Public Economics for Research Students

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Johannes Spinnewijn 32L.3.24 and Dr Xavier Jaravel 32L.3.14

Dr Kate Smith 32L.3.16


This course is available on the MRes/PhD in Economics and MRes/PhD in Economics and Management. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

The course will cover the economics of the public sector, including material on taxation, public expenditures and political economics. The course, which covers both theory and empirics, aims to give students a broad overview of this growing field and bring them to the research frontier.

The specific topics covered may vary from year to year, but the following general areas would typically be included:

  • Income and wealth inequality
  • Behavioural responses to taxes and transfers
  • Optimal taxation
  • Dynamic taxation
  • Behavioural public economics
  • Social insurance
  • Optimal public good provision


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

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

This course is delivered through lectures totalling a minimum of 60 hours across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term. Attendance is compulsory.

Formative coursework

Students will discuss papers in lectures.

Indicative reading

Readings will be mainly from journal articles; a list will be supplied at the start of the term. Although the course will not be based on a textbook as such, it will make extensive use of:

  • Handbook of Public Economics Vol. 1-4 (A.J. Auerbach and M. Feldstein, eds.)
  • Lectures in Public Economics, A.B.Atkinson and J.E.Stiglitz, Princeton University Press, 2015.


Problem sets (40%) and exercise (30%) in the MT and LT.
Take-home assessment (30%) in the ST.

The assessment for this course is as follows:

1)    Four problem sets due throughout the MT and LT terms (40%)

2)    An "extended replication exercise" (30%), consisting of:

  • a written referee report on that paper (MT)
  • a replication of a paper (empirical paper or paper based on simulations), (beginning of LT)
  • an extension of that paper (which requires developing a research design, positioning the question of the extension in the literature, etc.), (end of LT, start of ST)

3)    A take-home exam in the ST (30%)

Key facts

Department: Economics

Total students 2021/22: 7

Average class size 2021/22: 4

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.