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Best resources to learn (or relearn) economics and public policy?
March 28, 2012 8:56 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to relearn the fundamentals of economics and public policy. Where should I look for books, videos, and other materials on these topics?

I've been working in international development for a few years now, implementing programmes in a number of countries. I got into this work through my primary field (librarianship). I am starting to think about next steps career-wise and strengthening my knowledge in supporting fields. I have interests in capacity building, public policy, governance, civil society, public sphere etc. Ultimately, I'd like to consider a PhD in one of these fields but I feel like I'm a way off from that. My undergraduate was in political science and I also had some economics coursework, but that was some time ago now.

I'd like to relearn the fundamentals of economics and public policy. Where should I look for books, videos, and other materials on these topics to build up my economic knowledge before I tackle working through something like this OCW course on development policy? Should I concentrate on macro, micro, both, or something else? What are the core texts on public policy now?

In terms of what I have access to, I already read The Economist, Foreign Affairs, have access to the British Library, public lectures at the London School of Economics, and have a number of books on development economics (unread!) including Ray's Development Economics (too daunting for now), Easterly's White Man's Burden, Sen's Development and Freedom, Banerjee and Duflo's Poor Economics etc.
posted by wingless_angel to Work & Money (5 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Instant Economist by Timothy Taylor

Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell

The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford
posted by John Cohen at 9:18 AM on March 28, 2012


If there are any relevant books in Oxford University Press' Very Short Introductions series, I recommend those.
posted by naturalog at 9:28 AM on March 28, 2012


If you already go through the economics articles in The Economist with clear understanding, and your goal is to be able to eventually work through something like the linked OCW course, you might want to spend some time going through an econometrics text--note that the course prerequisites state that "a microeconomics and a statistics course are prerequisites. Examples are 14.01 Principles of Microeconomics and 14.30 Introduction to Statistical Methods in Economics. Econometrics is not a prerequisite for this class, but you will be expected to be willing to familiarize yourself with basic econometric methods." I found Stock and Watson fairly intuitive when I took econometrics as an undergraduate, and of course there's no need to spend for a new textbook, an older used one would contain anything you reasonably would need to know. Apologies if you already have a statistics background, it wasn't clear, but if not, I think it would be time well spent (plus, if you don't like at least understanding the statistical methods involved in these things, you're really going to hate doing a Ph.D.).

Some more fun reads in development economics along the same line as the Easterly and Sen books you have (both of which are quite good) might be The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier or From Poverty to Prosperity by Kling and Schulz, but mainly containing a number of interviews with a number of economists who know the history of economic growth and development, like Bob Solow, Paul Romer, Douglass North, and Joel Mokyr.
posted by dsfan at 9:37 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Before an econometrics text, start with an intro to econ text, which will cover both. With your background, it should be pretty easy going. Mankiw is popular, but the exact text is not crucial. See this too. Then rather than a public policy text, I'd suggest public economics, such as Stiglitz.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 10:43 AM on March 28, 2012


Chris Blattman and the World Bank Development Impact blogs are great.

The new book Why Nations Fail: Acemoglue and Robinson

Text wise, I find that Todaro and Smith's text is more approachable than Ray's for Development Text economics.

Poor Economics also has links to papers and particular studies you might try looking at those.

In general you will find at grad school you will read more current literature in journal articles than textbooks. The exception might be econometrics. Look for Dulfo's article on randomized evaluations to get a sense of how that works. Angus Deaton has a lot of great general interest articles too.
posted by akabobo at 11:13 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


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