The Masters Degree Programme in Public Choice is a mathematical methods in the social sciences program. The program involves an economics-based approach to social science issues with a focus on comparisons between North America and Europe.
Social behavior is strategic behavior – humans take the actions or reactions of others into account and act accordingly. Developing tools to understand how people interact is crucial in understanding any and all social policy, its origins and its societal impacts. All aspects of social action involve a need to understand strategic behavior. The programme provides students with a solid background in quantitative methods used in economics and political science necessary for understanding key elements of social structures including institutions, policy design and implementation, and the problems related to processes of voting, deliberation and decision making.
Coursework emphasizes both practical and theoretical understanding of the issues. The program aims to prepare the students for postgraduate studies, independent research work as well as for professional activity at various tasks in the society, ranging from policy positions to business positions.
In addition to building quantitative skills, this programme will incorporate a comparative and multidisciplinary perspective. Issues addressed will draw on examples from North America and Europe in terms of evaluation.
For example, Duverger’s well known law shows that differences in voting systems lead to differences in the number of political parties in a given system. These differences in party numbers can have profound effects on campaign behavior as well as on possibilities for cooperation in government. Understanding the effects of how these structures interact with individual politician preferences can provide a strong basis for understanding differences in political party behavior between the United States and Finland.
As another example, welfare state institutions in North American and in the Nordic countries are highly different in terms of structure, goals, sizes, design and outcomes. These different institutions impact their various populations in a range of ways – affecting social services, needs, incentives, and opportunities. The spectrum of welfare institutions alone highlights a need for a comparative, multidisciplinary approach to better understand them. More importantly, recent research, coupled with current events, make clear that the results of institutions depend very strongly on the inputs and the design. Students will develop the quantitative tools needed to evaluate these institutions on a comparative basis, using examples from North America and Europe as case studies.
Other issues addressed include: