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Applied Economics

Module Code: EC4150

Module Title: Applied Economics

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

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 the main steps involved in applied economic research, using the subject of urban development as reflected in the housing market. Lectures covering seminal theories relating to city growth and housing markets will set the groundwork for applied research, which will focus on two major U.S. cities. Students will summarize the existing literature on the economic development of their city of focus and then gather and analyse housing market data for that city. Both these strands will be used to develop research proposals. Work during Michaelmas Term will be assessed through continuous assessment, involving both individual and group work.

In Hilary Term (Part B, Applied Urban Economics), we will start by exploring the theoretical foundations of agglomeration economies and empirical evidence. In other words, what are the forces that cause individuals and firms to cluster at high densities? Can we distinguish between different types of forces? We will examine the role of cities in economic growth and how urbanization processes in low-income countries nowadays differ from those experienced by now industrialized countries. We will talk about how transport networks shape the spatial distribution of economic activity. We will also examine how cities affect the environment, and how the environment influences urbanization. Across these topics, we will investigate the role of new sources of large datasets (often referred to as “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
  • Outline how urbanization processes differ across time and space and their relationship with economic development
  • Understand transport infrastructure policies and how to empirically evaluate their impact
  • Analyze how cities affect the environment and how the environment shapes city growth
  • Examine the use of big data in an urban context

Recommended Reading List

A full reading list will be provided at the start of lectures. Here you can find some general background readings:

  • 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.
  • William A. Fischel, Zoning Rules! The Economics of Land Use Regulation. Lincoln Land Institute, 2015. (In particular for Part A; especially Chapter 5, but also Chapters 1, 4 and 9.)
  • The Handbook of Regional & Urban Economics (In particular for Part B). Chapters are available at the following link, – this will act as a useful starting point for many topics.

Module Pre Requisite

EC2010 (old module) or EC2110 & EC2111 (new modules)

Assessment Details

The allocation of assessment marks will be as follows:

Michaelmas Term:

  • 20% for a literature review;
  • 20% for data collation and analysis;
  • 10% for a research proposal.

Hilary Term:

  • 20% for a course project in Hilary Term;
  • 5% for tutorial participation;
  • 25% for a summer examination.

Module Website