Yesterday I received this email request: “I am an undergraduate at … I was wondering if you could let me know which introductory textbooks you would recommend for micro- and macroeconomics in preparation for master’s programmes in public policy?”
The answer depends on whether or not my correspondent has done economics as an undergraduate, and the email didn’t specify. For an absolute novice in economics, I’d recommend starting with a couple of the popular books – I like Tim Harford’s The Undercover Economist on micro and The Undercover Economist Strikes Back on macro. Then I’d go on to the new (and free) CORE online textbook, Economics.
The Undercover Economist The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run or Ruin an Economy
Moving on from there, the undergraduate macro text I’d recommend would be Macroeconomics: Institutions, Instability and the Financial System by Wendy Carlin and David Soskice, recently published and addressing the challenges the financial crisis has presented to macro. On micro, I’m less sure. I’ve always stuck to Hal Varian’s Intermediate Microeconomics, and there’s a recent edition. The two new textbooks, Microeconomics and Macroeconomics, by Peter Dorman are an alternative.
Macroeconomics: Institutions, Instability, and the Financial System Intermediate Microeconomics: A Modern Approach
However, one book I’d strongly recommend is the new Angrist and Pischke book, Mastering Metrics. It’s very clear, the technical material is cordoned off and can be skipped if not needed, and the empirical nous is a great foundation for a public policy course. It’s micro-focused, not covering any time series/macro econometrics at all.
Mastering ‘Metrics: The Path from Cause to Effect
Finally, I’ve been looking at public policy economics texts for the undergraduate course I now teach, and haven’t found the perfect text. Some chapters from the LeGrand, Smith and Propper book The Economics of Social Problems work well but they focus is very much on social policy. Parts of Joseph Stiglitz’s Economics of the Public Sector and Charles Wheelan’s Introduction to Public Policy are also very useful. None of them is entirely the right shape for my purposes but the latter two would be a good overview for a public policy course.
Those are my suggestions – others welcome in comments.