SPOL20050 Economics of Social Policy

Academic Year 2022/2023

This course is about the relationship between economics and social policy. It introduces students to the basic principles of economics, and to how the framework derived from them can be applied to the analysis of social justice, the welfare state, and areas of social policy such as healthcare, education, redistribution, housing and transport.

Show/hide contentOpenClose All

Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students should be able to:
1. Grasp core basic economic principles
2. Understand the contribution economics can make to social policy
3. Be able to apply an economic perspective to some substantive areas of social policy, such as the income distribution, education, healthcare and housing.

Indicative Module Content:

The module is delivered through a series of lectures, discussion classes and presentations which are structured to cover: the key 'concepts' for the course (markets, equity and efficiency); the key 'contexts' for the course (including the economic climate, the welfare state, taxation and international rules and agreements); and key 'applications' for the course (Healthcare, Education, Housing, Poverty, Inequality, Income Maintenance, Transport).

Full details are available on the course outline.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Learning is through lecture attendance and participation, course reading, completion of assignments and self-directed learning.
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Requirements:


Learning Exclusions:


Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Assignment: Group Project Unspecified n/a Graded No


Multiple Choice Questionnaire: Online MCQ Examination 1 hour End of Trimester Exam n/a Alternative linear conversion grade scale 40% No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring Yes - 1 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Course Assignment Students will be provided with feedback which will include the assignment grade and some individual comments. These will be provided electronically to students. A document will also be made available with some overall comments on the assignments. Draft grades will be available via SISWeb -My Indicative In-Semester Grades.

Core texts:

Le Grand, J., Smith, S. & Propper, C. (2008) The Economics of Social Problems, 4th edition, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Barr, N. (2020) The Economics of the Welfare State, 6th edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press. (there is a 5th edition (2012) also available – references below are to both editions)

Other useful reading:

O’Hagan, J., F. O’Toole and C. Whelan (eds.) (2021) The Economy of Ireland, 14th edition, London: Palgrave Macmillan. (note the earlier 13th edition (2017) is also relevant)

The majority of lectures will draw on the core texts mentioned above. References to the relevant chapter of these texts, plus other reading material, are listed in the course outline.