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 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

Jens Hainmueller, Dominik Hangartner, Giuseppe Pietrantuono
American Political Science Review. May
2017, Vol. 111, Issue 2, Pages 256-276
Steven Callander, Gregory Martin
American Journal of Political Science. January
2017, Vol. 61, Issue 1, Pages 50-67
David Broockman, Daniel M. Butler
American Journal of Political Science. January
2017, Vol. 61, Issue 1, Pages 208-221

Recent Insights by Stanford Business

April 3, 2017
New research shows a positive safety impact of a California law that gave 800,000 people a license to drive.
An applicant reviews a driving handbook | Reuters/Gus Ruelas
March 17, 2017
Political economist David Brady talks party polarization, third-party chances, and what to expect in 2018.
Donald Trump | Reuters/Eric Thayer
February 9, 2017
These rushed executive orders show a gap between the administration’s goals and reality.
An international traveler arrives after U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order travel ban at Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts. | Reuters/Brian Snyder