Social Economics and Policy

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Kitty Stewart OLD 2.36


This course is compulsory on the BSc in Social Policy, BSc in Social Policy and Economics, BSc in Social Policy and Sociology and BSc in Social Policy with Government. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Places on this course are limited to 45 and priority is given to Social Policy students in the first instance. If places remain available once Social Policy students have been accommodated, they will be offered on a first come first served basis to students from outside the Department. If you would like to take SA104 as an outside option, please contact the Undergraduate Programme Manager who will be able to advise you on availability (contact details available on the Social Policy web pages).

This course is not available to third year students.


No prior knowledge of economics is required.

Course content

This course has two parts. The first part introduces basic economic concepts and principles and discusses their application to  different social policy areas. It covers the concepts of supply and demand, externalities and market failure, private insurance and social insurance, and quasi-markets, and looks at the economics of health care, social care, housing, education and the environment. The second part analyses the distribution of household income and the drivers of poverty and inequality, including unemployment, low wages and wage inequality. It covers concepts of human capital and productivity and looks at a range of policy responses, including minimum wage legislation, trade union policy, government economic management, taxation and the social security system. 


10 hours of lectures and 9 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 1 hour of classes in the ST.

Formative coursework

Four formative essays will be required during the year, and students will be expected to make at least two presentations to the class.

Indicative reading

J Le Grand, C Propper & R Robinson, The Economics of Social Problems, Fourth Edition, Palgrave, 2008; A B Atkinson, N Barr, Economics of the Welfare State, Fifth Edition, OUP 2012; J Le Grand, The Other Invisible Hand Delivering Public Services through Choice and Competition, Princeton, 2007; H Glennerster, Understanding the Finance of Welfare. The Policy Press, 2009; J Hills, Inequality and the State, OUP, 2004; J Hills, Good Times, Bad Times: The Welfare Myth of Them and US, The Policy Pres, 2014; A B Atkinson, Inequality: What Can Be Done? Harvard University Press, 2015.


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.

Student performance results

(2013/14 - 2015/16 combined)

Classification % of students
First 10.6
2:1 74.2
2:2 10.6
Third 1.5
Fail 3

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2015/16: 35

Average class size 2015/16: 12

Capped 2015/16: Yes (45)

Lecture capture used 2015/16: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course survey results

(2014/15 - 2015/16 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 95%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Lectures (Q2.5)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)