Political Economics is an interdisciplinary field focusing on the non-market, collective, and political activity of individuals and organizations. The PhD Program in Political Economics prepares students for research and teaching positions by providing rigorous training in theoretical and empirical techniques. The intellectual foundations of the program are rational choice theory, positive political theory, theories of collective action, institutional analysis, and analysis of political competition and equilibrium. Specific fields of inquiry include regulation, distributive politics, elections, corporate politics, political participation and collective action, interest groups, constitutional choice, legislative behavior and organization, judicial institutions, bureaucracies, comparative institutions, cooperative political economy, macro political economy, law and economics, and business and government. The orientation to these topics tends to be positive rather than normative.
The Program, embedded in the larger community of political economics scholars at Stanford University, combines the resources of the Graduate School of Business with opportunities to study in the departments of Economics and Political Science. Drawing on the offerings of all three units, students have a unique opportunity to combine the strengths of economic methods and analytical political science and to apply them to the study of collective action, political institutions, and public policy. The Program involves coursework in economic theory, econometrics, game theory, political theory, and theories of institutions and organizations.
The first class of students in political economics was admitted in 1987. Enrollment in the Program is intentionally small and involves close interaction between students and faculty. Students become involved in research early in the Program. They begin their own research during the first year and are required to write research papers during the summers following the first and second years. The Program is flexible and allows ample opportunity to tailor coursework and research to individual interests.
Preparation and Qualifications
Faculty selects students on the basis of predicted performance in the Program. Since the Program is quite rigorous, evidence of substantial background or ability in the use of analytical methods is an important factor in the admission decision. In many instances, successful applicants have majored in economics, mathematics or political science as undergraduates, or have a master's degree in one of those fields or in business administration. However, this background is not a prerequisite for admission. In addition to evidence of ability and letters of recommendation, the faculty considers carefully the applicant's statement of purpose for pursing the PhD degree. The successful applicant usually has clearly defined career goals that are compatible with the purposes of the Program, and is interested in doing basic research in empirical and/or theoretical political economics.
Students who enroll in the Program usually have significant background in economics, political science, or both. Students are expected to have, or to obtain during their first year, mathematical skill at the level of one year of calculus and one course each in linear algebra, analysis, probability, optimization, and statistics. They also are expected to have basic computer use and programming skills, or to correct any deficiencies by the summer following the first year.