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COURSE NAME: "Special Topics in Economics: The Italian Economy"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2019

INSTRUCTOR: Niccolò Serri
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 8:30-9:45 AM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisites: Junior Standing, EC 201, EC 202
OFFICE HOURS: by appointment

An in-depth treatment of a current area of special concern within the field of economics. Topics may vary.
May be taken more than once for credit with different topics.

Note: this is a preliminary draft of the syllabus, the assigned readings and course schedule might change. At the start of the semester I will post on my JCU and hand out in class the official syllabus.

Despite being one of the largest economies in the world and part of the club of the most advanced industrialized countries, Italy has stagnated for the past three decades, lagging behind its European partners. Many scholars and the international press heralded the country as the ‘sick man of Europe’.

The course aims to provide an analysis of the current situation of the Italian economy in the context of the European integration process and financial globalization, with a focus on the aftermaths of the Great Recession. The Italian political agenda of the last years has been characterized by numerous attempts at institutional and economic reform, ranging from new labor market laws to changes in social policy and public finance.

To frame the study of the Italian economy and the choices of its current political elite, the course adopts the key insights of economic history, placing the origins of the present stagnation within the long-run development of the country in the post-war period.

The first part of the course concentrates on the long-term economic history of Italy, providing a bird’s eye view of the country’s economic development and structural change from agriculture to the industrial and service sectors. Themes include: the drivers of post-war economic growth, the emergence of a north-south divide, the history of industrial policies and state-owned industry, the pattern of industrial relations and the development of an unbalanced welfare system, as well as the growth of the national public debt.

The second part of the course narrows the focus on the current predicament of the Italian economy, taking into consideration the creeping crisis of the country since the mid-1990s, when Italy started diverging from other core European countries. Themes include: the sluggish growth of productivity, the Maastricht system and the role of Italy in the Euro currency area, the impact of the 2008 crunch and the European sovereign debt crisis, the attempted reform of the country’s labor market and social policy.

  1. A solid understanding of Italy’s economic history and development model in the post-war period.

  1. The capacity to compare and contrast the merits of various economic theories by applying them to the evolution of the Italian economy.

  1. A firm comprehension of current trends and prospects of the Italian economy, with particular focus on the origins and key features of its present gridlock.

  1. Insights on the political economy of Italian institutions and governments since the mid-1990s.

  1. Knowledge of the economics of European integration and monetary union.


Class participationStudents are expected to attend every class and prepare the assigned readings beforehand, so as to participate in class discussion 10%
Midterm examThe midterm exam will focus on the first part of the course on Italian economic history. 30%
PresentationStudents will prepare a presentation based on selected policy documents produced by the Italian Ministry of Economics and Finance, the Bank of Italy, The Ministry of Economic Development, the OECD or other public institutions. The structure and content of the presentation will be discussed in advance with the instructor. 20%
Final examThe final exam will cover both the first and second part of the course, with a focus on the current problems of the Italian economy. 40%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.


You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed.

Attendance is mandatory. Students should keep their mobile phones turned off during lecture. You may use your laptop to take notes, but you are not allowed to surf the web during class. Should you fail to follow these rules I will ban laptops from classroom altogether

As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Week 1

Italian economic history: the long view

Emanuele Felice and Giovanni Vecchi, ‘Italy’s Modern Economic Growth, 1861–2011’, Enterprise & Society, 16:2, 2015, pp. 225-248 OR Paolo Malanima and Vera Zamagni, ‘150 years of the Italian economy, 1861–2010’, Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 15:1, 2010, pp. 1-20 (moodle)

Foreign views on the Italian economy

Marcello De Cecco, ‘The Italian Economy Seen from Abroad over 150 Years’, Bank of Italy Economic History Working Paper, 21, 2011. Available at https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/quaderni-storia/2011-0021/qse-21.pdf?language_id=1

Week 2

The sources of Italian growth

Claire Giordano, Gianni Toniolo and Francersco Zollino ‘Long run trends in Italian productivity’, Bank of Italy Questioni di Economia e Finanza, 20, 2011. Available at https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/qef/2017-0406/QEF_406.pdf?language_id=1

Inequality and well-being in Italy

Giovanni Vecchi and Andrea Brandolini. ‘The Well Being of Italians: a Comparative Historical Approach, Bank of Italy Economic History Working Papers, 19, 2011. Available at  https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/quaderni-storia/2011-0019/QSEn_19.pdf?language_id=1

Week 3

Regional divergence and the Southern question

Emanuele Felice. ‘The roots of a dual equilibrium: GDP, productivity, and structural change in the Italian regions in the long run (1871–2011)’, Bank of Italy Economic History Working Papers, 40, 2011. Available at https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/quaderni-storia/2017-0040/QSE-40.pdf?language_id=1

The structure of Italian firms and the business history of Italy

Franco Amatori, Matteo Bugamelli and Andrea Colli. ‘Italian Firms in History: Size, Technology and Entrepreneurship’, Bank of Italy Economic History Working Papers, 13, 2011. Available at https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/quaderni-storia/2011-0013/QSEn_13.pdf?language_id=1

Week 4

The rise and decline of state-owned enterprises in Italy

Pierangelo Toninelli and Michelangelo Vasta. ‘State owned enterprises (1936-1983)’, in Andrea Colli and Michelangelo Vasta (eds.). Forms of enterprise in 20th century Italy: Boundaries, structures and strategies, Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, 2010, pp. 52-87 (moodle)

Patrizio Bianchi. ‘The IRI in Italy: Strategic role and political constraints’, West European Politics, 10:2, 1986, pp. 269-290 (moodle)

Innovation and economic growth in Italy

Federico Barbiellini Amidei, John Cantwell and Anna Spadavecchia. ‘innovation and foreign technology in Italy, 1861-2011’, Bank of Italy Economic History Working Papers, 7, 2011, pp. 5-33 and 40-45. Available at https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/quaderni-storia/2011-0007/qsen_07.pdf?language_id=1

Week 5

Education and human capital

Giuseppe Bertola and Paolo Sestito. ‘A Comparative Perspective on Italy’s Human Capital Accumulation’, Bank of Italy Econonic History Working Papers, 6, 2011. Available at https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/quaderni-storia/2011-0006/Qse_06.pdf?language_id=1

Italy and the global market

Giovanni Federico and Nikolaus Wolf. ‘Comparative Advantages in Italy: a long-run perspective’, Bank of Italy Economic History Working Papers, 9, 2011. Available at https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/quaderni-storia/2011-0009/QSEn_09.pdf?language_id=1

Week 6

Italian migrations: from emigration to immigration

Matteo Gomellini and Cormac O’Grada, ‘Outward and Inward Migrations in Italy: A Historical Perspective’, Bank of Italy Economic History Working Paper, 8, 2011. Available at https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/quaderni-storia/2011-0008/QESn_08.pdf?language_id=1

The Italian public debt

Fabrizio Balassone, Maura Francese and Angelo Pace, ‘Public Debt and Economic Growth in Italy’, Bank of Italy Economic History Working Paper, 11, 2011. Available at https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/quaderni-storia/2011-0011/QSEn_11.pdf?language_id=1

Week 7

The Italian banking system

Stefano Battilossi, Alfredo Gigliobianco, Giuseppe Marinelli, ‘Resource Allocation by the Banking System’, in Gianni Toniolo (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Italian Economy Since Unification, Oxford University Press, New York, 2013, pp. 485-513 (moodle)

Midterm exam

Week 8

The burdens of the administrative system

Magda Bianco and Giulio Napolitano. ‘The Italian Administrative System: Why a Source of Competitive Disadvantage?’, Bank of Italy Economic History Working Paper, 24, 2011. Available at https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/quaderni-storia/2011-0024/Quaderno-storiae-conomica-24.pdf?language_id=1

The economic impact of organized crime

Paolo Pinotti, ‘the economic costs of organized crime: evidence from Southern Italy’, Bank of Italy Working Papers, Temi di discussione, 868, April 2012. Available at: https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/temi-discussione/2012/2012-0868/en_tema_868.pdf


Week 9

The peculiarities of the Italian welfare state

Maurizio Ferrera, Matteo Jeossula and Valeria Fargion, ‘At the roots of the unbalanced Italian welfare state’, Paper prepared for the seminar organized by Banca d’Italia Area – Ricerca Economica e Relazioni Internazionali, March 2013. available at https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/altri-atti-seminari/2013/paper-Ferrera.pdf

OR Chiara Saraceno, ‘The Ambivalent Familism of the Italian Welfare State’, Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, 1:1, 1994, pp. 60–82. (moodle)

Industrial relations: between conflict and consensus.

Lucio Baccaro and Valeria Pulignano, ‘Employment relations in Italy’, in Greg J. Bamber, Russell D. Lansbury, Nick Wailes and Chris F. Wright (eds.), International and comparative employment relations, Sage, London, 2011, pp. 138-168 (Moodle)

Week 10

The European Monetary Union

Sylvester Eijffinger and Jakob de Haan, European Monetary and Fiscal Policy, Oxford University Press, New York, 2000, pp. 3-31 (moodle)

Rescued by Europe? The politics of the stability and Growth Pact

Maurizio Ferrera and Elisabetta Gualmini, Rescued by Europe? Social and Labour Market Reforms in Italy from Maastricht to Berlusconi, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2004, pp 9-31 (moodle)

Week 11

The wave of business privatization in the 1990s

Andrea Goldstein, ‘Privatization in Italy 1993 – 2002: Goals, Institutions, Outcomes, and Outstanding Issues’, CESifo Working Paper Series, 912, 2003 (moodle). 

Reforming the Italian labor market

Paolo Barbieri, Stefani Scherer, ‘Labour Market Flexibilization and its Consequences in Italy’, European Sociological Review,  25: 6, December 2009, Pages 677–692 (moodle)


Week 12

The impact of the 2008 financial crisis in Italy

Hanan Morsy and Silvia Sgherri, ‘After the crisis: assessing the damage in Italy’, International Monetary Fund Working paper, WP/10/244, October 2010. Available at: https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2010/wp10244.pdf

AND Elisa Borghi, European Economic and Social Committee, The impact of anti-crisis measures and the social and employment situation: Italy study, European Union, 2013. Available at: https://www.eesc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/resources/docs/qe-32-12-542-en-c.pdf

Italy in the European sovereign debt crisis

Philip R. Lane, ‘The European Sovereign Debt Crisis’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 26:3, pp. 2014, pp. 49-68

AND Jonathan Hopkin, ‘A slow fuse: Italy and the EU debt crisis’, The international spectator 47:4, 2012, pp. 35-48.

Week 13

The reform of the Italian welfare state

Stefano Sacchi, 'The Italian Welfare State in the Crisis: Learning to Adjust?', South European Society and Politics, 23:1, 2018, pp. 29-46 (moodle)

The politics of austerity

Maria Moschella, ‘Italy and the Fiscal Compact: Why does a country commit to permanent austerity?’ Rivista Italiana Di Scienza Politica, 47:2, 2017, 205-225. Doi:10.1017/ipo.2017.7

AND/OR Fabrizio Di Mascio and Alessandro Natalini ‘Austerity and Public Administration: Italy Between Modernization and Spending Cuts’, American Behavioral Scientist, 58:12, 2014, pp. 1634–1656. Available at https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764214534667

Week 14

Student presentations