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BAEcon Development Studies and Social Statistics

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Economics for Public Policy

Unit code ECON20431
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by School of Social Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course aims to provide students with an understanding of the role that economics plays in helping to form and evaluate public policy. We will discuss policy current issues, with a focus on the role of economics in helping to provide evidence to inform policymakers and the public about the merits and likely impacts of different policy choices. The policy response to the Covid-19 pandemic will be considered in detail. We will highlight the way that economics can help us to better understand the inherent trade-offs that are involved in taking decisions over taxation, spending, and regulation. Emphasis will be placed on developing students analytical skills and the ability to apply economic tools to critically evaluate policy options.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Microeconomic Analysis 1 ECON10171 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Macroeconomic Analysis 1 ECON10181 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Microeconomics 1 ECON10221 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Macroeconomics 1 ECON10241 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Macroeconomics 1 ECON10252 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Microeconomics 1 ECON10331 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Pre-Requisite: (ECON10171 or ECON10221 or ECON10331) and (ECON10181 or ECON10241 or ECON10252)

(ECON10171 or ECON10221 or ECON10331) and (ECON10181 or ECON10241 or ECON10252)


The aims of the course are to:

  1. Explore the rationale for public policy interventions in the economy.
  2. Provide an overview of a wide range of areas of applied microeconomics used in public policy, including relevant historical and international experience.
  3. Provide an understanding of the policy response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  4. Provide an introduction to the evaluation of economic policies.


Learning outcomes

At the end of this unit, students should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the criteria for successful microeconomic public policy interventions.
  2. Show understanding of the reasons for the variation in policy interventions over time and in different contexts.
  3. Be able to evaluate critically policy proposals, including demonstrating an awareness of sources of empirical evidence.
  4. Be able to express clear arguments about policy questions.





  • We consider the size and scope of government intervention in economic activities; teh rationale for public policies and the welfare economics of government intervention.
  • We discuss poverty and inequality - one of the most obvious ways the state affects individuals’ economic well-being is by providing an economic safety net in the shape of the welfare state. We look at the government’s role in redistributing income both between individuals and over an individual's life time.
  • We discuss policies that aim to correct classic market failures such as externalities.
  • We consider the economics of several current challenges facing governments, such as an the Covid-19 pandemic, inequalities, an ageing population, problem drinking, rising obesity and other topical policy issues.
  • We discuss how we can evaluate the effectiveness of policy.
  • We discuss government’s role in production and regulation as approaches to achieving public policy aims in markets that are not perfectly competitive. We link the theory and history of the shifting boundary of state and private production.
  • Government failure - public policies aim to correct market failures; we consider the question of the boundary between market and state when there might also be government failure.

Teaching and learning methods

The material for the course will be delivered on-line through a mixture of videos, readings, interactive activities and guided self-reflection.

There will be regular opportunities to discuss the material with the lecturer and other students.

Students will be required to work individually and in small groups to prepare written and video material for weekly tutorial sessions. Students will be expected to actively participate in giving and receiving constructive criticism on tutorial assignments.


Employability skills

Analytical skills
Oral communication
Problem solving
Written communication

Assessment methods

60% final exam (essay based questions with short accompanying video)

20% policy brief (written assignment of 1000 words with accompanying short video)

20% tutorial assignments and participation


Feedback methods

Students will be required to complete a weekly online quiz which will include automatic feedback on material covered that week.

Students will receive feedback on short written tutorial assignments.


Recommended reading

Gruber, Jonathan, Public Finance and Public Policy

 •       plus various readings to be made available via Blackboard


Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 0

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Rachel Griffith Unit coordinator

Additional notes

For every 10 course unit credits we expect students to work for around 100 hours. This time generally includes any contact times (online or face to face, recorded and live), but also independent study, work for coursework, and group work. This amount is only a guidance and individual study time will vary

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