Graduate Program

Yale’s Economics Department offers a challenging and rigorous academic program, a distinguished and accessible faculty, and a friendly, supportive environment for study.

Our teaching faculty (not counting visitors or graduate student teaching assistants) numbers 50 making it one of the largest economics departments in the United States. There are 37 tenured professors and 13 non-tenured associate or assistant professors. With about 125 Ph.D. students in residence our teacher/student ratio is very high.

In 2011 Robert Shiller gave a presentation titled The Yale Tradition in Macroeconomics (slides) at the Yale Economic Alumni Conference. The talk actually gives a nice history of the department going back to 1813.

 

A Broad Range of Research Interests

Our faculty covers a broad range of research and teaching interests. Courses and seminars span the whole spectrum of economics: from the mathematics of general equilibrium theory to economic history; from statistical and econometric methodology to its applications in macro economics, labor economics and demography; from macroeconomic policy to antitrust and environmental regulation; from the United States and developed economies to the developing nations of Latin America, Asia and Africa; from international trade and finance to the theory of public choice. Whatever your interest, the chances are that you will find someone on the faculty to guide you, if not in a regularly offered course or seminar or workshop, then in a reading and research course tailored to your needs, and finally in your Ph.D. Dissertation research.

Our faculty is eclectic in methodologies and views of economics. There is no Yale dogma or school. You will acquire a critical perspective on the full range of approaches to macroeconomics. You will be well trained in neoclassical theory and in the theory of public choice, externalities and market failures. You will master the skills of sophisticated modern econometrics and understand pitfalls in its applications. You will gain respect for the power of contemporary mathematical models and also for history and for the insights of the great economists of the past.

Yale Ph.D’s Program

NOTE: We do not offer an M.A. program in Economics.

We enrolled 19 new Ph.D. students this year. Our graduate students come from all over the world, diverse in educational backgrounds and life experience. The proportion of women in entering classes has varied between 25 and 50 percent since 1997.

The Ph.D. can be completed in four years, and occasionally is, but most take five. Typically the first year is devoted to the core courses in micro theory, macro theory, econometrics, and economic history or related subjects. Advanced graduate students serve as teaching assistants to guide new students, not only through course materials, but in the transition to graduate study.

In the second year you will have more freedom to select courses, seminars, and workshops in fields of your special interest. By the fall of your third year, you should have met the qualifying requirements — the theory comprehensive exam, the econometrics courses and paper, an economic history course, and the oral exams in two fields of your choice. Formal work on the dissertation begins in the third year; students are encouraged to get a head start on their thesis by research and writing in a second-year course or seminar.

After the first two years, most graduate students serve as teaching fellows in undergraduate or first-year graduate courses and value the experience of learning by teaching. During summers and part-time during the term, graduate students frequently assist faculty members in their research, another opportunity for learning by doing.

 

Research Centers and Department Activities

The scope of economics at Yale is evident in the organized research groups within the department and in the affiliation of economists with inter-departmental organizations. The Economic Growth Center embodies Yale’s long-standing commitment to research in economic development throughout the world and on the related problems of international trade and investment. The Cowles Foundation carries on a rich and distinguished tradition in mathematical economics, game theory, theoretical and applied econometrics, and macroeconomic and monetary theory.

Economists play a large part in the Institution for Social and Policy Studies (ISPS), whose aim is to develop and synthesize contributions of several disciplines to the illumination and solution of important real-world problems. Economists also are prominent in other interdisciplinary programs in the university, such as Afro-American Studies and studies of various areas of the world, notably Latin America, Africa, China, Japan, East Asia, the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and Western Europe.

Our department has close relations with the Yale School of Management, located only a half block away. Several economics professors have joint appointments with SOM, in finance, organization theory, micro economics, game theory, and information theory. They and other SOM faculty teach economics students and supervise dissertations. Reciprocally, some SOM students enroll in economics courses, and members of our department teach courses at SOM.

Economists from other universities speak at Yale Seminars and Workshops frequently — usually at the rate of several outside speakers visiting the department each week. Indeed you are likely to find that you wish you could spare time to hear more of the several pages of seminar and workshop presentations listed in the Department Calendar.

Unique and Outstanding Physical Facilities

The physical facilities and geographical setting of the department are unique. We are on Hillhouse Avenue which, as any New Haven historical buff will tell you, Charles Dickens called the most beautiful street in America. It is still beautiful, even though the arch of towering elms that purportedly impressed Dickens was long ago replaced with oak. Our department is housed in four of the 19th century mansions that line the two sides of the street. They have a warm ambience that modern office buildings cannot match.

Within a few blocks are the Yale Computer Center, the Social Science Library, the other Social Science departments, the School of Management, three university cafeterias for students and faculty, a graduate student dormitory, city shops, restaurants and bars, and Yale’s Payne Whitney Gymnasium, one of the largest indoor athletic facilities in the world. All classes are in the economics houses themselves or elsewhere in the immediate neighborhood.

Quality of Student Life

Most students find the economics department friendly and hospitable. The faculty is accessible, and students are encouraged to cooperate, rather than compete, with one another. As a result, students tend to work in groups on problem sets and in preparing for exams. The camaraderie spills over into social life. The department fields high-spirited (if not always outstanding) teams in intramural softball, soccer, volleyball, and basketball. (All but the last are co-ed.) A high point of the year is the annual Christmas skit, a semi-professional spectacle in which students mock themselves, their professors, and the profession to the general amusement of all assembled (faculty, students, spouses, and friends). The faculty skit that ordinarily follows is worth the price of admission (zero).

Life in New Haven, sometimes maligned in contrast with Boston or the San Francisco area, is actually very pleasing. Many students and faculty members live on the charming tree-lined streets of the East Rock neighborhood, within walking distance of the department. Whether you live in the city or in a nearby town, the area offers some of the loveliest features of New England life, without the congestion typical of a major city.

New Haven is the core of a metropolitan area of about half a million people and has its share of the problems of many American center cities. Crime rates here are, on a per capita basis, comparable to those in other cities. They are not nearly as high as those in the most crime-ridden large cities, however, and New Haven is sometimes mistakenly viewed as unsafe compared to other university locations. This may be because of the contrast between the small-town physical ambience in some areas near Yale and the city’s overall crime rate. One has to be prudent about crime in New Haven, but the problems here are not greater than in most other urban areas.

The quality of cultural life is remarkable for a city of this size (roughly 120,000). New Haven boasts two of the finest repertory theaters in the country, excellent offerings of choral chamber and orchestral music, two superb art museums, and much more. Yale’s numerous film societies and the small commercial theaters adjacent to campus offer an overwhelming array of opportunities for diversion. The New Haven area has an ethnic diversity unusual for a city its size, and correspondingly varied restaurant options. New Haven’s pizza is, in the view of Time magazine and other commentators, the best in the nation.

Yale Ph.D.’s Land the Sought-after Jobs

How and where do Yale economics Ph.D.’s get jobs? Our department, through the efforts of our Placement Office and those of the individual professors who know students best, collects and disseminates information on job openings, arranges interviews on campus, describes the qualifications of job candidates to prospective employers, and helps our students prepare for “job market” interviews, seminars and visits. More than half of our Ph.D.’s take academic jobs; we get our share of positions in leading departments. In the last few years, for example, graduates went to Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Chicago, Stanford, Northwestern, Michigan, Wisconsin, Rochester, LSE, UCLA, NYU, University of Pennsylvania, Notre Dame, Williams and Cornell. Others took up university positions overseas, at prominent small colleges, and at other American universities.

The rest go to non-academic jobs — in the federal government (often to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors or the district banks, and to the Congressional Budget Office), in international agencies (for example the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank), or to professional economics positions in the private sector. Foreign students frequently return to their countries in academic or governmental capacities.

A Good Place to Study

Our department is a friendly place. Relations between graduate students and faculty are close. Morale is high. The faculty’s doors are generally open; access is easy, whether to discuss economics or seek personal counsel. Our own students and alumni are our best witnesses. Ask them about Yale.