Course 2018-2019 a.y.


Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 31
BIG (3 credits - II sem. - OBS  |  SPS/04)
Course Director:

Classes: 31 (II sem.)

Class-group lessons delivered  on campus


Prior background in economics is not required. However, familiarity with economic reasoning obtained from an introductory course to economics is useful. Conversely, it is requested a basic understanding of econometrics methods.

Mission & Content Summary


This workshop provides an overview of recent studies focusing on the distortions and the failures of the political arena, with a focus on applied studies and policy evaluations. The course covers topics as political accountability, populism, trust in institutions, corruption, vote buying, mafias, lobbying, political selection and media & politics. We discuss when and how contemporary representative democracies can fail in maximizing citizens’ welfare, exploring a selected group of recent case studies and evaluating some policy interventions aimed at reducing these failures: which policies can reduce corruption? Why don’t we defeat mafias? Why is populism increasing? How can we improve political selection? Does TV reduce civic/political engagement?


The course covers the following topics:

  • (Dis)trusting Institutions.
  • Populism.
  • Corruption and Accountability.
  • Organized Crime.
  • Selecting Politicians.
  • Media and Politics.
  • Lobbying.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Describe and Identify the main distortions and failures of the political process.
  • List and Explain the most recent methodologies adopted for policy evaluations in this research area.
  • Summarize the research frontier in key topics of politcal economics, with a focus on the failures of the political process.


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Express and illustrate an original research idea, related to one of the course topics.

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Guest speaker's talks (in class or in distance)
  • Individual assignments


  • Guest speaker's talks might include up to three in distance video calls with established experts in international organizations (World Bank, European Commission, OECD), ONGs or Think Tanks, involved in policy making and policy evaluations related to the course topics.
  • Individual assignments include an individual class presentation and a term paper.

Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Individual assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)
  • Active class participation (virtual, attendance)


I expect students to attend class and to participate to the classroom presentations. The main component of your grade (60%) is a term paper (~7 pages) presenting a fully worked out design for a research paper linked to one of the topics of the course. The remainder of your grade is determined by class participation (10%) and by one class presentation (30%).


The only component of your grade (100%) is a term paper (~15 pages) presenting a short fully worked out research paper linked to one of the topics of the course.

Teaching materials


  1. (Dis)trusting Institutions:
    • L. GUISO, P. SAPIENZA, L. ZINGALES, Civic capital as the missing link, in Handbook of social economics, 2011 (Vol. 1, pp. 417-480). North-Holland.
    • R.J. DALTON, The social transformation of trust in government, International Review of Sociology, 2005, 15(1), 133-154, 2005. 
  2. Populism:
    • R. INGLEHART, P. NORRIS, Trump, Brexit, and the rise of populism: Economic have-nots and cultural backlash, 2016.
    • Y. ALGAN, S. GURIEV, E. PAPAIOANNOU, E. PASSARI, The European trust crisis and the rise of populism, 2017. 
  3. Corruption and Accountability:
    • C.E. DE VRIES, H. SOLAZ, The electoral consequences of corruption, Annual Review of Political Science, 2017, 20, 391-408.
    • K. BASU, T. CORDELLA, Institutions, Governance and the Control of Corruption, Springer, 2018.
    • C. FERRAZ, F. FINAN, Electoral accountability and corruption: Evidence from the audits of local governments, American Economic Review, 2011, 101(4), 1274-1311.
    • C. FERRAZ, F.FINAN, Exposing corrupt politicians: the effects of Brazil's publicly released audits on electoral outcomes, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2008, 123(2), 703-745.
    • T. NANNICINI, A. STELLA, G. TABELLINI, U. TROIANO,  Social Capital and Political Accountability, American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 2013, 5(2), 222–50.
  4. Organized Crime:
    • P. PINOTTI, The causes and consequences of organised crime: Preliminary evidence across countries, The Economic Journal, 2015, 125(586).
    • P. BUONANNO, R. DURANTE, G. PRAROLO, P. VANIND, Poor institutions, rich mines: Resource curse in the origins of the sicilian mafia, The Economic Journal, 2015, 125(586).
    • G. DANIELE, G. DIPOPPA, Mafia, elections and violence against politicians, Journal of Public Economics, 2017, 154: 10-33.
    • G. DANIELE, G. DIPOPPA,  Doing Business Below the Line: Screening, Mafias and European Fund, 2018. 
  5. Selecting Politicians:
    • T. BESLEY, Political selection, Journal of Economic perspectives, 2005, 19(3), 43-60.
    • E. DAL BO', F. FINAN, O. FOLKE, T. PERSSON, J. RICKNE, Who Becomes a Politician?, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2017, 132(4), 1877-1914.
    • G. DANIELE, B. GEYS, Organised crime, institutions and political quality: Empirical evidence from italian municipalities, The Economic Journal, 2015, 125(586).
    • G. DANIELE, Strike one to educate one hundred: organized crime, political selection and politicians’ ability, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2017. 
  6. Media and Politics:
    • D. STROMBERG, Media and Politics, Annual Review of Economics, 2015, 7(1), 173-205.
    • M. ADENA, R. ENIKOLOPOV, M. PETROVA, V. SANTAROSA, E. ZHURAVSKAYA, Radio and the Rise of the Nazis in Prewar Germany, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2015,  130(4), 1885-1939.
  7. Lobbying:
    • J.M. DE FIGUEIREDO, B.K. RICHTER, Advancing the empirical research on lobbying, Annual Review of Political Science, 2014, 17, 163-185.
    • D. ACEMOGLU, S. JOHNSON, A. KERMANI, J. KWAK, T. MITTON, The value of connections in turbulent times: Evidence from the United States. Journal of Financial Economics, 2016, 121(2), 368-391.
    • T. BOURVEAU, R. COULOMB, M. SANGNIER, Political connections and insider trading, 2016.
    • J. BLANES I VIDAL, M. DRACA, C. FONS-ROSEN, Revolving door lobbyists, American Economic Review, 2012, 102(7), 3731-48.
Last change 04/06/2018 08:25