Public Economics

The Melbourne Institute conducts independent, rigorous analysis of public policy in relation to taxation, expenditure and investment. Our aim is to understand how government decision-making affects the delivery of public services and economic development.

Public economics affects every person in our society at all levels of the income distribution. The Melbourne Institute is home to Australia’s leading groups of public economists who evaluate the ways in which government policies and social programs affect Australian citizens’ outcomes.

  • Tax and transfer policies

    We study the impact of tax policies on individual and family decision-making and outcomes, such as, the impact of lowering or raising tax thresholds on people’s earnings and participation in the labour market. Our researchers analyse the effects of tax policies to understand how these affect labour supply, as well as the welfare of households and children.

    Our Melbourne Institute Tax and Transfer Simulator (MITTS) is a powerful tool that allows us to assess the impact of actual and hypothetical tax and transfer policies on labour force participation, hours worked, income distribution and poverty.

  • Welfare and social service delivery

    We’re studying the effect of government policy on the delivery of social services such as income support, housing, healthcare, education and employment.

    We are leading an evaluation of the Future Directions for Social Housing in NSW strategy for the New South Wales Department of Communities and Justice, and are working with the Department of Social Services to evaluate major policy packages such as the $96.1 million Try, Test and Learn Fund, which is trialling innovative approaches to assist vulnerable families to move towards stable, sustainable independence.

    We are also investigating how policy design can encourage individuals to utilise health insurance in an optimal way.

  • Charitable giving

    Our researchers work on projects to understand both the motivations of individuals to donate to charity and the financial constraints under which non-profits operate.

    Our research explores individual giving behaviour and patterns over the lifecycle, including how age, income and tax incentives influence charitable giving. We’re also investigating how direct and indirect government support of charitable activities impacts giving, as well as decisions made by charities and non-profits about funding of their services.

Program Details


Program Coordinator: Professor Ragan Petrie

Research staff

Partnerships and Funding

This program is collaborating with the Australian Taxation Office in the use of Australian Longitudinal Individuals File (ALIFE) data.


Working Papers

Research Insights