PP411L      Half Unit
Political Economy Applications for Public Policy

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Adnan Khan

Professor Andrés Velasco

Professor Vanessa Rubio-Márquez

Professor Lant Pritchett


This course is available on the Double Master of Public Administration (LSE-Columbia), Double Master of Public Administration (LSE-University of Toronto), 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), Master of Public Administration and Master of Public Policy. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


Students are expected to have done basic courses in economics. 

Course content

This course is designed to build an understanding of the nature and drivers of change in public policy and prepare students to develop persuasive policy recommendations. It will use political economy analysis and illustrate the use of the range of concepts and techniques from other courses in economics and political science in the diagnosis of policy change.

During this course, students will deepen understanding of the concepts and techniques presented in other courses and introduce additional concepts from political economy to augment the tools being taught in the core economics courses. In other words, this course will integrate powerful instruments from economics with the drivers of political decision-making to understand and interpret real policy cases and to explore avenues for policy change. A detailed reading guide will be provided before the first class.

The structure of the course revolves around comprehensive discussions on two major themes. These themes will be picked from topics including economic growth and development; poverty and inequality; the theory and practice of public policy. The faculty will discuss the theme from different perspectives in four weeks, and the fifth week will involve a panel discussion among the faculty with active student participation. Students will then write an essay on the theme for a particular context.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars totalling a minimum of 35 hours across Lent Term.  This year teaching will be delivered through a combination of online lectures with seminars taking place in person where possible and where conditions allow.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce an outline of their final paper in the LT.

Indicative reading

  • Acemoglu, Daron and James A. Robinson. 2013. “Economics versus Politics: Pitfalls of Policy Advice”. Journal of Economic Perspectives. Vol. 27, No. 2, pp. 173-92.
  • Besley, Timothy and Torsten Persson. 2014. “The Causes and Consequences of Development Clusters: State Capacity, Peace and Income”. Annual Review of Economics. Volume 6:927-949.
  • Andrews, M., L. Pritchett & M Woolcock. (2017). Building State Capability: Evidence, Analysis, Action. Oxford University Press.
  • Cristina Corduneanu-Huc, Alexander Hamilton and Issel Masses Ferrer. 2012. “Understanding Policy Change: How to Apply Political Economy Concepts in Practice.” Washington D.C.: World Bank Publications.
  • Andrews Matt, Lant Pritchett, Michael Woolcock. 2010. “Capability Traps? The Mechanisms of Persistent Implementation Failure”
  • Hausmann, R., Rodrik, D, and Velasco, A. (2008). Growth diagnostics, in Stiglitz, J. and Serra, N. The Washington Consensus Reconsidered: Towards a new global governance. Oxford University Press.
  • Timothy Besley, Robin Burgess, Adnan Khan and Guo Xu. (2021). Bureaucracy and Development. Annual Review of Economics. Forthcoming.
  • Parkhurst, Justin. 2017. “The politics of evidence: from evidence-based policy to the good governance of evidence”. Routledge Studies in Governance and Public Policy.


Two problem sets (60%) due in the LT.
Essay (40%) in the ST.

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: School of Public Policy

Total students 2020/21: 21

Average class size 2020/21: 21

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills