Department of Political Science, Columbia University

Undergraduate Courses

Political Science W3595: Social Protection around the World


This course employs the tools of comparative politics to account the development of social policies in both developed and developing countries. The policies and institutions by which governments provide social protection to their citizens vary significantly across countries. Some governments provide only meager benefits to a narrow group of citizens, while others cover the entire population. In some countries, these benefits are provided directly by the state, while in others, many responsibilities are delegated to societal organizations, such as labor unions, religious organizations and so on. This course provides you with the tools to understand cross-national differences in institutions and policies among advanced industrialized countries and among developed and developing countries.

We seek to establish the relative importance of institutional variables, social cleavages and partisanship in accounting for the variation in policy design. Secondly, we will explore the impact of existing social policies on a range of labor market outcomes, including inequality, unemployment and labor force participation rates. The final part of the course explores how countries have adapted existing social policies faced with economic, demographic and fiscal pressures. We will examine the extent to which strong existing differences among welfare states can endure in the face of unfavorable economic and demographic developments and common political pressures towards welfare state retrenchment. In turning to the policies of social policy adjustment in developing countries, we explore the political and economic causes of social insurance privatization during the 1990’s and reversals of these policies in recent decades.

Political Science W3952: Comparative Political Economy Political Science 


This seminar provides an introduction to the main theories of comparative political economy. The survey of these theories is organized as a progression from micro- to macro-level explanations. We begin by examining the sources of political cleavages over various economic policies and the formation of political coalitions. Next, we explore a range of theories positing that differences in the organization of interest groups lead to systematic differences in economic outcomes. In the second part of the course, we apply these theoretical building blocks to a variety of issue areas, including financial development, taxation, the development of social spending and the political management of unemployment.

Graduate Courses

Political Science G6404: Scope and Methods in Comparative Politics 


This course provides an introduction to the main methodological challenges encountered in comparative politics. The themes of the course include concept formation, case selection, variable operationalization, measurement and causal inference, among others. We are exploring these questions through  a reading of methodological debates in comparative politics and through an overview of the way in which leading studies in comparative politics have grappled with these issues. Each week pairs ‘classic’ and contemporary work addressing some of the major dependent variables in our sub-field. We examine the theoretical and empirical choices made by these studies and the limitations of their empirical strategies.