Public Economics

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Frank Cowell 32L.2.25A, Prof Henrik Kleven 32L.3.16 and Dr Johannes Spinnewijn 32L.3.24


This course is available on the MPA in European Public and Economic Policy, MPA in International Development, MPA in Public Policy and Management, MPA in Public and Economic Policy, MPA in Public and Social Policy, MSc in Econometrics and Mathematical Economics, MSc in Economics, MSc in Economics (2 Year Programme), MSc in Environmental Economics and Climate Change, MSc in International Health Policy, MSc in International Health Policy (Health Economics) and Master of Laws. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


Students must have completed Introductory Course in Mathematics and Statistics (EC400).

In very exceptional circumstances, students may take this course without EC400 provided they meet the necessary requirements and have received approval from the course conveners (via a face to face meeting), the MSc Economics Programme Director and their own Programme Director. Contact the Department of Economics for more information (

Course content

A graduate course in (i) the principles of public economics and (ii) selected topics in public economics. Principles of public economics Welfare analysis; concepts of fairness, equity and efficiency; social welfare. Policy design: social insurance, income taxation. Taxation; household and firm behaviour. Public goods, externalities and environmental policy. Behavioural public economics, including implications for welfare analysis and savings policy. Selected topics in public economics such as behavioural responses to taxation; empirical strategies in public economics; poverty, inequality and optimal low-income support; compliance problems; inheritance and wealth taxation; global public finance and fiscal governance; political economics.


20 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the MT. 20 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

Two marked assignments per term.

Indicative reading

Most of the readings will be in the form of journal articles, but some use will also be made of the following texts: A Auerbach & M S Feldstein (Eds), Handbook of Public Economics, Vols I-III, North-Holland; A B Atkinson & J E Stiglitz, Lectures on Public Economics, McGraw-Hill, 1980; G Myles, Public Economics, Cambridge University Press, 1995.


Exam (25%, duration: 2 hours) in the LT week 0.
Exam (25%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (50%, 6000 words) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: Economics

Total students 2015/16: 12

Average class size 2015/16: 12

Controlled access 2015/16: Yes

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information