Preparation for a public policy degree

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 

on micro and 
on macro. Then I’d go on to the new (and free) CORE online textbook, Economics.

[amazon_image id=”0349119856″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Undercover Economist[/amazon_image]   [amazon_image id=”0349138931″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run or Ruin an Economy[/amazon_image]

Moving on from there, the undergraduate macro text I’d recommend would be 

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
, and there’s a recent edition.  The two new textbooks, 
, by Peter Dorman are an alternative.

[amazon_image id=”0199655790″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Macroeconomics: Institutions, Instability, and the Financial System[/amazon_image]   [amazon_image id=”0393935337″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Intermediate Microeconomics: A Modern Approach[/amazon_image]

However, one book I’d strongly recommend is the new Angrist and Pischke book,

. 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.

[amazon_image id=”B00MZG71MC” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Mastering ‘Metrics: The Path from Cause to Effect[/amazon_image]

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 

work well but they focus is very much on social policy. Parts of Joseph Stiglitz’s 
and Charles Wheelan’s 
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.


6 thoughts on “Preparation for a public policy degree

  1. Pingback: Preparation for a public policy degree | Homines Economici

  2. It’s not entirely an economics book, but ‘The Blunders of Our Governments’ gives a good recent history of public policy gone wrong – and might instill some necessary humility about actually implementing policies in the institutional context of where policy is made.

  3. Diane, since your correspondent plans to major in public policy, do you think books on public choice theory would be useful?
    And before reading stuff like Micro by Hal Varian I think it would be better if more “digestible” texts are mastered , like the ones by Mankiw and the books co-authored and Mankiw.

  4. This recommendation via Jennifer Miller on Twitter:
    @jmm140: @diane1859 I would recommend Lee S. Friedman The Microeconomics of Public Policy

  5. In addition to Tim Harford’s excellent “popular” books, these may also be worth considering: Steven Landsburg’s “The Armchair Economist”, and David Friedman’s “Hidden Order”.

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