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Applied Economics

Module Code: EC4150

Module Title: Applied Economics

  • ECTS Weighting: 15
  • Semester/Term Taught: Michaelmas + Hilary Term
  • Contact Hours: 40 hours of lectures and 10 hours of tutorials
  • Module Personnel: Lecturers - Professor Ronan Lyons / Professor Martina Kirchberger

Module Content

Overall, this module examines one of the most striking features of the world: cities. Cities account for a tiny fraction of land use but over half the world's population and almost all economic activity. They are at the heart of economic growth and development: the wealthier we have become, the more important cities have become. Therefore, as researchers and policymakers, we need to understand cities and the forces of agglomeration and clustering that sustain them.

During Michaelmas Term (Part A, Urban Development & Housing Markets), students will be introduced to seminal theories relating to city size and growth, and relating to housing markets. This will set the groundwork for applied research, focusing on two major cities. Working individually and in groups, students will summarize the existing literature on the economic development of both cities and phases and turning points in the cities’ development. Students will use this to identify research questions and then gather the data required to answer these questions. There will be a heavy emphasis on continuous assessment and collaborative work during Michaelmas Term.

During Hilary Term (Part B, Applied Urban Economics), students will explore the theoretical foundations of agglomeration economies and empirical evidence. We will examine how (dis)amenties shape individual’s location choices across space and cover urban transport infrastructure. Further, we will discuss the role of cities in development, compare urbanization processes across time and space, and identify the role of big data in an urban context.

No prior knowledge of econometrics is required for this module. However, a willingness to learn how to read, understand and critique academic papers is.

Learning Outcomes

Part A – Urban Development & Housing Markets (Ronan Lyons)
Students that successfully complete this module will be able to:

  • Discuss the key theories and empirical facts around city growth and housing markets
  • Summarize the principal phases and turning points in a city’s development
  • Outline the key forces at work in shaping a city over time
  • Identify research questions to develop policy lessons from past episodes of a city’s growth
  • Gather relevant data to answer the research question

Part B –Applied Urban Economics (Martina Kirchberger)
Having successfully completed this module, students will be able to:

  • Discuss the theoretical foundations of agglomeration economies and empirical evidence
  • Analyze urban (dis)amenities
  • Understand transport infrastructure policies and how to empirically evaluate their impact
  • Outline how cities differ across time and space and their relationship with economic development
  • Examine the use of big data in an urban context

Recommended Reading List

Part A
A full reading list will be provided at the start of lectures. Some general readings, largely in book form, are provided below.

  • Janet Abu-Lughod, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles: America's Global Cities. University of Minnesota Press, 1999.
  • William A. Fischel, Zoning Rules! The Economics of Land Use Regulation. Lincoln Land Institute, 2015. (Especially Chapter 5, but also Chapters 1, 4 and 9.)
  • Ed Glaeser, Triumph of the City. Penguin, 2011.
  • Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961.
  • Rosenthal, Stuart S., and William C. Strange. 'Evidence on the nature and sources of agglomeration economies.' Handbook of regional and urban economics 4 (2004): 2119-2171.

Part B
A full reading list will be provided at the start of lectures. The Handbook of Regional & Urban Economics – whose chapters are available at the following link, – will act as a useful starting point for many topics.

Module Pre Requisite


Assessment Details

The allocation of assessment marks will be as follows:

  • 40% for continuous assessment in Michaelmas Term, based around a literature review (and associated class presentations), a research proposal, dataset construction and analysis;
  • 15% for a course project in Hilary Term, which can be any one of the following:

(i) two referee reports on a paper published in the past five years in a top journal, agreed upon with the instructor;


(ii) one research proposal for an original paper;


(iii) one policy proposal for a specific city or set of cities.

  • 45% for a summer examination.

Module Website