Research

I chose Duke because of the breadth of expertise deployed by faculty who span traditional disciplinary boundaries, generating innovative and unique research.
Ralph Mastromonaco (Ph.D. '12)

You won't find the traditional barriers within the discipline here. We are economists without borders, meaning there is no limit on what your methodology and research can be applied to. This translates into innovative research, which combined with our collegial atmosphere, makes us a unique program for exceptional students. Review a list of our faculty by specialty.

All leading institutions seek to provide a balance between senior and junior faculty, and so have a range of research strengths in any given field. But at most institutions, departments are like fortresses unto themselves.

In contrast, Duke students and faculty are exceptionally integrated both within the department and with other disciplines. Students are likely to study and work with faculty from schools and departments ranging from Business to Public Policy to Computer Science to Statistics to Political Science to the Nicholas School of the Environment. Intellectual cross-fertilization in turn generates innovation and the application of techniques from one area to other disciplines.

Since students outside of Economics tend to take its graduate courses, the moderate Ph.D. program size does not lead to restricted course offerings. Moreover, Duke Economics boasts a vibrant master’s program, and many of those students…typically mathematics, statistics, and engineering majors learning economics…also take doctoral courses.

As evidence of our research orientation, students receive summer support for research from their first year, and faculty have subsidized incentives to hire doctoral students as research assistants. At many universities, doctoral students are pressed into services as graders, teaching assistants, and instructors. At Duke, the majority of grading and lower level course TA work is handled by master’s students, thereby freeing doctoral students for research. Indeed, as of 2009, all Ph.D. students in years 1-5 are given an annual research fellowship, in addition to their stipend, with which they can purchase computers, attend conferences, or acquire books and equipment.

 
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Collegial Environment

At Duke, you can find a distinguished and caring mentor, and you will also learn from other excellent students.
- Sophia Zhengzi Li, 3rd year Ph.D. student

We plan for our students to succeed. Due to our selective admission process and student support services, we have low attrition/high Ph.D. completion rates. Only three of 24 students in the entering class of 2013 did not complete first year exams.

Success at initial stages and at completion naturally leads to high morale. In part because of significant faculty expansion, Duke has one of the lowest Ph.D. student/faculty ratios of any major department. Not only do faculty compete for students, there is also a close and informal atmosphere among faculty and graduate students – clearly evidenced by the ubiquity of joint research papers and various social functions.

The Ph.D. program at Duke is also extremely flexible. High passes of B+ or better in core courses exempt students from qualifying exams in those areas. Students choose from field concentrations in macroeconomics and international economics, applied microeconomics, financial econometrics, micro theory, or history of political economy. The focus in these areas is on acquiring techniques and skills, and then applying them in research. Consequently, course requirements and exams are limited: the doctoral program emphasizes research as soon as possible.

Nearly all those seeking academic placements have been successful. Our alumni can be found at MIT, Northwestern, Penn, Berkeley, Minnesota and Wisconsin, among other top institutions.

  • Importance of Research Collaboration for Grad Students

Why The Program Encourages Research Collaboration Early

In the interview excerpt above, Professor Chris Timmins explains why economics Ph.D. students need to collaborate with faculty on research projects early in their studies in order to be successful.

Duke Economics has a vision. A vision that is evident in every conversation I’ve had - not just to become a top department - but a department with an ideal: that research should focus on the question, not the particular sub-field or the methodology. All approaches have something to bring to the table. - Rachel Kranton, Professor

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