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Course 2020-2021 a.y.


Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English

Go to class group/s: 23

BIG (8 credits - II sem. - OB  |  6 credits SECS-P/06  |  2 credits SECS-S/01)
Course Director:

Classes: 23 (II sem.)

Suggested background knowledge

The exam code 30320 ‘Quantitative methods for social sciences - module 2 (Statistics)’ is a prerequisite of the exam code 30337 Policy evaluation

Mission & Content Summary

The course provides an introduction to the main tools used in data analysis and applied empirical research, with a focus on the identification of causal relationships. The methods covered in the course will enable students to investigate some of the most important policy issues facing modern governments and societies, and to assess quantitatively the effects of policy interventions implemented to tackle them. Examples of policy analysis that will be explored in the course are tax policy, social insurance, labor market policies and gender inequality.

  • Review of basic statistics concepts and the ordinary least squares regression model
  • Correlation and causality
  • The potential outcomes framework, treatment effects, and the selection problem
  • Omitted-variable bias
  • Randomized controlled trials
  • Natural experiments
  • Experiments with imperfect compliance and the instrumental variable approach
  • Regression discontinuity design
  • Panel data, difference-in-differences and the synthetic control method

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)
At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Formulate policy-relevant research questions
  • Interpret quantitative academic and policy empirical analyses
  • Reproduce empirical analyses
At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Develop an empirical research design
  • Analyze data applying the main technical tools of applied empirical economics and policy evaluation

Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Exercises (exercises, database, software etc.)
  • Group assignments

Students will work in team on problem sets and on empirical analyses of actual data using the econometric software package STATA.

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

    The final grade is based on group problem sets, a group presentation and a written final exam. Groups consisting of 4-5 students will be formed at the beginning of the course. This grouping will be valid for both group problem sets and the group presentation.

    • Group problem sets: problem sets will be provided throughout the course. Students are expected to hand in written answers to the problem sets. The problem sets are intended to test the students’ ability to apply the research methods covered in the course, by reproducing and/or developing empirical analyses. The exercises in the problem sets require the use of the econometric software STATA. The students’ ability to interpret the econometric results of their or other analyses will also be assessed
    • Group presentation: each group will present a research project proposal at the end of the course. The presentation format is an open seminar (of approximately 15-20 minutes) with Q&As from other fellow students and instructors. The group presentation is intended to evaluate the students’ ability to formulate policy-relevant research questions and develop a research design suitable for answering those questions
    • Final written exam: The exam consists of a set of closed and/or open questions. It aims to assess students’ knowledge of the methods covered in the course, their advantages, disadvantages and suitability to answer specific research questions. It also tests the students’ ability to interpret the results of academic and/or policy empirical analyses similar to those examined during the course

    The final grade is determined as the maximum between:

    • A weighted average of the final written exam grade (60%), the average grade obtained in all problem sets (20%), and the grade of the group presentation (20%)
    • The final written exam grade (100%)

    Students’ assessment is based on the final written exam, with the same content of the exam for attending students. The final grade is the grade obtained in the final written exam (100%).

    Teaching materials

    All the material relevant for the final exam is covered in the slides used in class, which are posted on Bboard. Slides and students' own notes will be the main reference for the exam. For this reason, attendance in class is strongly recommended. Additional reading materials are listed below. Further references to academic papers will be provided in the course syllabus. Neither the books nor the papers constitute material for the exam. Students are, however, strongly encouraged to read them, since the exam may require to interpret the results of empirical analyses similar to those presented therein.


    • Books:
      • J. ANGRIST, J.S. PISCHKE, Mastering Metrics, Princeton University Press, 2014
      • J.H. STOCK,  M.W. WATSON, Introduction to Econometrics, Pearson, 2015
    • Papers:
      • See list provided in the course syllabus
    Last change 05/12/2020 12:05