Welfare Analysis and Measurement

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Stephen Jenkins

Dr Berkay Ozcan (OLD.2.32)


This course is available on the MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Columbia), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Hertie), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and NUS), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Sciences Po), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Tokyo), MSc in International Social and Public Policy, MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Development), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (LSE and Fudan), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Migration), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Non-Governmental Organisations), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Research), Master of Public Administration and Master of Public Policy. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course has no formal pre-requisites. Because the course is quantitative in nature, a familiarity with basic statistical concepts and basic calculus is useful but not essential.      

Course content

This course provides an introduction to the analysis and measurement of the welfare of individuals and societies, examining concepts, measurement and data, as well as providing illustrations. The aims are to provide an understanding of the main tools used to measure and monitor individuals and social welfare, and to develop skills for assessing academic research and official statistics (as produced by national or international agencies) and for undertaking one’s own analysis. The first half of the course focuses on univariate monetary measures of economic wellbeing notably 'income', and on the experience of OECD countries (especially the UK, EU, and USA), but the aim is also to place these in the context of developments based on other approaches and in other countries including middle- and low-income nations. The topics covered include measurement of inequality, poverty, and mobility; setting poverty thresholds and equivalence scales; data sources and their quality; empirical illustrations considering assessments of trends within countries, cross-national differences, and global poverty and inequality. The second half of the course broadens the perspective to consider a range of non-monetary, multidimensional, and subjective measures of welfare for individuals and societies. Examples include occupational and socio-economic status (SES), anthropometric measures, the Human Development Index and related indices of development, and measures of happiness and life satisfaction.  The second half of the course draws on the measurement approaches and data issues covered in the first half of the course, developing them as appropriate to the new settings.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and classes in each of the Michaelmas Term and Lent Term, plus a revision session in the Summer Term, totalling a minimum of 60 hours. All teaching – lectures and classes – is undertaken by the course lecturers. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online classes and ‘flipped’ lectures delivered as short online videos. This course includes reading weeks (without formal teaching) in Week 6 of Michaelmas Term and of Lent Term.

Indicative reading

Most of the reading for the course is in journal articles. Books providing overviews include:

  • Salverda W, Nolan B, Smeeding TM (eds) The Oxford Handbook on Economic Inequality (2009);
  • Foster, J, Seth, S, Lokshin M and Saiara, Z, A Unified Approach to Measuring Poverty and Inequality (2013; free e-book available) and; 
  • Atkinson A and Bourguignon F (eds) Handbook of Income Distribution Volume 2 (2015) and the earlier Volume 1 (2000).

A full reading list is distributed at the beginning of the course.


Exam (75%, duration: 3 hours, reading time: 15 minutes) in the summer exam period.
Essay (25%, 2000 words) in the LT.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: School of Public Policy

Total students 2019/20: 40

Average class size 2019/20: 13

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: One 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
  • Specialist skills