Postgraduate course

Public Economics

Level of Study


Teaching semester


Objectives and Content

This is a graduate course in the principles of public economics and topics in public economics. The course will emphasize the combination of theoretical and empirical research. We will study the impact efficiency and distortionary aspects of taxation. We will discuss the government intervention in the context of public goods and externalities, including applications to specific expenditure programs and education. We will cover justifications for government involvement in redistribution and insurance markets. Optimal design of transfer and social insurance programs. Theoretical and empirical analyses of programs including cash welfare assistance, unemployment insurance and social security.

We discuss modern econometric techniques that allow assessment of how public policy affects individuals, businesses and society.

Public economics is a wide topic that in principle includes most aspects of the public sector. It includes topics related to:

  1. Introduction and methods
  2. Tax incidence
  3. Tax Distortion
  4. Optimal Commodity Taxation
  5. Externalities and Public Goods
  6. Taxes and Labor Supply
  7. Optimal Income Taxation
  8. Tax Salience
  9. Taxes, transfers and low income families
  10. Optimal Unemployment Insurance
  11. Education Policies

Learning Outcomes

A student who has completed the course should have the following learning outcomes:


The student

  • is able to read and understand reports and journal articles that make use of the concepts and methods that are introduced in the course.
  • knows how public policy affects economic behavior.
  • knows how to assess empirical research on public policy.


The student can

  • apply the theory to relevant policy issues.
  • can empirical assess the effects of policies.

General competence

The student can

  • follow detailed argumentation.
  • discriminate between valid and invalid argumentation.

Required Previous Knowledge

Students must have completed a Bachelor's degree in Economics or equivalent (subject to approval by the Department of Economics).

Recommended Previous Knowledge

ECON310, ECON330 and ECON340

Access to the Course

The course is oriented towards students in the Master¿s Programme in Economics or Professional Studies in Economics but is open to visiting students upon approval of student request.

Teaching and learning methods


Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

One set of compulsory exercises must be handed in at a pre-specified date (pass/fail). Approved compulsory requirements do not have time limits.

Forms of Assessment

4 hours written exam

Examination Support Material

Mathematical Formula Collection of K Sydsæter, A. Strøm and P. Berck or Mathematical Formulas for Economists of B Luderer, V. Nollau and K. Vetters and calculator. The following simple, non-programmable calculators without graphical display are allowed to be used for written tests:

All models of the type:

  • Casio FX-82, Casio FX-82ES PLUS or Casio FX-82EX
  • Hewlett-Packard HP30
  • Texas Instruments TI-30

The Department of Economics can conduct a sample of aids in the examination room.

Assessment Semester

Assessment in teaching semester. New exam the following semester only for students who have a valid document of absence.

Course Evaluation

All the courses at the Department of Economics are evaluated at the end of each semester.


Contact Information


Exam information

  • For written exams, please note that the start time may change from 09:00 to 15:00 or vice versa until 14 days prior to the exam. The exam location will be published 14 days prior to the exam. Candidates must check their room allocation on Studentweb 3 days prior to the exam.

  • Type of assessment: Written examination (New exam)

    10.02.2020, 09:00
    4 hours
    Withdrawal deadline
  • Type of assessment: Written examination

    19.05.2020, 09:00
    4 hours
    Withdrawal deadline