PB454E      Half Unit
Policy Appraisal and Ethics

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Paul Dolan


This course is available on the Executive MSc in Behavioural Science. This course is not available as an outside option.

This course is one of two options.

Course content

This course aims to introduce students to the main concepts and tools of policy appraisal and yield insight into key moral and political values that are essential for policy-makers when they draw on behavioural science. The course covers the following topics: 1) Architecture of Cost-benefit analysis for market and non-market goods; 2) Elicitation of monetary values through revealed and stated preference methods, and adjustments for time discounting, risk and uncertainty; 3) Welfare analysis of policy interventions: efficiency, equity and asymmetric paternalism; 4) Evaluating welfare beyond monetary choices: the subjective well-being approach to valuation; 5) Moral problems associated with libertarian paternalism or Nudge, and how this approach compares to other policy mechanisms, such as regulation, taxation and subsidies, and social advertisement. The course offers practical examples and applications to key policy sectors, such as health and the environment.


17 hours and 30 minutes of lectures and 5 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 piece of coursework in the LT.

Indicative reading

• HM Treasury (2011) The Green Book: Appraisal and policy evaluation in central government. London, UK.

• Gruber J. and Koszegi B. (2008) A Modern Economic View of Tobacco Taxation. Paris: International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.

•  Cohen P., Hahn R., Hall J., Levitt S., and Metcalfe R. (2016) Using Big Data to Estimate Consumer Surplus: The Case of Uber, NBER Working Paper.

•  Gibbons S. and Machin S. (2003) Valuing English Primary Schools. Journal of Urban Economics, 53, 197-219.

•  Atkinson G. et al. (2008). Are We Willing to Pay Enough to ‘Back the Bid’? Urban Studies, 45, 419-444.

•  Carson, R. (2012). Contingent Valuation: A Practical Alternative When Prices Aren’t Available. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 26, 27-42.

• Diamond P.A. and Hausman J.A. (1994), “Contingent valuation: Is some number better than no number?” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 8: 45-64.

•  Dolan P. (2011). Thinking about health and valuing QALYs. Health Economics, 20, 1407- 1416.

•  Dolan P. & Kahneman D. (2008) Interpretations of utility and their implications for the valuation of health. Economic Journal, 118, 215-234.

•  Gruber, J.H., and Mullainathan S. (2005), “Do Cigarette Taxes Make Smokers Happier?”, B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy: Advances 5 (1): 1-43.

• Bovens, L. (2008) The Ethics of Nudge. In: Grune-Yanoff, Till and Hansson, Sven Ove (eds.) Preference Change: Approaches from Philosophy, Economics and Psychology. Theory and Decision Library. A (42).  Springer, 207-19.

• Wolff, J. (2011) Ethics and Public Policy: A Philosophical Inquiry. Routledge.


Coursework (100%, 4000 words) in the ST.

Student performance results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 31
Merit 68.1
Pass 0.9
Fail 0

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2017/18: Unavailable

Average class size 2017/18: Unavailable

Controlled access 2017/18: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills