately on the topics covered to non-academic audience.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 60%
Written assignment (inc essay) 40%

Feedback methods

The module is assessed by a 2-hour end of semester exam and a 1,500 to 2000-word assignment. The former would account for 60 per cent and the latter for 40 per cent of the overall grade.

For the assignment, students will be asked to choose a country and answer questions that would require him/ her to review literature and think critically on the merits and demerits of the papers. Before submitting their report, students will be asked to discuss their outlines and ideas with peers/ lecturer/ tutor.

The formal feedback is based on the essay and end of semester examination. Informal feedback will be provided on a weekly or bi-weekly basis based on the tutorials.

Recommended reading

Social Norms and behaviour

Bicchieri, C. (2005). The grammar of society: The nature and dynamics of social norms. Cambridge University Press.

Bicchieri, C., & Xiao, E. (2009). Do the right thing: but only if others do so. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 22(2), 191-208.

Bicchieri, C., Das, U., Gant, S., & Sander, R. (2022). Examining norms and social expectations surrounding exclusive breastfeeding: Evidence from Mali. World Development, 153.

Bicchieri, C., Fatas, E., Aldama, A., Casas, A., Deshpande, I., Lauro, M., ... & Wen, R. (2021). In science we (should) trust: Expectations and compliance across nine countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. PloS one, 16(6), e0252892.

Das, U., Sarkhel, P., & Ashraf, S. (2020). Love Thy Neighbour? Perceived Community Abidance and Private Compliance to COVID-19 Norms in India. South Asia Economic Journal, 13915614211053928.

Bursztyn, L., González, A. L., & Yanagizawa-Drott, D. (2020). Misperceived social norms: Women working outside the home in Saudi Arabia. American Economic Review, 110(10), 2997-3029.

Gauri, V., Rahman, T., & Sen, I. K. (2019). Measuring social norms about female labor force participation in Jordan. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, (8916).

Krafft, C., Ragui, A., & Pastoor, I. (2021). How Do Gender Norms Shape Education and Domestic Work Outcomes? The Case of Syrian Refugee Adolescents in Jordan.

Kuang, J., Thulin, E., Ashraf, S., Shpenev, A., Das, U., Delea, M. G., ... & Bicchieri, C. (2020). Bias in the perceived prevalence of open defecation: Evidence from Bihar, India. PloS one, 15(9), e0238627.

Mackie, G., Moneti, F., Shakya, H., & Denny, E. (2015). What are social norms? How are they measured. University of California at San Diego-UNICEF Working Paper, San Diego.

Paluck, E. L. (2009). Reducing intergroup prejudice and conflict using the media: a field experiment in Rwanda. Journal of personality and social psychology, 96(3), 574.

Tankard, M. E., & Paluck, E. L. (2016). Norm perception as a vehicle for social change. Social Issues and Policy Review, 10(1), 181-211.

Thulin, E., Shpenev, A., Ashraf, S., Das, U., Kuang, J., & Bicchieri, C. (2021). Toilet Use is a Descriptive Norm: The Influence of Social Expectations on Toilet Use in Bihar and Tamil Nadu, India. India (October 2021).

Social Trust

Bargain, O., & Aminjonov, U. (2020). Trust and compliance to public health policies in times of COVID-19. Journal of public economics, 192, 104316.

Delhey, J., & Newton, K. (2003). Who trusts?: The origins of social trust in seven societies. European societies, 5(2), 93-137.

Delhey, J., Newton, K., & Welzel, C. (2011). How general is trust in “most people”? Solving the radius of trust problem. American Sociological Review, 76(5), 786-807.

Campos-Mercade, P., Meier, A. N., Schneider, F. H., & Wengström, E. (2021). Prosociality predicts health behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of public economics, 195, 104367.

Harring, N., Jagers, S. C., & Löfgren, Å. (2021). COVID-19: Large-scale collective action, government intervention, and the importance of trust. World development, 138, 105236.

Iacono, S. L., Przepiorka, W., Buskens, V., Corten, R., & van de Rijt, A. (2021). COVID-19 vulnerability and perceived norm violations predict loss of social trust: A pre-post study. Social Science & Medicine, 291, 114513.   

Kwon, O. Y. (2019). Social trust: its concepts, determinants, roles, and raising ways. In Social Trust and Economic Development. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Li, Y., Pickles, A., & Savage, M. (2005). Social capital and social trust in Britain. European sociological review, 21(2), 109-123.

Müller, S., & Rau, H. A. (2021). Economic preferences and complia

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 150

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Upasak Das Unit coordinator

Return to course details