Winter Semester


The course is an introduction to the principal components of micro- and macroeconomic analysis. Students will learn to think like economists, to recognize and understand a number of central economic concepts, definitions and reference models, and to apply these tools and ideas to current questions of economic analysis. The class focuses in particular on the big challenges of our time – the need to sustainably manage scarce resources, climate change, globalization, and the rapid evolution of our societies as a result of technological change.


The course is designed for Bachelor students that prepare for their final thesis in economics. Students will learn how to select and narrow down a research topic, how to do a literature review, as well as how to structure a research paper and how to independently carry out a research project. Although the class will be in German, term papers and presentations can be written and held in English.

Content-wise, the course focuses on the fields of transition and institutional economics, in particular the question how political and social institutions affect economic growth. Possible topics for a term paper will be for example the economic transition in Eastern Europe, Russia or China, but also the development of emerging economies in South-East Asia, the Middle East, Latin America or Sub-Sahara Africa.

How does (collective) memory work, and what political and technological strategies do exist to influence it? In this class, we will analyze how memory of the Second World War has evolved from 1945 until today, why changes in memory have taken place, and how collective memories affect political and economic decisions and outcomes today. The class will adopt a mixed-methods design, introducing students to methods from history, economics, and comparative political science. All classes will be taught as an interactive discussion between the students, a historian (Prof. Dr. Susanne Schattenberg), and a political economist (Prof. Dr. Michael Rochlitz). After introducing a number of fundamental questions and concepts, the second part of our class will examine a range of case studies from Germany, Russia and Central-Eastern Europe, as well as East Asia. 


The aim of the course is to provide students with a hands-on introduction to some of the most advanced research methods in economics, such as regression discontinuity designs, instrumental variables, differences-in-differences, and a range of experimental approaches to establish causality. The objective of the course is not to enable students to use these methods themselves. Rather, after finishing the class students will be able to understand why and when these methods are useful (1), how they work (2), and be able to follow, evaluate and participate in discussions of research papers that use these methods (3). The ultimate objective of the class is to provide students with an understanding of what a powerful tool applied quantitative research can be to answer questions that otherwise can often not easily be answered.

There are no prerequisites to attend the class. A prior understanding of statistics and econometrics is helpful, but not required. At the end of the class, students will have the possibility to focus on one research method in particular, and design their own small project.  

To illustrate specific methods and approaches, we will focus on a range of recent research papers from institutional and development economics, as well as applied political economy. The papers will show how it is possible to answer a whole range of tricky questions with the help of applied quantitative research – examples of questions that we will focus on in class include the following:

Did the presence of the international coalition in Afghanistan affect the economic empowerment of women? Does sending soldiers stop terrorism? What is the most cost-effective way to vaccine children in poor rural areas in India? What are the social effects of civil war? How to test for electoral fraud? What are the hidden economics of the US prison system? How do economic conditions affect the death rate of suicide attacks?  Does it benefit a businessman to become a politician? How did the ethnic background of the Valide Sultan (queen mother) affect the probability that the Ottoman Empire went to war? What is the long-term effect of colonialism? And how would a visit of the Dalai Lama affect trade of your country with China?  

What is essential for a modern market economy to function? Building on the theoretical and empirical insights of transition economics, we study in this class how the planned economy of the Soviet Union was transformed into the market economy of contemporary Russia. Using Russia’s economic transition as an example, students will gain a practical understanding of a number of central economic concepts: what role do prices, property rights, political institutions and the legal framework play in a market economy? How do these institutions affect central outcomes of an economic system, such as economic growth, inequality, employment and innovation? And how do the modern market economies of various countries – such as Russia, Germany or the US – differ from each other?

By building on the theoretical concepts of transition economics, institutional economics and the varieties of capitalism literature, this class will provide students with an in-depth understanding of how modern market economies work, what problems they face, and why different systems produce different outcomes. Along the way, students will gain insights into the fascinating story of Russia’s economic transition, a tale populated by Communist Party officials, oligarchs, rival security services, criminal groups and fearless entrepreneurs, who all contributed to build Russia’s contemporary economic system.