Political Economy for Research Students

This information is for the 2022/23 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 Economics and Management, 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 – e.g., how institutions such as elections, legislative bargaining, political parties or non-democratic regimes shape redistributive policies, fiscal policies, and the size of government. We will also consider different aspects of selection in politics: who is selected to be a politician or a political leader, and how those selected use their political power.  In addition, we will study how political attitudes, beliefs, and norms shape policies. The course will focus on analytical models, their testable implications, and on empirical work relying on micro data.


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.

The 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

Political Economics by T. Persson and G. Tabellini, MIT Press 2002; Special Interest Politics by G. Grossman and E. Helpman, MIT Press 2001;Positive Political Theory 1, Collective Preference, by D. Austen-Smith and J. Banks , Michigan, 2000; Positive Political Theory 2, Strategy and Structure , by D. Austen-Smith and J. Banks , Michigan, 2005; Who Becomes a Politician?,  by E. Dal Bo, F. Finan, O. Folke, and J. Rickne, QJE 2017; Gender Quotas and the Mediocre Man, by T. Besley, O. Folke, T. Persson, and J. Rickne, AER 2017; Economic and Social Insiders, but Political Insiders, by E. Dal Bo, F. Finan, O. Folke, and J. Rickne, RE Stud (forthcoming),Identity, Beliefs, and Political Conflict, G.Bonomi, N. Gennaioli and G. Tabellini, QJE, 2021. Alesina, Alberto, and Andrea Passalacqua, 2016. “The Political Economy of Government Debt.” Chap. 33 in Handbook of Macroeconomics, vol. 2, edited by John B. Taylor and Harald Uhlig. Amsterdam: Elsevier.


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

Key facts

Department: Economics

Total students 2021/22: 9

Average class size 2021/22: 7

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

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