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IFCO 2255 - Economics and Society

Type d'enseignement : Lecture alone

Semester : Spring 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English

Voir les plans de cours et bibliographies



Course Description

The objective of the course is learning how to use economics to understand situations that according to the common wisdom belong to the domain of other social sciences (sociology, political sciences, demography, criminology and legal studies). We will apply both simple economic theory and empirical analysis. The course does not substitute for the analysis of these disciplines but rather provides a complementary view on complex social phenomena.


  • GALBIATI, Roberto (Chargé de recherches)
  • LUCA, Mario (Teaching Assistant)

Course validation

The evaluation will be based on two tests: a) One take home (40% of the final mark): students will have to write a short essay (3 pages max) in which they will apply economic reasoning to a social situation we are not covering in class. The assessment will depend on the clarity and originality of the reasoning. b) A final exam in three parts (60% of the final mark) : c) A series of short questions on the material covered during the course. d) One or two questions in which we'll ask to apply economic theory to a situation not necessarily covered in class. e) One or two questions asking to comment some empirical result. -

Required reading

Becker, G.S., "Nobel Lecture: The Economic Way of Looking at Behavior",Journal of Political Economy, 101(3), juin 1983, 385-409

Additional required reading

Other readings will be communicated att he beginning o the course

Plans de cours et bibliographies

NOTE: Hereafter we report some of the readings that will be required during the course. An exhaustive list will be provided at the beginning of the course.

Session 1: Introduction: The economic approach to human behaviour.

  • Becker, G.S., "Nobel Lecture: The Economic Way of Looking at Behavior", Journal   of Political Economy, 101(3), juin 1983, 385-409.

Session 2: Introduction: From theory to data: Identification issues.   

  • Angrist, J.D. and Pischke, J. Mostly Harmless Econometrics. Princeton University Press Chapters 1 and 2

NOTE: the first two classes will introduce the economic approach to human behaviour a basic notion of causality necessary to interpret most of the empirical results presented during the course

Session 3: Crime and law enforcement        

  • Becker, Gary, 1968, "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of
  • Political Economy 76:169-217
  • Drago, F., R. Galbiati, and P. Vertova. 2009. "The Deterrent Effects of Prison: Evidence from a Natural Experiment." Journal of Political Economy 117: 257-280.                        –
  • Levitt, S. (2004). "Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors that Explain the Decline and Six that Do Not." Journal of Economic Perspectives 18(1), 163-190.

Session 4: Suicide, addiction and risky behaviors

  • Campaniello, N., Diasakos, T., & Mastrobuoni, G. (2014). Rationalizable Suicides: Evidence from Changes in Inmates' Expected Length of Sentence.
  • Cawley, J., & Ruhm, C. (2011). The economics of risky health behaviors (No. w17081). National Bureau of Economic Research.
  • Daniel S. Hamermesh and Neal M. Soss. An economic theory of suicide.

Session 5: Immigration

  • Borjas, G. J. (1999), "The Economic Analysis of Immigration", in O. C. Ashenfelter and D. Card (Eds.), Handbook of Labor Economics, Vol. 3A, Chapter 28, pp. 1697-1760, Amsterdam: North-Holland.
  • Card, D. (1990). The impact of the Mariel boatlift on the Miami labor market. Industrial & Labor Relations Review, 43(2), 245-257.
  • Dustmann, C., Glitz, A., & Frattini, T. (2008). The labour market impact of immigration. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 24(3), 477-494.

Session 6: Religion

  • Lannaccone, Laurence R. , 1998.  "Introduction to the Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, 36: 3, pp.  1465-1495
  • Ager, P., & Ciccone, A. (2015). Agricultural Risk and the Spread of Religious Communities (No. 0074).
  • Barro, R. J., & McCleary, R. M. (2011). Saints marching in, 1590-2009 (No. w16769). National Bureau of Economic Research.
  • Becker, S. O., & Woessmann, L. (2009). Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 124(2), 531-596.
  • Gruber, J., & Hungerman, D. M. (2008). The Church versus the Mall: What Happens When Religion Faces Increased Secular Competition?. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 831-862.

Session 7: economics of love and marriage

  • Black, S. E., Devereux, P. J., & Salvanes, K. G. (2005). The more the merrier? The effect of family size and birth order on children's education. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 669-700.
  • Brinig, M. F. (1990). Rings and promises. JL Econ & Org., 6, 203.
  • Rasul, I. (2006). Marriage markets and divorce laws. Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 22(1), 30-69.
  • Stevenson, B. (2007). The Impact of Divorce Laws on Marriage‐Specific Capital. Journal of Labor Economics, 25(1), 75-94.

Session 8: Social interactions / Peer effects

  • Manski, C. 1993. "Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: The Reflection  Problem." Review of Economic Studies 60: 531-542.
  • Mansky, C. 2000 "Economic Analysis of Social Interactions" The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 14, No. 3. pp. 115-136

Session 9: Incentives and social norms

  • Gneezy, Uri and Rustichini, Aldo, A Fine is a Price. Journal of Legal Studies, Vol.  29, No. 1, January 2000.     
  • Bowles, S. (2008) Policies Designed for Self-Interested Citizens May Undermine The Moral Sentiments: Evidence from Economic Experiments. Science, 320, 1605-1609.

Session 10: social capital

  • Glaeser, E. L., Laibson, D. I., Scheinkman, J. A., & Soutter, C. L. (2000). Measuring trust. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 811-846.
  • Sobel, J. (2002). Can we trust social capital?. Journal of economic literature, 139-154.
  • Akerlof , G.(1982) Labor contracts as partial gift exchange. Quarterly Journal of Economics.
  • Fehr and Goette, (2007)Do workers work more if wages are high? Evidence from a randomized field experiment. American Economic Review

Session 11: mass media and communication

  • Prat, A. and D. Stromberg (2011), The Political Economy of Mass Media. CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP8246.
  • Islam, R., S. Djankov and C. McLiesh (2002), The Right to Tell: The Role of Mass Media in Economic Development, World Bank Publications, Washington, DC.
  • Islam, R. (2010), Information and Public Choice: From Media Markets to Policy Making, World Bank Publications, Washington, DC.

Session 12: Civil wars and conflicts

  • Blattman C. et E. Miguel, "Civil War", Journal of Economic Literature, 2010, 48:1, 3-57.

NOTE: The first part of the course will show how the standard economic model and reasoning based on understanding the effects of incentives on human behaviour apply to the economics of crime allowing us to describe a complex environment and evaluate public policies. Then we'll discuss how new evidence and theoretical development helped to extend the standard economic model to situations where individuals are embedded in a social context where social norms and interactions matter for individual decision making. This part of the course will help us understanding how economic theory and applications evolve responding to challenging evidence. Moreover, the we will apply the standard economic model to some topic usually studied in other social sciences (in particular sociology and political sciences)