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EC270: Public Finance


Course Content

This course provides a broad, up-to-date introduction to the economic analysis of public policy issues. The focus of the course, which draws on microeconomic theory, is on the development of analytical tools and their application to key policy issues relating to the spending, taxing and financing activities of government. Particular emphasis is given to recent developments in public economics, including findings from recent research, in areas such as behavioural public economics, new empirical methods and policy innovations.

The first part of the course presents a brief overview of the role of government. The second part examines issues relating to welfare analysis, social insurance and pensions. The third section assesses tax policy and its impact on individuals and companies, while the final part explores the issues of privatisation, outsourcing and the proper scope of government.

Topics covered include:

  • Equity, efficiency and the role of the state
  • Behavioural public economics
  • Market failure and social insurance
  • The pensions "crisis" and savings policy
  • Reforming welfare systems
  • The impact of tax incentives and welfare-to-work schemes on unemployment
  • Tax incentives and investment, including cross-border investment
  • Optimal taxation and tax evasion
  • Globalisation and tax policy
  • Climate change policy: taxes versus emissions trading
  • Rethinking the scope of government.


This course is not based on a single text. Students are, however, encouraged to purchase Jonathan Gruber (2011) Public Finance and Public Policy, 3rdedition, Worth Publishers, which is used throughout the course, and perhaps also Nicholas Barr (2012) The Economics of the Welfare State, (5th ed.), Oxford University Press, to which frequent reference is made in parts 1 and 2. Copies of Gruber and Barr are available in the Library Course Collection. The course readings also include journal articles and working papers, almost all of which can be accessed electronically. A course pack of key articles is provided.

*A more detailed reading list will be supplied prior to the start of the programme

**Course content, faculty and dates may be subject to change without prior notice



Dates:  To be confirmed

Dr Camille Landais
Dr Gabriel Zucman 

Level: 200 level

Fees: Click here for information

Prerequisites: Introductory microeconomics

Lectures: 36 hours 

Classes: 18 hours

Assessment*: Two written examinations plus written work

Typical credit**: 3 credits (US) 7.5 ECTS points (EU)

How to apply?

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*assessment is optional – see FAQs

**You will need to check with your home institution. Read more about credit transfer here.