What’s in a name?

As economists, we know that college rankings are not always statistically relevant or accurate. But let’s impress you with ours anyway. In the latest U.S. News & World Report ranking of national universities that offer doctoral degrees, Duke tied for eighth. And we recently bested our Ivy League competitors to claim the No. 1 spot in a ranking of best economics colleges for undergraduates in the United States. How does this relate to the Ph.D. program? A strong undergraduate program reflects an equally strong department. According to College Factual, the presence of “significant” graduate and doctoral programs at an institution “can mean more resources available to all students, not the least of which is access to an expanded group of professors and research opportunities.”

Yes, we have an expert on that.

Between the primary, secondary, and visiting professors, it can be hard to measure the size of the department. Just counting regular rank faculty, we have 56 people who specialize in everything from behavioral economics to financial economics to the economics of education. Our world-class professors don’t just teach students the answers, they teach them how to think. Review a list of our faculty by specialty.

More funding, more resources, more opportunities

At its core, economics is the study of managing scarce resources. At Duke, we’re fortunate to have resources to spare.

The intellectual community here is thriving. Research expenditures at Duke exceeded $1 billion in 2012, ranking seventh in the nation, according to the National Science Foundation (NSF).  We strive to build upon previous achievements by thinking creatively and innovating upon well-established methods and models.

Duke is home to more research groups and institutes than we can count – trust us, we’ve tried. Housed within the department are three grant-funded and faculty-run research labs specializing in development and health economics, but our students aren’t limited to the walls of the Social Sciences Building. We get it. Research interests can be as diverse as they are broad, and they may overlap with other subjects in uniquely interesting ways. Faculty and students alike reach across fields, disciplines, and schools to combine expertise:

  • Professors Elizabeth Frankenberg (primary appointment: Sanford School of Public Policy) and Duncan Thomas (primary appointment: Department of Economics), along with their team of research associates and Ph.D. research assistants, collaborate on studying the myriad issues related to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Students also have the opportunity to conduct hands-on field work for other grant-funded projects in countries such as Bangladesh, India, and Zambia.
  • Best-selling author and James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics Dan Ariely (primary appointment: Fuqua School of Business) has mentored and hired Duke Economics Ph.D. students.
  • Research Professor Gale Boyd (primary appointment: Social Sciences Research Institute) typically hires anywhere from one to three Duke Economics Ph.D. students to assist with his environmental economics research. As director of the Triangle Research Data Center (TRDC), he – and by extension, his research assistants – has access to confidential U.S. Census data. The TRDC is one of just 19 locations in the country where research on this data can be conducted.

Specialized courses, flexible curriculum

The full-time program is rigorous but rewarding. First-year students are required to take six core courses in micro, macro, and metrics with a minimum 3.0 GPA. After the first year, many of the upper-level courses are divided into half-semester modules. The purpose of this structure is to allow students to take courses along methodological lines rather than field lines and to better align coursework with their research interests.

Build lifelong bonds

There are many things in life that forge lasting friendships. Surviving a Ph.D. program is one of them. At Duke Economics, we believe in providing a strong support system from year one. The Economics Graduate Student Council (EGSC) organizes a student mentoring program, graduation parties, and other social events. The group also serves as a liaison between students and administration, advocating for student interests within the department. Come to one of their monthly happy hours and you’ll see networks in the making. Beyond social activities, our countless lunch groups, workshops, seminars, and conferences give students the opportunity to present original work and meet top economics researchers from other universities and organizations around the world.

The diverse student population here means that you will be exposed to new ways of thinking, learning, and studying – in and out of the classroom. These relationships – as well as those with faculty – can help to guide and shape the rest of your career.

Be bullish

Despite what you may have heard about the first year, having a great education and a life outside of classes are not mutually exclusive. Periodically, you will have to emerge from your cave, and when you do, you can go crazy in Cameron, catch a show, explore the outdoors, visit a museum, and find comfort in Southern food.

Durham is a small city with a major metropolitan vibe. Most importantly for graduate students and young families: It’s affordable. The Bull City has been listed in the top 10 “Best Places to Live” by U.S. News and World Report, named the No. 1 “Smartest City” and No. 2 “Brainiest City” by Newsweek and The Daily Beast, and dubbed the No. 1 “Foodiest Town” by Bon Appétit. There’s an entrepreneurial community, flourishing art scene, and a burgeoning food culture that’s sure to please your mind, body, and wallet. 

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