Public economics is a branch of the field of economics focused on studying the public sector and examining the ways it interacts with the private sector. A variety of topics are covered, including taxation, welfare, and the impact of social policy on economic health. People who study and apply public economics work in financial institutions, colleges and universities, and private think tanks, as well as government agencies, and many possess advanced degrees such as master's and PhD degrees in economics.
This area of economics is concerned with examining the interface between private and public economic activities, and looking at how government policy and economic policy in particular impact the economy as a whole. Topics like government expenditure and investment, different types of governments and their approach to economic issues, and government borrowing and lending are popular topics of research in public economics. This field can include research in the field, as well as analysis of current and historical economic activities.
Researchers apply economic theories about how people save and spend money, interact with economic events, and respond to political events to their study of public economics. Many economic theories explore the way people use and abuse public resources, like the tragedy of the commons, examining the way the actions of people with access to public resources can ultimately deplete those resources. Interest in the intersections between economics and environmental issues, as well as government policy, is another topic of research in public economics, as government regulation of environmental activities, as well as market pressures from consumers and other businesses, all have an impact on the health of the public sector.
Governments use analysts with skills in this field to develop papers on the ramifications of proposed policy, to determine if the policy should be applied and to develop an appropriate framework for putting the policy in place with a minimum of economic disruption. Economists can also be involved in the planning and development process, taking stated goals from government officials and determining whether they can be turned into a workable policy.
A number of colleges and universities offer coursework in public economics, especially in the case of institutions with an attached school of public policy offering advanced degrees for people who want to work in the public sector. Students generally need to have strong math skills and an ability to grasp complex economic and political theory in order to succeed in such programs.