Spring 2019 - 60390 - PA 397C - Advanced Empirical Methods for Policy Analysis | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

Spring 2019 - 60390 - PA 397C - Advanced Empirical Methods for Policy Analysis

Management Science

Course Description

This course surveys a variety of management science methods useful to managers and analysts that were not covered in your IEM course.  The emphases will be on (a) formulating mathematical models of messy problems found in the public and non-profit sectors, (b) solving the formulations using Excel, and (c) presenting the results in a way that decision makers can understand.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the semester, students should have a firm understanding of…

  • the structure underlying a wide variety of mathematical models, including the assumptions and limitations of each model;
  • the importance of judgment in building, analyzing, and interpreting the results of mathematical models; and
  • the “ins and outs” of Excel.

By the end of the semester, students should be able to…

  • interpret the results of mathematical models used in public policy research done by others;
  • use appropriate mathematical models in their own work; and
  • present the results of mathematical models effectively.


  • Successful completion of PA397 – Introduction to Empirical Methods for Policy Analysis, or equivalent course.
  • Familiarity with Excel.


Grades will be based on four problem sets (40%), a mid-term exam (30%), and a final group project (30%).

Class Meetings

This course is conducted using a “flipped” format.  Students are to complete all required readings and assigned exercises prior to class.  Relatively little class time will be spent lecturing.  Rather, class time will be devoted to demonstrating, discussing, and practicing the concepts covered in the assigned readings and assigned exercises.  In-class attendance is expected.

Class Preparation

This course is challenging and moves rapidly.  Preparation for each class is essential.  Given the flipped format, class meetings will be most productive if everyone has done the required reading and worked through the assigned exercises (either alone or as part of a study group) before class. 

Course Materials

  1. Quantitative Decision Making with Spreadsheet Applications (7th ed.), Lapin, Lawrence and Whisler, William, Duxbury Press, Thompson Learning, Inc., Belmont, CA. 2002.  ISBN-10: 0534380247.  The text is required and is available from a variety of online booksellers.  The CD that accompanies the text is NOT required, so used copies of the text are fine.
  2. MS-Excel spreadsheet software with Solver add-in.

The text and software will be supplemented as needed by a variety of materials available on Canvas.


Class Schedule: 
W 2:00PM to 5:00PM
SRH 3.B7