Course 2019-2020 a.y.


Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 31
DES-ESS (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07)
Course Director:

Classes: 31 (II sem.)

Class-group lessons delivered  on campus

Mission & Content Summary


The course is made of two blocks: Sociological Research and Institutions and Economic Outcomes. (1) Block I – Sociological Research (Instructor: Francesco Billari). This course aims to introduce students to the study of societies, economies, institutions and populations through a sociological research lens. Sociological approaches to social research are presented by emphasizing a theoretically-driven empirical approach, starting from John Goldthorpe’s idea of ‘Sociology as a population science’, i.e. that the basic targets of sociological explanations are population-level regularities, and that explanations should proceed through micro-founded social mechanisms. Furthermore, the course aims to promote a critical approach by discussing exemplar scientific articles on key social science topics. (2) Block II - Institutions and economic outcomes (Instructor: Carlo Devillanova). Why are some countries richer then others? While income and wealth inequality is increasing within countries, with some countries being more unequal then others? Formal and informal institutions are key factors in explaining economic outcomes. The aim of the course is to lay the groundwork for an understanding of the role of institutions in modern economic systems. The course starts by examining the so-called fundamental causes of long-run development (geography, institutions, and culture) and then focuses on the link between (formal and informal) institutions and macroeconomic outcomes.


  1. First Block - Sociological Research: the course is structured in a series of lectures on the population science approach to sociological research, complemented by readings on substantive topics. For what concerns the approach, three main interlocked streams are discussed:
    • Populations and empirical regularities, individual variability and methodological individualism.
    • Explanations and social mechanisms. The role of data and statistics.
    • Alternative approaches to sociological research. Methodological holism and the multiplicity of sociologies. Sociological articles discussed deal with topics such as:
      • Family and social reproduction.
      • Social stratification and inequality.
      • Religion and secularization.
      • Social movements.
      • Migration and residential segregation.
      • Diversity and social cohesion.
  2. Second Block - Institutions and economic outcomes: the course covers specific topics on the links between formal and informal institutions and economic outcomes:
    • The conventional theoretical framework used to identify growth-enhancing institutions.
    • Empirical evidence on the causal effect of institutions on long-term development.
    • Alternative approaches to study the relationship between institutions and economic outcomes.
    • The relationship between institutions, inequality and macroeconomic outcomes.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...

First Block - Sociological Research:

  • Be familiar with sociological research through a population science lens, as well as be acquainted with alternative approaches to sociology.
  • Understand evidence and sociological explanation for a range of important social science topics.

Second Block - Institutions and Economic Outcomes:

  • Discuss the impact of institutions on economic outcomes.
  • Acknowledge the different approaches to address the role of institutions in market economies.
  • Illustrate varieties of capitalism.


At the end of the course student will be able to...

(1) First Block - Sociological Research. After successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Read, discuss and criticize general-interest intermediate-level articles in sociology journals.
  • Have an introductory insight on how to start a new sociological research project.
  • Adopt a more critical approach to social science research in general.

(2) Second Block - Institutions and Economic Outcomes. After successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Explain the aims and limitations of simple measures of institutions.
  • Framing the policy question in theoretical terms.
  • Choose the appropriate data to perform empirical analysis on the impact of the policy.
  • Analyze and interpret the results of the empirical analyses.
  • Advocate for specific institutional reforms.

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures



Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)


  • Block I - Sociological Research. The assessment and final grade is based on a written exam, with no difference between attending and non-attending students. Written exams include a number of essay-style questions. Exams cover all topics of the course. Material covered in the lectures (including slides), in the textbook and other set readings may be included in the exam. A mock exam is presented and discussed during the last lecture.
  • Block II - Institutions and Economic Outcomes. The assessment and final grade is based on a written exam, with no difference between attending and non-attending students.

Teaching materials


First Block- Sociological Research: the course use a textbook:

  • Textbook: J.H. GOLDTHORPE, Sociology as a Population Science, Cambridge University Press, 2016. 
  • A series of scientific articles, which are listed in the detailed syllabus of the courses.
  • All course materials, including slides and readings, are posted on Bboard in advance of each lecture. A set of non-compulsory additional readings are also distributed.

Second Block - Institutions and Economic Outcomes: most of the course is based on articles from scientific journals and working papers.

  • The compulsory readings are provided during the course. A set of slides are uploaded before class and are compulsory material for the exam.
  • The slides also offer an extended, optional reading list.
Last change 05/06/2019 11:34