Seminar Public Finance (MW23.4) - Summer Term 2020

Empirical causal analysis - methods and applications to public policies


In this seminar we will deal with empirical methods for identifying causal effects and their application to concrete (public) policies or events. After having clarified why it is so important to estimate causal effects rather than correlations (or accidental associations), we will take a closer look at those econometric methods most commonly used by economists to identify causal effects, such as panel-data techniques, controlled experiments, instrumental variables, differences-in-differences, and regression discontinuities. A focus will be put on the necessary prerequisites for applying the respective methods, possible problems and solution strategies as well as on the estimated effects (in relation to the specific research question).


You will have to read and understand chapters of econometric textbooks as well as original empirical research papers as part of this course. A solid background in statistics and regression analysis is a necessary perquisite in order to successfully pass this course. We highly recommend taking "Empirical Methods" (MW24.1) before this seminar.

Important Remarks

The Chair of Public Finance follows a zero-tolerance policy with respect to plagiarism. In our seminar in the winter term 2018/19, more than 20% of the students failed because of plagiarism in their seminar papers. Please read again carefully the slides about plagiarism and conduct the test on "How to Cite/ How to Avoid Plagiarism" available in the Moodle-course "Approaches to Economic Sciences" ("WS2019-Approaches"). (If you do not have access to this Moodle-course, contact Fabian Könings.)

January 2020 Central registration

06 Feb 2020

(10am, Room SR 308)
For those students allocated to this seminar: Meeting and presentation of topics
11 Feb 2020 Choice of preferred topics and preferred start date (see next item). The topics’ preferences serve as the basis for the allocation of topics.

25 Feb 2020,

10 March 2020 or

24 March 2020

Start of your individual writing period.

You can choose to receive your topic on Tuesday

February 25, March 10 or March 24.

After receiving your topic, you have 5 weeks to complete a first version of your seminar paper. The paper will then be refereed by another student within 1 week. After receiving the referee report you have 2 more weeks to improve your paper on the basis of the referee's comments.

21 April 2020,

05 May 2020 or

19 May 2020

(depending on starting date)

Submission of the final version of your seminar paper.
Soon after Time plan for the seminar (incl. allocation of discussants)
end of June/ beginning of July Seminar (blocked, online via WebEx or Zoom)


For guidelines and regulations, see hereExternal link


To be announced