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Research Methods: Applied Empirical Economics


Admission requirements

This course is for Master students Public Administration, track Economics and Governance only. This course assumes knowledge of quantitative research methods and socio-economic policy analysis at third-year bachelor level.


In this course students master modern methods of applied empirical research. We focus on empirical methods that uncover the causal impact of public policies. For example, what is the impact of subsidised childcare on female labour participation, or what is the impact of an extra year of schooling on your salary? Students also learn how to apply these methods using a ‘hands-on’ approach. Indeed, the quantitative part of the course has two elements. First, we review the modern methods in a series of lectures, where we illustrate the methods with real life examples, and at the end of the lectures there is written mid-term test. Next, students then apply one of the methods to study the causal impact of a public policy, using a data set that will be handed to them by the instructors or using a data set that the students plan to use for their thesis. During this part of the course we will have weekly consultation sessions. At the end of the course students give a presentation where they present their research. Students do not have to write a paper.

Course objectives

  • Identify appropriate methods of analysis and research techniques to answer a specific research question;

  • Understand modern applied empirical methods and the underlying assumptions;

  • Work with relevant statistical software packages on real world data sets;

  • Independently apply modern empirical methods to study the causal effects of public policies;

  • Effectively report and present the results of their analyses in the field of Economics and Governance.


On the Public Administration front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Brightspace.

Mode of instruction

The course has the following setup:

  • During the first four weeks we have lectures and a written mid-term test. Specifically, we start with an introductory lecture and then will cover chapters 1 to 5 of the recent textbook MasteringMetrics: The Path from Cause to Effect’ by Joshua Angrist and Jörn-Steffen Pischke (see also the website: in a series of lectures during the first three weeks of the course. We illustrate the methods with examples of the empirical economics literature that considers the impact of public policies. The written mid-term test on this series of lectures is in the fourth week of the course.

  • In the remaining weeks students apply one of the modern empirical research methods to a particular policy using a real life data set, and present their results. We introduce the software and the data sets (students can also use the data set that they plan to use for their thesis). Subsequently, students will work with the software and the data set on their own. During the research period we will have weekly consultation hours. At the end of the research period students present their research.

The total course load is 140 hours:

  • Hours spent on attending lectures: 14 hours

  • Seminars: 5 hours

  • Consultation: 3 hours

  • Self-study: 55 hours

  • Mid-term test: 3 hours

  • Empirical research: 55 hours

  • Presentation session: 2 hours

Assessment method

The assessment of this course is based on two elements:

  • Mid-term test (50%)

  • Presentation and slides empirical research (50%)

To pass the course, the weighted average of the grades of all elements has to be 5.5 or higher. Furthermore, the grade for the mid-term test has to be 5.5 or higher and the grade for the presentation and slides of the empirical research has to be 5.5 or higher. We will offer a re-take for the mid-term test and for the presentation and slides of the empirical research at the end of the next block.

Partial grades obtained in the previous year remain valid in the current year.

Attendance of the lectures and the final session with presentations is obligatory, we will deduct 0.3 points from the final score for each lecture/session that is not attended.

Reading list

  • Angrist, J. and J.-S. Pischke, 2014, Mastering ‘Metrics: The Path from Cause to Effect, Princeton University Press, chapters 1 to 5 including the appendices (most recent edition).

  • Lecture notes (posted on Brightspace).


Register for every course and workgroup via uSis. Registration for courses in uSis is possible from 16 July, 13.00h. Some courses and workgroups have a limited number of participants, so register on time (before the course starts). In uSis you can access your personal schedule and view your results.

Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. After enrolment for the course in uSis you will be automatically enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.


Dr. Egbert Jongen
Max van Lent