Social Economics and Policy

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Stephen Jenkins OLD.2.29


This course is available on the BSc in International Social and Public Policy, BSc in International Social and Public Policy with Politics, BSc in Politics, BSc in Politics and International Relations and BSc in Psychological and Behavioural Science. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit. This course is available with permission to General Course students.

Places on this course are limited and priority is given to Social Policy students in the first instance. If places remain available once Social Policy students have been accommodated, they will be offered on a first come first served basis to students from outside the Department. 

This course is not available to third year students.



No prior knowledge of economics is required.

Course content

This course provides an introduction to the economics of social policy and the economics of income distribution. The course begins by introducing basic economic concepts and principles and discussing their application to different social policy areas, including childcare, education, health care, social care, housing and the environment. Key concepts include supply, demand and elasticities, externalities and market failure, private insurance and social insurance.

The course goes on to analyse the distribution of household income, poverty and inequality, labour market earnings, and unemployment. It covers concepts such as human capital and productivity, and labour market discrimination, and looks at a range of policies, including minimum wage legislation, taxation, and the social security system.

Throughout, the course emphasises the importance of understanding political goals in assessing the effectiveness or justice of economic and social policies, and seeks to encourage students to draw on both theory and empirical evidence in addressing its core questions.

The course uses charts but is taught without mathematics and is designed to be suitable both for students with no prior knowledge of economics and for those who have taken A level economics.

SP111 provides an introduction to the economics of social policy. We focus on real-world applications relevant to social and public policy and consider the strengths and weaknesses of conventional economic thinking. It is a full-year course. The course is designed to be accessible and stimulating for students of all backgrounds. We use charts and diagrams at times, but not maths or equations.


Courses in Social Policy follow the Teaching Model outlined on the following page: https://www.lse.ac.uk/social-policy/Current-Students/teaching-in-the-department-of-social-policy


All teaching will be in accordance with the LSE Academic Code (https://info.lse.ac.uk/current-students/lse-academic-code) which specifies a "minimum of two hours taught contact time per week when the course is running in the Michaelmas and/or Lent terms". Social Policy courses are predominantly taught through a combination of in-person Lectures and In person classes/seminars. Further information will be provided by the Course Convenor in the first lecture of the course.


This course is taught in both MT and LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to complete exercises as required for classes, and write three formative essays during the course of the year. 

Indicative reading

J Le Grand, C Propper & R Robinson, The Economics of Social Problems, 4th Edition, Palgrave, 2008

R Lipsey and A Crystal, Economics, 14th edition, OUP, 2020 (or earlier edition)

N Barr, Economics of the Welfare State, 6th Edition, OUP 2020 (or earlier edition)

H Glennerster, Understanding the Cost of Welfare, 3rd edition. The Policy Press, 2017

J Hills, Good Times, Bad Times: The Welfare Myth of Them and US, revised edition, The Policy Press, 2017

A B Atkinson, Inequality: What Can Be Done? Harvard University Press, 2015.


Online assessment (100%) in the ST.

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
First 30.4
2:1 55.1
2:2 14.5
Third 0
Fail 0

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2021/22: 29

Average class size 2021/22: 7

Capped 2021/22: Yes (28)

Lecture capture used 2021/22: Yes (LT)

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.