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University of Exeter Business School

Topics in Empirical Economics I

Module titleTopics in Empirical Economics I
Module codeBEEM146
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Daniele Rinaldo (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This is a graduate course in empirical economics. The course will examine a number of methods in empirical economics, including applied micro-econometrics, economic modelling and computational techniques. Students will be introduced to seminal and recent advances in these empirical methods with applications drawn from across the economics discipline but with particular emphasis on development and environmental economics.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module has two main aims: first, to equip students with the toolkit necessary to critically assess research contributions in empirical economics; second, to inspire students to answer their own research questions using different methods of empirical economic analysis.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Study the problem of causal inference in economics and the relative established techniques in estimating treatment effects: instrumental variables, randomized controlled trials, matching, difference-in-differences, synthetic control and regression discontinuity design.
  • 2. Explain why and how empirical economists employ resampling methods and simulation methods such as Monte Carlo analysis, bootstrapping and cross-validation in their analyses.
  • 3. Explain the functionality of machine learning techniques such as penalized regression, regression trees, random forests and neural networks.
  • 4. Apply machine learning methods to high-dimensional datasets, structural equations and treatment effects
  • 5. Develop the coding skills required to apply the above methods in empirical analyses

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. acquire advanced understanding of important methods in empirical economics and to obtain the skills to apply those methods in original research;
  • 7. develop self-direction and originality in solving research problems using methods of empirical economics.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. work independently and effectively in solving complex research problems.
  • 9. use computers to explore and solve difficult empirical research problems.
  • 10. present work to different audiences ranging from the innovative contribution to knowledge emphasised by the academic community to the concise summaries required by policy stakeholders

Syllabus plan

The course aims to provide graduate students a comprehensive set of econometric tools widely used in modern empirical research. The course will provide an overview of different empirical methods and their practical implementation in R. The course will start with the basics of structural equations and potential outcomes, as well as simulation-based and resampling methods. The focus will then be shifted towards causal inference and treatment effects, presenting advanced techniques in instrumental variables, randomized controlled trials, matching, difference-in-differences, synthetic control and regression discontinuity design. The last part of the course will present various machine learning techniques and their applications to structural equations and treatment effects. Applications of the methods will be discussed throughout the course, particularly in development and environmental economics. 


Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching18Lectures (2 hours per week)
Guided independent study132Reading, preparation for classes and assessments

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Practice ProblemsVaries1-10Oral/Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Assignment 135Research replication and analytical exercise, one report, one computer code file for analysis, and one software output file including results1,2,6-9Written
Assignment 230Research replication1-3, 6-9Written
Assignment 335Application of two methods to one or more dataset(s) of choice1-10Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Assignment 1 (35%)Resubmission1,2,6-9August Examination Period
Assignment 2 (30%)Resubmission3,6-9August Examination Period
Assignment 3 (35%)Resubmission1-10August Examination Period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading


  • handout/lecture notes
  • suggested published academic papers


  • J. M. Wooldridge. Econometric analysis of cross section and panel data.  MIT press, 2010
  • S. Cunningham. Causal Inference. The mixtape. Yale University Press, 2021-09-14
  • J. Friedman, T. Hastie, R. Tibshirani. The elements of statistical learning. Springer series in statistics, 2001
  • J. D. Angrist and J.-S. Pischke. Mostly harmless econometrics:  An empiricist’s companion. Princeton university press, 2008.

Key words search

Applied Econometrics, Causal Inference, Machine Learning

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

Only available to students on the MRes Economics and MRES Economics (PHD Pathway) programmes.

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date