ECON 4211 Public Economics: the Economics of the Government Sector

Instructor Contact

Dr. Joe Craig

About the course

Public Economics is an optional applied course in one of the key field areas of economics. The objective of the course is to equip you with the analytical framework and tools required to discern the efficiency and equity consequences of government spending programs and tax policies. In addition, you should acquire a familiarity with normative analysis of tax and spending policies, based on specified value judgments. Applications to current public issues and policy debates are an integral part of the course.

Course Prerequisites: Requires prerequisite courses of ECON 3070 (Intermediate Microeconomic Theory) and Introduction to Statistics with Computer Applications (ECON 3818) or STAT 4520 or APPM 4570 or CHEN 3010 or CSCI 3022 or CVEN 3227 or MATH 4520 (all minimum grade C-).

Proctoring: This course requires proctored examinations. Exams are proctored which will require planning on your part. Proctors are individuals who administer the exam process following the guidelines provided by University of Colorado Boulder to ensure academic integrity. Some proctoring options require the student to pay a fee.


By the end of the course you should be able to:

  • explain and apply the theoretical and empirical tools of Public Finance;
  • analyze and describe the consequences and impacts on fairness of non-rivalry and non-excludability in the form of public goods and of positive and negative externalities;
  • identify the various approaches of defining equity in the context of income distribution and describe the various programs in place in the US to address inequity in income distribution; and
  • discuss the efficiency and equity impacts for optimal taxation and apply these concepts to common US taxes.

Required Texts

Public Finance and Public Policy, 6th Edition (2019), by Jonathan Gruber, Macmillan Learning Publishing, ISBN 9781319105273.

Grading (out of 1000 points)

Assignment* Points per Assignment Frequency GRADE POINTS GRADE PERCENTAGE
Quiz    15 11 165 16.5%
“Weekly Work”    45 11 495 49.5%
Midterm Exam 140   1 140 14.0%
Cumulative Final Exam 200   1 200 20.0%
TOTAL      = 1000      100%


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Monday – Friday
8:00am to 5:00pm


We are located at the corner of University Avenue and 15th Street in a white brick building.


1505 University Avenue
University of Colorado Boulder
178 UCB
Boulder, Colorado