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Political Economics

Political economics is an interdisciplinary field focusing on the nonmarket, 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.

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. The program is small by design to promote close interaction between students and faculty.

Fields of Inquiry

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
  • Business and government

The orientation to these topics tends to be positive rather than normative.

Cross-campus Collaboration

The program, embedded in the larger community of political economics scholars at Stanford University, combines the resources of Stanford GSB 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.

Preparation and Qualifications

Faculty selects students on the basis of predicted performance in the PhD Program. Because of the rigorous nature of the program, a 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.

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.

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.

Recent Journal Articles in Political Economics

Financial Asset Holdings and Political Attitudes: Evidence from Revolutionary England

Competitive Policy Development

Crossing Party Lines: The Effects of Information on Redistributive Politics

Recent Insights by Stanford Business

February 10, 2015
Many successful business people integrate religion into their careers.
A man standing at the edge of a pond
February 3, 2015
A Stanford political economist predicts that the new Republican Congress won’t overcome the “gravitational pull to the center” in U.S. politics.
A man looking at newspaper headlines hanging on a window