ECON4106 Policy Evaluation Methods - 2020

Term 2
6 Units of Credit
The course outline is not available for current semester. To view outlines from other years and/or semesters, visit the archives .

1. Course Details

Summary of Course

This course provides a set of statistical tools and research designs that are useful in conducting empirical research in applied microeconomics and related fields. Because of the importance of economic research with direct policy implications, the focus will be on methods for estimating causal effects. We will critically discuss various techniques and indicate strengths and weaknesses. We will review several different approaches to program evaluation and apply these methods to real data, in the context of policies and programs in a broad range of areas including development, labour markets, health care, political economy, social welfare and poverty, education, and crime. The course will equip students with the necessary knowledge to be able to conduct program evaluations and to be informed consumers of such research.

Teaching Times and Locations

Please note that teaching times and locations are subject to change. Students are strongly advised to refer to the Class Timetable website for the most up-to-date teaching times and locations.

View course timetable

Course Policies & Support

Course Aims and Relationship to Other Courses

​The course aims to endow students with tools relevant in evaluating programs, and to develop students’ skills in conducting economic research. ECON4106/6202 is an option available for students enrolled in an Honours or post-graduate program in economics or commerce. The course relies considerably on methods of data analysis: tools learned in an intermediate econometrics course such as ECON2206 are assumed knowledge in the course. The subject is suitable both for those students interested in evaluation techniques for any type of program or policy, and for students interested in the conduct of applied microeconometric work generally.

2. Staff Contact Details

Position Title Name Email Location Phone Consultation Times
Lecturer-in-charge    Federico MaseraRoom 3127, Quadrangle Building9385 1145In Q&A session times (see Course Schedule), or by appointment

Communication with staff

The lecturer is responsible for the course content as well as the overall administration of the course. You should feel free to approach the LIC about any academic matter related to the course. However, for efficiency reasons, all enquiries about the subject material should be made during the Q&A sessions or at lectures or tutorials. Discussion of course subject material will not be entered into via email.

Email correspondence on administrative matters (e.g., advising of an inability to attend class) will be responded to within 48 hours, but not over weekends.

Student Enrolment Requests

Students can vary their own enrolment (including switching lecture streams or tutorials) via myUNSW until the end of Week 1. In general, most other student enrolment requests should be directed to The Nucleus: Student Hub(formerly Student Central). These include enrolment in full courses or tutorials, course timetable clashes, waiving prerequisites for any course, transfer-of-credit (international exchange, transfer to UNSW, cross-institutional study, etc.), or any other request which requires a decision about equivalence of courses and late enrolment for any course. Where appropriate, the request will be passed to the School Office for approval before processing. Note that enrolment changes are rarely considered after Week 2 classes have taken place.

3. Learning and Teaching Activities

Approach to Learning and Teaching in the Course

The philosophy underpinning this course and its teaching and learning strategies is based on “Guidelines on Learning that Inform Teaching at UNSW". Specifically, the lectures, tutorials and assessments have been designed to appropriately challenge students and support the achievement of the desired learning outcomes. A climate of inquiry and dialogue is encouraged between students and teachers and among students. The lecturer aims to provide meaningful and timely feedback to students to improve learning outcomes.

Quantitative information and statistics are pervasive not only in the study of economics and business but in understanding a wide range of phenomena. Every attempt will be made to demonstrate the relevance of the course to understanding such phenomena.

General principles or guidelines for undertaking applied work are discussed in the course. In particular, we will stress careful data analysis, the need to evaluate estimated models, and the importance of the links between econometric models and the underlying substantive knowledge or theory associated with the particular application. These issues will be related to applications drawn from various fields.

Learning Activities and Teaching Strategies

Five basic learning activities are utilised in this course: studying of lecture material, reading of additional material, presentation of relevant material, discussion of issues, and writing.

Lectures will be pre-recorded and uploaded to Moodle. In the lectures, the lecturer will give an overview of the specific topic, emphasise the challenges faced in research and practice, introduce state-of-the-art research tools to tackle problems, discuss relevant background literature, and point to open research questions.

Students are expected to prepare for the class by reading the assigned literature for the week.

Tutorials will be online on Zoom. In each tutorial, students will discuss questions in teams and make presentations. Presenting in class improves your organisational and communication skills. Each week, a paper illustrating the lecture material covered in that week will be assigned for the following week’s tutorial. At the beginning of the tutorial, a different question relating to the pre-assigned paper will be given to each team. The teams will discuss this question for the first half of the tutorial and will present a brief summary of these deliberations during the last half of the tutorial. The presentations will be 5 to 10 minutes for each team depending on the number of teams. The number of students in each team and the number of teams will depend on the size of the class.

Each week there will be a Q&A session with the lecturer where all students are expected to actively discuss the material and ask relevant questions.

5. Course Resources

The website for this course is on UNSW Moodle.

The website contains: the course outline; the lecture recordings; the tutorial documents; the lecture notes; data used in the tutorial problems and problem sets; course announcements; and other course hand-outs.

Students should consult this website at least once a week as it contains important information about the course. It will be assumed that all students have seen any notice posted on the course website.

The textbook for the course is:

  • Angrist, J.D. and J.S. Pischke, Mostly Harmless Econometrics: An Empiricist’s Companion, Princeton University Press, 2009.

A copy of this text has been placed in the High Use Collection in the UNSW Library, and via ebook, and copies are available at the bookstore.

Material from the textbook will be complemented with journal articles that can be downloaded from the respective journal websites through UNSW’s library system.

For background knowledge in intermediate econometrics, it is recommended that you consult either of the following texts:

  • [CT] Cameron, A. Colin and Pravin Trivedi (2005). Micreconometrics: Methods and Applications. Cambridge University Press.
  • [JW] Wooldridge, Jeffrey (2002). Econometric Analysis of Cross Section and Panel Data. MIT Press.

Both texts will be available in the High Use Collection of the UNSW Library. They will also be available for purchase from the bookstore.

Computing work

Computing is an important component of policy evaluation. The problem sets will require the use of econometric software. The econometric software used by the lecturers for this course is Stata. Stata is available remotely (see software access for students) or you can obtain a copy of Stata and install it on your own PC. To purchase your own copy, you will need to fill out a form and to pay the price of the version of Stata you choose to buy. For more information on Stata prices in Australia, see:

There are lots of resources and support for Stata on the web. Particularly useful are the following websites:

The manual: A.C. Acock, “A Gentle Introduction to Stata”, 2nd edition, Stata Press, 2008 may be helpful and is available in the High Use Collection at the UNSW Library.

Note that students do not need to buy their own copy of Stata and can utilise UNSW myAccess service. It is also possible to complete the course using alternative software such as SAS, E-Views, or R. However, Microsoft Excel will not be sufficient. Solutions to problem sets will be provided in Stata only.

6. Course Evaluation & Development

Feedback is regularly sought from students and continual improvements are made based on this feedback. At the end of this course, you will be asked to complete the myExperience survey, which provides a key source of student evaluative feedback. Your input into this quality enhancement process is extremely valuable in assisting us to meet the needs of our students and provide an effective and enriching learning experience. The results of all surveys are carefully considered and do lead to action towards enhancing educational quality.

​The School of Economics strives to be responsive to student feedback. If you would like more information on how the design of this course and changes made to it over time have taken students’ needs and preferences into account, please contact the Director of Education at the School of Economics.

7. Course Schedule

Note: for more information on the UNSW academic calendar and key dates including study period, exam, supplementary exam and result release, please visit:
Week Activity Topic Assessment/Other
Week 1: 1 JuneLecture:
Thursday 14:00-15:00

Short introduction and organisational issues (Live on Zoom)

Week 2: 8 JuneLecture

Data and Causality (Lecture Recording uploaded on Moodle)

Readings on Moodle

Thursday 14:00-15:00

Q&A Session (Live on Zoom)

Week 3: 15 JuneLecture

Randomised Designs (Lecture Recording on Moodle)

Problem set 1 available

Readings on Moodle and Chapter 2 of Mostly Harmless Econometrics (MHE)

Thursday 14:00-15:00

Q&A Session (Live on Zoom)

Thursday 16:00-17:30

Assigned Paper Discussion (Live on Zoom)

Week 4 : 22 JuneLecture

Controlling for selection bias by controlling for observables (Lecture Recording uploaded on Moodle)

Problem set 2 available

Problem set 1 due before 5pm Wednesday

Readings on Moodle and Chapter 3 of MHE

Thursday 14:00-15:00

Q&A Session (Live on Zoom)

Thursday 16:00-17:30

Assigned Paper Discussion (Live on Zoom)

Week 5 : 29 JuneLecture

Difference-in-Differences estimators (Lecture Recording uploaded on Moodle)

Problem set 2 due before 5pm Wednesday

Readings on Moodle and Chapter 5 of MHE

Thursday 14:00-15:00

Q&A Session (Live on Zoom)

Thursday 16:00-17:30

Assigned Paper Discussion (Live on Zoom)

Week 6: 6 JulyLecture


Problem set 3 available

Week 7: 13 JulyLecture

Regression Discontinuity and Regression Kink Designs (Lecture Recording uploaded on Moodle)

Problem set 4 available

Problem set 3 due before 5pm Wednesday

Readings on Moodle and Chapter 6 of MHE

Thursday 14:00-15:00

Q&A Session (Live on Zoom)

Thursday 16:00-17:30

Assigned Paper Discussion (Live on Zoom)

Week 8 : 20 JulyLecture

Instrumental Variables Methods PART 1 (Lecture Recording uploaded on Moodle)

Problem set 4 due before 5pm Wednesday

Readings on Moodle and Chapter 4 of MHE

Thursday 14:00-15:00

Q&A Session (Live on Zoom)

Thursday 16:00-17:30

Assigned Paper Discussion (Live on Zoom)

Week 9 : 27 JulyLecture

Instrumental Variables Methods PART 2 (Lecture Recording uploaded on Moodle)

Readings on Moodle and Chapter 4 of MHE

Thursday 14:00-15:00

Q&A Session (Live on Zoom)

Thursday 16:00-17:30

Assigned Paper Discussion (Live on Zoom)

Week 10 : 3 AugustLecture

Machine Learning for Causal Evaluation (Lecture Recording uploaded on Moodle)

Take-Home exam available Monday 3rd August and due Monday 10th August.

Readings on Moodle

Thursday 14:00-15:00

Q&A Session (Live on Zoom)

8. Policies and Support

Information about UNSW Business School protocols, University policies, student responsibilities and education quality and support.

Program Learning Outcomes

The Business School places knowledge and capabilities at the core of its curriculum via seven Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs). These PLOs are systematically embedded and developed across the duration of all coursework programs in the Business School.

PLOs embody the knowledge, skills and capabilities that are taught, practised and assessed within each Business School program. They articulate what you should know and be able to do upon successful completion of your degree.

Upon graduation, you should have a high level of specialised business knowledge and capacity for responsible business thinking, underpinned by ethical professional practice. You should be able to harness, manage and communicate business information effectively and work collaboratively with others. You should be an experienced problem-solver and critical thinker, with a global perspective, cultural competence and the potential for innovative leadership.

All UNSW programs and courses are designed to assess the attainment of program and/or course level learning outcomes, as required by the UNSW Assessment Design Procedure. It is important that you become familiar with the Business School PLOs, as they constitute the framework which informs and shapes the components and assessments of the courses within your program of study.

PLO 1: Business knowledge

Students will make informed and effective selection and application of knowledge in a discipline or profession, in the contexts of local and global business.

PLO 2: Problem solving

Students will define and address business problems, and propose effective evidence-based solutions, through the application of rigorous analysis and critical thinking.

PLO 3: Business communication

Students will harness, manage and communicate business information effectively using multiple forms of communication across different channels.

PLO 4: Teamwork

Students will interact and collaborate effectively with others to achieve a common business purpose or fulfil a common business project, and reflect critically on the process and the outcomes.

PLO 5: Responsible business practice

Students will develop and be committed to responsible business thinking and approaches, which are underpinned by ethical professional practice and sustainability considerations.

PLO 6: Global and cultural competence

Students will be aware of business systems in the wider world and actively committed to recognise and respect the cultural norms, beliefs and values of others, and will apply this knowledge to interact, communicate and work effectively in diverse environments.

PLO 7: Leadership development

Students will develop the capacity to take initiative, encourage forward thinking and bring about innovation, while effectively influencing others to achieve desired results.

These PLOs relate to undergraduate and postgraduate coursework programs.  Separate PLOs for honours and postgraduate research programs are included under 'Related Documents'.

Business School course outlines provide detailed information for students on how the course learning outcomes, learning activities, and assessment/s contribute to the development of Program Learning Outcomes.



UNSW Graduate Capabilities

The Business School PLOs also incorporate UNSW graduate capabilities, a set of generic abilities and skills that all students are expected to achieve by graduation. These capabilities articulate the University’s institutional values, as well as future employer expectations.

UNSW Graduate CapabilitiesBusiness School PLOs
Scholars capable of independent and collaborative enquiry, rigorous in their analysis, critique and reflection, and able to innovate by applying their knowledge and skills to the solution of novel as well as routine problems.
  • PLO 1: Business knowledge
  • PLO 2: Problem solving
  • PLO 3: Business communication
  • PLO 4: Teamwork
  • PLO 7: Leadership development

Entrepreneurial leaders capable of initiating and embracing innovation and change, as well as engaging and enabling others to contribute to change
  • PLO 1: Business knowledge
  • PLO 2: Problem solving
  • PLO 3: Business communication
  • PLO 4: Teamwork
  • PLO 6: Global and cultural competence
  • PLO 7: Leadership development

Professionals capable of ethical, self-directed practice and independent lifelong learning
  • PLO 1: Business knowledge
  • PLO 2: Problem solving
  • PLO 3: Business communication
  • PLO 5: Responsible business practice

Global citizens who are culturally adept and capable of respecting diversity and acting in a socially just and responsible way.
  • PLO 1: Business knowledge
  • PLO 2: Problem solving
  • PLO 3: Business communication
  • PLO 4: Teamwork
  • PLO 5: Responsible business practice
  • PLO 6: Global and cultural competence

While our programs are designed to provide coverage of all PLOs and graduate capabilities, they also provide you with a great deal of choice and flexibility.  The Business School strongly advises you to choose a range of courses that assist your development against the seven PLOs and four graduate capabilities, and to keep a record of your achievements as part of your portfolio. You can use a portfolio as evidence in employment applications as well as a reference for work or further study. For support with selecting your courses contact the UNSW Business School Student Centre.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

Academic Integrity is honest and responsible scholarship. This form of ethical scholarship is highly valued at UNSW. Terms like Academic Integrity, misconduct, referencing, conventions, plagiarism, academic practices, citations and evidence based learning are all considered basic concepts that successful university students understand. Learning how to communicate original ideas, refer sources, work independently, and report results accurately and honestly are skills that you will be able to carry beyond your studies.

The definition of academic misconduct is broad. It covers practices such as cheating, copying and using another person’s work without appropriate acknowledgement. Incidents of academic misconduct may have serious consequences for students.


UNSW regards plagiarism as a form of academic misconduct. UNSW has very strict rules regarding plagiarism. Plagiarism at UNSW is using the words or ideas of others and passing them off as your own. All Schools in the Business School have a Student Ethics Officer who will investigate incidents of plagiarism and may result in a student’s name being placed on the Plagiarism and Student Misconduct Registers.

Below are examples of plagiarism including self-plagiarism:

Copying: Using the same or very similar words to the original text or idea without acknowledging the source or using quotation marks. This includes copying materials, ideas or concepts from a book, article, report or other written document, presentation, composition, artwork, design, drawing, circuitry, computer program or software, website, internet, other electronic resource, or another person's assignment, without appropriate acknowledgement of authorship.

Inappropriate Paraphrasing: Changing a few words and phrases while mostly retaining the original structure and/or progression of ideas of the original, and information without acknowledgement. This also applies in presentations where someone paraphrases another’s ideas or words without credit and to piecing together quotes and paraphrases into a new whole, without appropriate referencing.

Collusion: Presenting work as independent work when it has been produced in whole or part in collusion with other people. Collusion includes:

  • Students providing their work to another student before the due date, or for the purpose of them plagiarising at any time
  • Paying another person to perform an academic task and passing it off as your own
  • Stealing or acquiring another person’s academic work and copying it
  • Offering to complete another person’s work or seeking payment for completing academic work

Collusion should not be confused with academic collaboration (i.e., shared contribution towards a group task).

Inappropriate Citation: Citing sources which have not been read, without acknowledging the 'secondary' source from which knowledge of them has been obtained.

Self-Plagiarism: ‘Self-plagiarism’ occurs where an author republishes their own previously written work and presents it as new findings without referencing the earlier work, either in its entirety or partially. Self-plagiarism is also referred to as 'recycling', 'duplication', or 'multiple submissions of research findings' without disclosure. In the student context, self-plagiarism includes re-using parts of, or all of, a body of work that has already been submitted for assessment without proper citation.

To see if you understand plagiarism, do this short quiz:


The University also regards cheating as a form of academic misconduct. Cheating is knowingly submitting the work of others as their own and includes contract cheating (work produced by an external agent or third party that is submitted under the pretences of being a student’s original piece of work). Cheating is not acceptable at UNSW.

If you need to revise or clarify any terms associated with academic integrity you should explore the 'Working with Academic Integrity' self-paced lessons available at:

For UNSW policies, penalties, and information to help you avoid plagiarism see: as well as the guidelines in the online ELISE tutorials for all new UNSW students: For information on student conduct see:

For information on how to acknowledge your sources and reference correctly, see: If you are unsure what referencing style to use in this course, you should ask the lecturer in charge.

Student Responsibilities and Conduct

​Students are expected to be familiar with and adhere to university policies in relation to class attendance and general conduct and behaviour, including maintaining a safe, respectful environment; and to understand their obligations in relation to workload, assessment and keeping informed.

Information and policies on these topics can be found on the 'Managing your Program' website.


It is expected that you will spend at least ten to twelve hours per week studying for a course except for Summer Term courses which have a minimum weekly workload of twenty to twenty four hours. This time should be made up of reading, research, working on exercises and problems, online activities and attending classes. In periods where you need to complete assignments or prepare for examinations, the workload may be greater. Over-commitment has been a cause of failure for many students. You should take the required workload into account when planning how to balance study with employment and other activities.

We strongly encourage you to connect with your Moodle course websites in the first week of semester. Local and international research indicates that students who engage early and often with their course website are more likely to pass their course.

View more information on expected workload


Your regular and punctual attendance at lectures and seminars or in online learning activities is expected in this course. The Business School reserves the right to refuse final assessment to those students who attend less than 80% of scheduled classes where attendance and participation is required as part of the learning process (e.g., tutorials, flipped classroom sessions, seminars, labs, etc.).

View more information on attendance

General Conduct and Behaviour

You are expected to conduct yourself with consideration and respect for the needs of your fellow students and teaching staff. Conduct which unduly disrupts or interferes with a class, such as ringing or talking on mobile phones, is not acceptable and students may be asked to leave the class.

View more information on student conduct

Health and Safety

UNSW Policy requires each person to work safely and responsibly, in order to avoid personal injury and to protect the safety of others.

View more information on Health and Safety

Keeping Informed

You should take note of all announcements made in lectures, tutorials or on the course web site. From time to time, the University will send important announcements to your university e-mail address without providing you with a paper copy. You will be deemed to have received this information. It is also your responsibility to keep the University informed of all changes to your contact details.

Student Support and Resources

​The University and the Business School provide a wide range of support services and resources for students, including:

Business School EQS Consultation Program
The Consultation Program offers academic writing, literacy and numeracy consultations, study skills, exam preparation for Business students. Services include workshops, online resources, individual and group consultations. 
Level 1, Room 1035, Quadrangle Building.
02 9385 4508

Communication Resources
The Business School Communication and Academic Support programs provide online modules, communication workshops and additional online resources to assist you in developing your academic writing.

Business School Student Centre
The Business School Student Centre provides advice and direction on all aspects of admission, enrolment and graduation.
Level 1, Room 1028 in the Quadrangle Building
02 9385 3189

UNSW Learning & Careers Hub
The UNSW Learning & Careers Hub provides academic skills and careers support services—including workshops, individual consultations and a range of online resources—for all UNSW students. See their website for details.
Lower Ground Floor, North Wing Chancellery Building.
02 9385 2060

Student Support Advisors
Student Support Advisors work with all students to promote the development of skills needed to succeed at university, whilst also providing personal support throughout the process.
John Goodsell Building, Ground Floor.
02 9385 4734

International Student Support
The International Student Experience Unit (ISEU) is the first point of contact for international students. ISEU staff are always here to help with personalised advice and information about all aspects of university life and life in Australia.
Advisors can support you with your student visa, health and wellbeing, making friends, accommodation and academic performance.
02 9385 4734

Equitable Learning Services
Equitable Learning Services (formerly Disability Support Services) is a free and confidential service that provides practical support to ensure that your health condition doesn't adversely affect your studies. Register with the service to receive educational adjustments.
Ground Floor, John Goodsell Building.
02 9385 4734

UNSW Counselling and Psychological Services
Provides support and services if you need help with your personal life, getting your academic life back on track or just want to know how to stay safe, including free, confidential counselling.
Level 2, East Wing, Quadrangle Building.
02 9385 5418

Library services and facilities for students
The UNSW Library offers a range of collections, services and facilities both on-campus and online.
Main Library, F21.
02 9385 2650

Moodle eLearning Support
Moodle is the University’s learning management system. You should ensure that you log into Moodle regularly.
02 9385 3331

UNSW IT provides support and services for students such as password access, email services, wireless services and technical support.
UNSW Library Annexe (Ground floor).
02 9385 1333