Module code: ECO3046

Module Overview

Traditional theories of public economics justify government interventions in the economy on the grounds of market failure, equity and/or political considerations, each of which can be examined theoretically and/or empirically. The module will discuss government intervention related market failure, social insurance and social security, and taxation. In the weekly applied lectures, we will derive testable predictions from the theoretic models and use journal articles to take those predictions to the data. The module will also introduce cost-benefit analysis as a means to assess and compare public investments and government programmes. The module is based on and makes use of knowledge acquired in previous microeconomics modules in Levels 4 and 5 and requires a good understanding of the applied econometrics learned in Level 5. 

Module provider


Module Leader


Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Workshop Hours: 11

Independent Learning Hours: 90

Tutorial Hours: 11

Guided Learning: 27

Captured Content: 11

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content:

Theory and empirics of externalities and public goods, with examples including pollution and climate change

Social insurance and social security

Unemployment insurance

Taxes, transfers and inequality

Incidence and efficiency costs of taxation

Labour taxation

Taxation of capital and savings

Cost-benefit analysis

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Online Scheduled Summative Class Test Online Class Test within a 4hr window 20

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy will provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to apply microeconomic analysis to topics in public economics and their ability to assess empirical methods to test economic theory.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • one MCQ class test. This will provide students with an assessment of their understanding of basic concepts, test the economic intuition we develop in the module and the understanding of the empirical literature

  • final exam, which includes a mix of questions, including mathematical questions and essay-style questions testing quantitative and critical reasoning skills, and skill in assessing empirical methods for public economics. The focus of the exam is on testing the economic intuition and the application of knowledge to new settings

Formative assessment and feedback 

Students receive feedback on their understanding of the content of the captured lecture content during applied lectures through the direct interaction with the lecturer. Students will also receive feedback during tutorials, where they are expected to discuss their workings of the problem sets. This discussion will be guided by the tutorial teacher; students will also be provided with stylized written solutions to the problem sets. Students will also have the chance to receive feedback on their understanding of empirical methods during tutorial classes. A self-assessment MCQ test will provide students with instant feedback prior to the mid-term test. Students will also receive individual feedback on their midterm exam.

Module aims

  • Introduce students to public economics and empirical methods in public economics.
  • Familiarize students with the research frontier in empirical public economics.
  • Enable students to derive testable implications from economic theory and test these in real world settings.
  • Provide students with tools to assess government intervention and government programmes, considering how their costs and benefits fall upon different groups in society.
  • The module will provide students with a skillset important in a number of professional settings, for example to transfer knowledge to new domains and applying their knowledge and skills in real world settings, contributing directly to the employability of students.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Understand elements of government policy towards public expenditure and issues around the sustainability of public finances and effects on distribution of income/ wealth. KC
004 Appreciation of the principles and practice of cost benefit analysis. KCP
002 Acquire practical expertise in evaluation methods applied to issues in public economics. KPT
005 Discuss Public Economics in writing and using maths and diagrammatic analysis. KC
003 Derive predictions from economic theory that can be tested empirically. KCPT
006 Improve ability to transfer knowledge to new settings and application to real-world settings KPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

Teaching and learning methods will include:

- Captured content theory lecture 

- Workshops (applied lectures focused on empirical applications)

- Tutorials (problem sets)

The recorded mini-lectures will cover theoretical microeconomic foundations of public economics and can be accessed one week before the face-to-face applied lectures.

Weekly assigned readings of journal articles should be completed before the applied lectures.

The applied lectures will explore the empirical applications and links to the theoretical lecture content, the focus will be on deriving and testing predictions from the theoretical models.

Students will be expected to work on their own or in groups on the provided problem sets before the tutorials. During tutorials students will discuss solutions with the tutorial teacher and they will receive verbal feedback on their workings. On completion of the tutorials, students will be provided with written stylized solutions to the problem sets.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: ECO3046

Other information

The School of Economics is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability, and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to enhance students' knowledge, skills, and capabilities in the following areas: 

Resourcefulness and Resilience  

Students will engage in the study of frontier research and learn to critically assess the adequacy of the empirical methods in answering a research question challenging their priors derived from theoretical considerations.  


A substantial part of the module focuses on issues around sustainability of public finance and the long-term sustainability of the financing of government spending and public debt. Empirical examples on market failure address issues on environmental sustainability, including pollution. Cost-benefit analysis pay particular attention to the distribution of costs and benefits of policies to different sub-groups. 


Students will build their ability to read and condense the content of journal articles, critically assess the methods employed, and develop an understanding of causal inference applied to real word economic problems. 

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Politics and Economics BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Economics and Finance BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Business Economics BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Economics BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2023/4 academic year.