Master Seminar – Summer 2019


 Seminar Description:

This seminar offers three primary areas of focus:

  1. Happiness & Utility

Neoclassical economics tells us, that from choices we are able to infer preferences allowing us to draw up functions to representing them, which we refer to as “utility functions”. Apart from this well-known economic principle, everyone knows the term ‘happiness’ and the corresponding feeling. But how do both concepts interact? Are they synonymous or do they capture different phenomena? For this topic, we expect students to give a short overview of the existing literature with specific attention to theoretical papers combining happiness and utility theory. Furthermore, we expect students to state and explain a short theoretical model that lets us understand happiness and utility and how they influence each other. MATLAB code to further analyze the latter issue numerically will be partly provided. The focus for the numerical analysis lies within the exploration and interpretation of the various parameters and their realizations used in the model.

  1. Inequality & Education

From a global perspective, inequality, measured by the Gini-coefficient of net income, has increased over the last years. When thinking about reducing inequality in net income one might think that tackling inequality via education is a good option. But what are the effects of the institutional background of educational systems? Do public or private school systems work better for reducing inequality? Is it favorable to separate children according to their ability levels into different schools/classes (also referred to as tracking in the social sciences)? And maybe even more interestingly, what determines the ability level of children (< 7, i.e. before school entry)? What is the role and the effect of family background, early childhood education and care services, peers, neighborhood, prenatal circumstances or even evidence from the neural sciences on brain development?

  1. Growth, Unemployment & Well-Being

The study of the determinants of growth has a long history in economics. However, its effects on the well-being of individuals is still poorly understood, with little attention being given to how individuals react to factors causing economic growth or indeed to growth itself. Questions of interest in this topic include the effects of job destruction/creation from disruptive technological innovation on unemployment and well-being, how the rise in the service sector (characterised by emotionally demanding job tasks) affects stress and mental health, why unemployment reduces well-being when standard labour market theory dictates individuals should be better off.

Teaching staff: Jean Roch Donsimoni, Steffi Hahn, and Niklas Scheuer


Introductory session (compulsory) and topic assignment: 26 April 2019, 14:15 – 15:45,

room HS IX (-1 331/ old Rewi)