Benoît Cœuré and Adrien Lorenceau

2013 syllabus with downloadable lectures


Level: Graduate. Number of hours: 36. ECTS credits: 5. Teaching is in English and located at Sciences Po Paris, rue Saint Guillaume.

This course is part of the master "Economics and Public Policy" jointly managed by Ecole polytechnique, ENSAE and Sciences Po.


This course illustrates how economic theory can shed light on public decision-making and provide a structured approach to some of today’s key economic policy discussions, with a focus on France and the European Union.

Textbook: Economic Policy: Theory and Practice, by Agnès Bénassy-Quéré, Benoît Cœuré, Pierre Jacquet and Jean Pisani-Ferry, released in 2010 by Oxford University Press. French version: Politique Economique, De Boeck, 2010. Note that the two books differ to some extent. In particular, the French version includes a chapter on employment policies which is not in the US version, whereas the latter includes a chapter on the financial crisis that is not in the former.

The course is organized as a seminar and relies heavily on student participation. It is divided into nine sessions. The first seven sessions (except the first one for practical reasons) will be dedicated to a particular policy domain (see the syllabus) and divided into two parts:

-        A three-hour introductory lecture delivered by the teacher;

-        A one-hour conférence de méthode with a presentation by a group of students of either (1) a landmark academic paper,or (2) a topical policy issue.

The last two sessions will be exclusively dedicated to presentations from students following the procedure described above.

The rules of the game are the following. There will be groups of two or three, depending on the total number of students. Each group will present a theoretical paper or a policy issue during one class. The presentation should last no more than 30’ and be supported by a PowerPoint or equivalent handout. It is recommended that each group provides the necessary number of printed copies for the other students and the teacher to take home. All students are expected to participate in the general discussion and will be rated accordingly.

Article presentations

The teachers can provide the articles in case they are not available at the library or on the Internet. In their presentation, students should:

-        introduce the article’s background and rationale: new explanation of already-known economic facts, theoretical controversy, access to new empirical data…

-        detail the author’s goal and methodology: modeling strategy, main assumptions, outline of the demonstration;

-     put the article into perspective, and discuss with a critical mind the significance and originality of the results, the realism of the assumptions, parsimoniousness of the modeling technique, etc.

Policy presentations

They will be rooted in empirical and institutional facts, but they should nevertheless be problematic and make reference to theoretical arguments. You may explain how economic theory and empirical studies have helped shape the policy discussion, or refer to theory to express their own judgment, or both. You will receive in advance a brief reading list with suggested empirical sources and references – but this will only be an indication and original facts and references are much welcome. Particular attention should be given to the data: students are strongly encouraged to produce their own figures rather than cut-and-paste them from the Internet; and they should be able to trace sources and explain the nature and limitations of the data.

Final exam

The students will be asked to write a “short essay” (max. 5 pages) on a current policy debate. The topic will be provided one week in advance and the students will have to hand in the essay for the last session (March, 16th). It will be similar in nature to the policy presentation: refer to both empirical and theoretical arguments for the discussion.

 Students will be rated against three criteria: their presentation, the essay and in-class participation. The rate will value the thoroughness and accuracy of the handout, and conciseness and clarity of the in-class presentation. Proper use of the students’ theoretical knowledge will be particularly valued.