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Unit information: The Economics of Public Policy in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name The Economics of Public Policy
Unit code SPOLM1062
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Yiming Wang
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit examines key ideas from mainstream economics, their relevance to public policy, and their application to public policy analysis.

The unit also introduces alternative perspectives, such as behavioural economics, to complement the mainstream approach.

The specific topics covered in the unit include, but are not limited to, the welfare economics of market intervention, the economic critique of government, the marketisation of public services, the ethics and economics of public policy, and the application of economic thinking to practical public policy issues, such as labour market transition and minimum wage, transport infrastructure development and land value capture, and the financialisation of urban economy in general and the housing market in particular.

The unit seeks to set the economic approach to policy alongside other criteria that could be used to inform thinking about public policy.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, the student should:

  1. Understand a selection of concepts that are key to the mainstream economic approach to policy
  2. Identify key differences in the approach that mainstream and alternative economics take to assess policy issues
  3. Apply economic reasoning to practical public policy contexts
  4. Compare the economic approach to policy with other criteria that could inform policy thinking.

Teaching Information

This unit will be delivered in sessions of 2 hours. Some sessions consist of introductory lectures while others are organised as policy seminars made up of student presentations, discussions and debates.

Assessment Information

Students will complete one 4,000 word written assignment through which they will demonstrate an understanding of ILOs 1-4 (100%).

Reading and References

  • Akerlof, G. and R. Shiller (2010). Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why it Matters for Global Capitalism, Priceton University Press
  • Krugman, P. and Wells, R. (2013) Economics, 3rd ed, Macmillan
  • Le Grand, J. Propper, C. and Smith, S. (2008) The Economics of Social Problems, 4th ed, MacMillan
  • Stiglitz, J (2000) The Economics of 'the Public Sector, 3rd ed, Norton
  • Thaler, R. and Sunstein, C (2008) Nudge: Improving 'Decisions about 'Health, 'Wealth and 'Happiness, Yale University Press