ECON 504 Fall 2012 Public Economics

This class is about microeconomic and empirical analysis of government expenditure programs in developing and transitional countries. It provides tools for understanding the effects of government policies, as well as a useful conceptual framework for analyzing normative questions such as "what role should government play in the economy" and "what is a good policy?" The course begins by considering the efficiency of market economies, and rationales for government intervention in the market, such as public goods, externalities, information-based market failures, imperfect competition, and equity. We also consider ways that human behavior might deviate from perfect rationality, and what that might imply for policy. Along the way, we apply these concepts to various examples of policy issues, including, among other things, the environment, education, health, infrastructure, security, social insurance, microfinance, and aid to the poor. We then turn to the general question of how to make the government work better, addressing questions such as the following. When is it better to have the government own and produce things, and when is it better to privatize? What are the incentives of politicians and government employees, and how does the design of political and budgetary institutions affect the degree to which they serve the public interest? How should responsibilities be divided up between the central government and local governments, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of "decentralization?" What can be done to improve the delivery of basic services? For example, how might one address problems of corruption and absenteeism? Throughout the course, we consider examples of empirical research, and to facilitate this, we will occasionally introduce econometric tools that are particularly useful for microeconomic policy evaluation.
Class Format: lecture/discussion
Requirements/Evaluation: problem sets, one 3- to 5-page paper, one 8- to 10-page paper, midterm, and a final exam
Additional Info:
Additional Info2:
Prerequisites: Economics 110; in addition, an empirical methods course (Economics 253, 255, 510 or 511, or Statistics 346) must be taken before or concurrently with this class; undergraduate enrollment limited and requires instructor's permission
Enrollment Preference:
Department Notes:
Material and Lab Fees:
Distribution Notes:
Divisional Attributes: Division II
Other Attributes: INST Economic Development Studies Electives,PHLH Decision-Making by Institutions + Individuals,POEC Comparative POEC/Public Policy Courses
Enrollment Limit: 30
Expected Enrollment: 25-30
Class Number: 1518
ECON504-01(F) SEM Public Economics Division 2: Social Studies Jon M. Bakija
MWF 11:00 AM-12:15 PM CDE 1518
Course Search
Catalog Number:
Subject Attributes:
Enrollment Limit:
Course Type:
Start Time: End Time:
Instructor First Name:
Instructor Last Name:
Keyword Search: