photo Harvard University - Economics Department

Raj Chetty

Public Economics Lectures (2nd Year Ph.D. Course: Econ 2450a)

This is the first of two courses in the graduate public economics sequence at Harvard. This one-semester course covers basic issues in the optimal design of tax and social insurance policies, with emphasis on combining theoretical models with empirical evidence. Topics include efficiency costs and incidence of taxation, income taxation, transfer and welfare programs, public goods and externalities, optimal social insurance (excluding social security), and welfare analysis in behavioral models.

Lecture Recordings

lecture video screenshot
Watch the complete 24 lecture course from Fall 2012 on YouTube here.

The lectures are also available via iTunes U on your computer or iOS device.

Each lecture lasts 1.5 hours.

Course Outline

The slides and reading list are divided into seven parts:

  1. Introduction
  2. Tax Incidence [3 lectures]
  3. Efficiency Cost of Taxation [3 lectures]
  4. Optimal Taxation [5 lectures]
  5. Income Taxation and Labor Supply [4 lectures]
  6. Social Insurance [5 lectures]
  7. Public Goods and Externalities [4 lectures]


Files available for download:

  1. Lecture slides (joint with Gregory A. Bruich) in pdf format
    • for faster downloading, see the lite version with lower image quality
  2. Reading list in pdf format
  3. Source files in Scientific Workplace format and .doc file for reading list
    • this zip file contains .rap files that require the beamer package, available for free download here
To download these files, right click and select save target as.


We would like to thank Jon Gruber, Day Manoli, Emmanuel Saez, and many other colleagues whose comments and lecture notes contributed to the development of these slides. Please contact Gregory Bruich (gbruich 'at' or Raj Chetty (chetty 'at' if you have any questions or suggestions.