Facebook pixel
Foto sezione
Logo Bocconi

Course 2020-2021 a.y.


Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English

Go to class group/s: 31

ACME (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/03)
Course Director:

Classes: 31 (I sem.)

Suggested background knowledge

Basic knowledge of microeconomics and microeconometrics is recommended.

Mission & Content Summary

Government intervention in modern economies is ubiquitous and sizeable. As a crude measure, government revenues and expenditures in European countries account for 40% of GDP on average. Government intervention reduces inequality and promotes social mobility, but it also distorts market incentives and generates inefficiency. How to address this trade-off is in the hands of national governments, which act in a globalised world where labour and capital flows may limit governments’ room for manouevre. Understanding when the government should intervene, how it should do so and with what consequences is crucial to grasp how modern economies work. The aim of this course is to provide students with theoretical and empirical tools to analyse some of the areas of public intervention. During classes we will identify the institutional details which characterise a given policy; frame policy questions in theoretical terms; find the appropriate data to perform empirical analysis on the impact of a given policy and familiarise with the empirical toolkit that is used in this literature.



The course focuses on selected areas of public intervention, which are at the forefront of policy debate and academic research. We start from the observation that inequality is undermining political and economic stability and study the different angles from which public policy can tackle it. These include:

  • Education and skill formation.
  • Social security and redistribution.
  • Tax systems and tax evasion.
  • Gender.
  • International migration and the integration of immigrants.
  • Health disparities.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)
At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Recognise the main trends in public intervention in the economy.
  • Identify the main justifications for government intervention.
  • Illustrate modes of intervention in education, social security and redistributive policy.
  • Describe what motivates tax evasion.
  • Distinguish the various dimensions of inequality and discuss policy which can address them.
  • Discuss the fiscal impact of immigration.
At the end of the course student will be able to...

Address policy relevant questions by:

  • Identifying the institutional details which characterise a given policy.
  • Framing the policy question in theoretical terms.
  • Choose the appropriate data to perform empirical analysis on the impact of the policy.
  • Analyse and interpret the results of the empirical analyses.
  • Advocate for specific public policy interventions.

Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Group assignments

Group assignments are group presentations and discussions of academic papers. These are optional and students can decide whether or not to deliver group presentations and discussions as part of their exam in class/online.

The schedule for presentations and discussions, as well as the groups, are decided in class, depending on attendance and choices.

Assessment methods
  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)
  •   x x
  • Group assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)
  •   x x

    Two written partial exams or general, plus (optional) group assignment.


    The written exam aims at verifying that students are able to present theoretical models, to analyse and interpret the results of empirical analyses, and to discuss alternative policy reform proposals.

    Group assignments are group presentations and discussions. These are optional and students can decide whether or not to deliver group presentations and discussions as part of their exam, in which case group assignments are worth up to 3 points. The written exam is worth up to 30 points.

    Each group must prepare a presentation and a discussion of a given paper and deliver them in class/online. Should the number of groups be too large for the time slots available, a given paper will be assigned to two groups and instructors will select at random the group that presents and the one that discusses at the time of the presentation.

    Students must state by the start of the Midterm break whether they intend to give presentations and form/join a group. As soon as we know how many students want to give presentations, we will organise, with students’ input, groups and reading list. Group presentations are planned to take place during the last two-three classes of the course.

    We plan to allocate 40 minutes to each paper, 25 minutes for presentation and 15 minutes discussion.

    Teaching materials

    Most of the course is based on articles from scientific journals, working papers, lecture slides and notes. The compulsory readings are provided in the detailed course schedule and are divided by topic. All the readings are available on Blackboard for download. Updates to the reading list are possible to adjust to the pace of the class and will be promptly communicated.

    Last change 28/08/2020 16:36