Political Economy for Research Students

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Torsten Persson TBA, Prof Gilat Levy 32L.4.31, Prof Valentino Larcinese CON.5.02 and Dr Ethan Ilzetzki 32L.1.11


This course is available on the MRes/PhD in Economics, MRes/PhD in Management (Organisational Behaviour) and MRes/PhD in Political Science. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


MRes Economics first year core courses for Economics students, EC400 and adviser’s approval for Government students. EC400, EC411 (or equivalent) and course convener’s approval for all other students.

Course content

The course will provide students with the economic methodology and tools for the analysis of political decision making and its effect on public policy. We will consider how political institutions shape economic policy, e.g., how do institutions such as election, legislative bargaining, political parties or non-democratic regimes shape redistributive policies, fiscal policies, and the size of government. We will also consider how in the absence of institutions, political attitudes, beliefs and norms shape policies. The course will focus on analytical models and their testable implications.


30 hours of lectures in the MT. 30 hours of lectures in the LT.

This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 60 hours across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of virtual classes, live streamed (recorded) lectures, and some flipped content delivered as short online videos.

Formative coursework

Students will discuss papers in lectures.

Indicative reading

Political Economics by T. Persson and G. Tabellini (MIT Press 2000); Special Interest Politics by G. Grossman and E. Helpman (MIT Press 2001); Whither Political Economy? Theories, Facts and Issues, by A. Merlo, in Blundell, Richard, Newey, Whitney and Torsten Persson (eds.), Advances in Economics and Econometrics, Vol.1, Cambridge University Press, 2005; Tim Besley and Torsten Persson, Pillars of Prosperity: The Political Economics of Development Clusters, Princeton University Press Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2005; "The Economic Effects of Constitutions," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press; Positive Political Theory 1, Collective Preference, D. Austen-Smith and J. Banks , Michigan, 2000; Positive Political Theory 2, Strategy and Structure , D. Austen-Smith and J. Banks , Michigan, 2005.


Essay (100%, 2000 words) in the ST.

Essay to be submitted during the ST exam period.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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: Economics

Total students 2020/21: 4

Average class size 2020/21: 4

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information