Seminar: Topics in Political Economics

Course content

Political Economics addresses questions at the intersection between economics and politics. The field uses theory and empirical methods to explain variation in economic policies and other political outcomes over time, across political regimes, and across geographic units. The seminar gives students the opportunity to learn about and work with an advanced topic and research question of their own choice within Political Economics.

Topics and questions studied in the seminar might include:

- Electoral competition in representation democracy: Do public policies reflect voter preferences, and which factors affect the link between voter preferences and policy outcomes? Are certain voters or voter groups more influential in the political process, and why is that? Do voters mostly affect or elect policies? Does identity of the governing party or individual politicians matter for policy outcomes?

- Redistributive politics: What explains differences in levels of redistribution across countries and differences in support for redistribution across voters? How do voters form preferences for different tax policies and social policies, and how do these preferences affect actual policies? What is the role of e.g. the media, information, and behavioral biases in voters’ beliefs about the economy and formation of policy preferences?

- Voter turnout: Why do people (not) vote?

- Political peer effects: How are voters’ or politicians’ beliefs about the economy, their political preferences, and their political behavior affected by their peers? What is the role of e.g. social norms or information obtained through social networks?

- Political agency and selection: How do voters hold politicians accountable? How do they evaluate politicians’ performance, and to what extend to they vote in response to this? Is there a tradeoff between politician competence and representation in democracy?

- Political polarization and extremism: What are the sources of political polarization and extremism? How well do theories of cultural and social identity vs theories of economic self-interest account for variation in polarization, nationalism, and support for the radical right?


MSc programme in Economics

The seminar is primarily for students at the MSc of Economics.

Learning outcome

After completing the seminar the student is expected to be able to fulfill the learning outcome specified in the Master curriculum and to be able to:


  • Account for key theories and methods relevant for the chosen topic
  • Understand the literature related to the topic
  • Account for problems and applications from the real world that motivate the topic



  • Understand a new topic and identify key questions within that topic
  • Critically evaluate theories and empirical methods used in the relevant literature
  • Present and discuss research ideas and results within the topic
  • Communicate implications that the results might have for policy making



  • Plan and carry out an independent research project in Political Economics or a related field
  • Read journal articles within Political Economics
  • Give constructive feedback on others’ research projects in Political Economics or related fields

At the seminar the student is trained independently to
- identify and clarify a problem,
- seek and select relevant literatur,
- write a academic paper,
- present and discuss own paper with the other students at the seminar.

Mandatory activities in the seminar:
- Kick-off meeting
- Finding literatur and defining the project
- Writing process of the seminar paper
- Presentation of own project and paper
- Giving constructive feedback to another student´s paper
- Actively participating in discussions at the presentations and other meetings.

The aim of the presentations is, that you use the presentation as an opportunity to practice oral skills and to receive feedback at the paper. The presentations are not a part of the exam and will not be assessed.

The seminar project paper must be uploaded in Absalon before the presentations, as the opponents and the other seminar participants have to read and comment on the paper. It is important that you upload a paper that is so finalized as possible due to the fact that the value of feedback and comments at the presentation is strongly associated with the skill level of the seminar paper.
The teacher defines what materials may be used for the presentations.

After the presentations, you can with a few corrections improve the seminar paper by including the feedback and comments emerged during the presentations. It is NOT intended that you rewrite or begin the writing of the seminar paper after the presentation has taken place.

In case of a pandemic like Corona the teaching in this seminar may be changed to be taught either fully or partly online. For further information, see the course room on Absalon.

Students are expected to find relevant literature for their chosen topic.

References for basic background knowledge:

Political Economics: Persson, Torsten and Guido Tabellini: “Political Economics: Explaining Economic Policy”, MIT Press, 2000 (or 2002 paperback version).

Empirical Methods: Angrist, Joshua and Jörn-Steffen Pischke: “Mostly Harmless Econometrics: An Empiricist’s Companion”. Princeton University Press, 2009.

Some background knowledge of basic models and concepts in Political Economics is recommended, but not required.

BSc in Economics or similar

Schedule of the seminar:

Spring 2021:

• Kick-off meeting: February 9, 2021, at 10:15am-12:00pm.
• Project description uploaded: No later than March 1, 2021, at 10:00am.
• Paper draft uploaded: One week prior to presentations.
• Presentations: In the period May 1-23, 2021, exact dates agreed on at the kickoff meeting.

General information:

It is strongly recommended that you think about and search for a topic before the semester begins, as there is only a few weeks from the kick-off meeting to the submission of the project description/agreement paper.

There is no weekly teaching/lecturing and the student cannot expect guidance from the teacher. If the teacher gives a few introduction lectures or gives the opportunity for guidance, this as well as other expectations are clarified at the kickoff meeting.

All information regarding the seminar is communicated through Absalon including venue. So it is very important that you by yourself logon to Absalon and read the information already when you are registered at the seminar.

Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination
A seminar paper in English that meets the formal requirements for written papers stated in the curriculum of the Master programme and at KUNet for seminars.
All aids allowed

for the seminar paper.

The teacher defines the aids that must be used for the presentations.


Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Students are assessed on the extent to which they master the learning outcome for the seminar and can make use of the knowledge, skills and competencies listed in the learning outcomes in the Curriculum of the Master programme.


To receive the top grade, the student must with no or only a few minor weaknesses be able to demonstrate an excellent performance displaying a high level of command of all aspects of the relevant material.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Project work
  • 186
  • Seminar
  • 20
  • English
  • 206