Political Economics

The political economics field is an interdisciplinary field focusing on the collective, 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 foundation for the program is positive political economy, which includes formal models of rational choice, collective action, political institutions, political competition, and behavioral political economy. Development and extensions of theories are often combined with empirical analysis, including the identification of causal effects.

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:

  • Bureaucratic politics
  • Comparative institutions
  • Constitutional choice
  • Elections
  • Government and business
  • Interest groups
  • Judicial institutions
  • Law and economics
  • Legislative behavior and organization
  • Macro political economy
  • Political economy of development
  • Political behavior and public opinion
  • Regulation

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 political economy. 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. 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

Jessica Leight, Dana Foarta, Rohini Pande, Laura Ralston
Journal of Public Economics. October
2020, Vol. 190
David P. Baron
Journal of Economics & Management Strategy. September
2020, Vol. 29, Issue 3, Pages 635-662
Kirk Bansak, Michael M. Bechtel, Jens Hainmueller, Yotam Margalit
The Journal of Politics. April
2020, Vol. 82, Issue 2, Pages 509–528

Recent Insights by Stanford Business

July 15, 2020
Helping voters learn by trading in the stock market can shift their perspective and politics.
Saumitra Jha smiling outdoors in front of a green background. Credit: Nancy Rothstein.
June 10, 2020
Tech industry millionaires are moving the Democratic Party to the left on almost every issue except government regulation. Unions beware.
Tiles of brightly colored, posterized images of the Capitol Building. Credit: iStock/smartboy10
March 31, 2020
Communities look more favorably on immigrants when investments help boost the local economy.
A girl holds a U.S. and Chinese flag. Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque