Public Economics

Postgraduate course

Course description

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.

ECTS Credits


Level of Study


Semester of Instruction

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
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap
Access to the Course
The course is oriented towards students in the Master`s Programme in Economics, Professional Studies in Economics or Master's Programme in Information Technology and Economics but is open to visiting students upon approval of student request.
Teaching and learning methods
Compulsory Assignments and Attendance
Forms of Assessment

Portfolio assessment with overall grade assessment. 

  • Individual assignment (40%)
  • Individual 2-hour exam (60%)

The exam will be given in the language in which the course is taught. 
The exam can be submitted in English. It is also possible to submit in Norwegian, Swedish or Danish.

Grading Scale
Assessment Semester

Assessment in teaching semester.

Regarding re-sit exam


Students with valid absence as defined in UiB's study regulations § 5-5 can apply for an extension of the submission deadline on the written essay by emailing The application must be submitted before the deadline for submission has expired.

School exam

A re-sit exam is arranged for students with valid absence at school exam given that the essay has been submitted according to § 5-5.

If a resit exam is arranged, it is available for students with the following results/absences:

  • Medical certificate/valid absence
  • Interrupted exam

If you have the right to take a resit exam and a resit exam is arranged for students with valid absence, you can register yourself in StudentWeb after January 15th/August 1st.

Reading List
The reading list will be ready before 1 July for the autumn semester and 1 December for the spring semester.
Course Evaluation
All courses are evaluated according to UiB's system for quality assurance of education.
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.
  • Simple, non-programmable calculators without graphical display, in accorance with university guidelines.
  • The Department of Economics can conduct a sample of aids in the examination room.