Find a Mentor to Match Your Interests
Duke Economics is introducing a mentorship program for undergraduate majors. This program will allow students to explore options within the field of economics with a faculty mentor to guide them. It is the department's hope that students will be matched to a faculty mentor in a field that interests them, and form a productive relationship throughout their time at Duke Economics.
Through these conversations, our hope is that our students will gain a deeper understanding of a particular area of economics that interests them. Students will have the opportunity to discuss research and hear about how economics can be used to impact policy. Through these conversations, our hope is that our students will get a better understanding of the many different dimensions of economics. Look through the fields below to find information about the different fields, lists of the primary faculty in each field, and links to their websites where students can learn more about what they do.
Microeconomic theory develops mathematical models for understanding the behavior of individuals, small groups, and firms in allocating scarce resources and, if necessary, regulation of this behavior to the benefit of society. Our theory faculty has diverse research interests that include the following sub-fields:
- Altruism, Reciprocity, and Public Good Provision: Modeling why people give to others and charity.
- Behavioral Economics and Decision Theory: Analyzing individual decision-making in various environments by incorporating behavioral biases and other psychological factors.
- Competitive Strategy and Industrial Organization: Studying firms’ strategies in monopolistic and oligopolistic markets and identifying their anti-competitive consequences.
- Game Theory: Developing mathematical tools to analyze strategic decision-making and interactions in a wide array of contexts.
- Information Economics: Examining how the production, allocation, transmission, and manipulation of information impacts economic decisions and activities.
- Mechanism and Market Design: Designing real-world markets and institutions to efficiently allocate scarce resources via auctions and matching algorithms.
- Networks and Informal Economies: Studying social interactions and communication using the tools of network science.
- Voting and Collective Choice: Analyzing voter behavior in elections and committees.
The finance field within economics has two primary areas:
- Corporate Finance addresses issues such as how companies raise equity or debt, evaluate mergers and acquisitions, or manage financial distress. Researchers in this field address questions such as corporate governance, financing of start-ups, and impact of changing regulations on how firms manage risk.
- Asset Pricing focuses on how financial investments (equities, bonds, commodities etc.) as well as portfolios of investments are valued, and how investors trade off risk vs rate of return. Researchers in this field use econometrics tools to analyze increasingly granular (high frequency) time series pricing data, as well as the impact of the macro environment on financial markets.
Students who select the finance field will be directed to DFE Advising. Please refer to that page for detail on the advising process within DFE.
The fields that fall under applied microeconomics use theory, data and empirical methods to address important economic questions with real world implications. Applied microeconomic questions address a wide range of issues, including labor, trade, urban, education, industrial organization, public, health, and environmental economics.
Development economics, one of the most exciting fields in economics today, is concerned with the behavior of individuals, families, firms and institutions including governments in developing countries. Studies seek to advance understanding of the dynamics of economic growth and productivity, poverty and inequality, population health and well-being across the globe from both a micro and macro perspective. Much of the work lies at the intersection of other fields in economics.
Duke faculty teach classes and conduct research to answer questions like:
- What are the most effective ways to help people move out of poverty? What role does microfinance play? In what ways do women who participate in these programs benefit? How can these--and other dimensions of financial markets--be designed to be most impactful?
- Exports from developing countries to higher income economies have sky-rocketed. What drives success of firms in the shorter and longer-term? What are the impacts for poverty and inequality in the exporting and importing countries?
- What types of work do people do in developing countries and how productive are they? How does this change as countries get richer?
- What are the effects of natural disasters on people in low income settings? What can we learn from their responses to disasters about economic behaviors of individuals and families?
Public economics focuses on real-world settings where public intervention can improve the functioning of the economy. Our teaching and research addresses a variety of such questions, such as:
- What drives the location of pollution and what are ways to address environmental injustices?
- How does school spending impact educational attainment?
- Do policies that encourage college enrollment impact inequality?
- Can police reform address racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal legal system?
- Do corporate tax cuts increase inequality?
Labor economics focuses on how individuals make decisions that directly or indirectly intersect with the workplace, as well as on how these decisions are valued in the labor market. Directly, labor economists study questions such as how individuals search for jobs, decide what job offers to accept, how much effort they exert on the job, and how individuals value characteristics of the job beyond just how much the job pays. Indirectly, labor economists study questions such as how individuals invest in their skills -- be it through job training programs or education -- as well as how the labor market influences investment in children and marriage decisions.
Industrial Organization is concerned with the study of markets where firms have market power, but more broadly with many aspects of firm decision making.
Over the past several decades, there has been extensive use of IO tools to model how firms interact in markets in order to study a wide variety of policy issues:
- Energy Markets.
- Financial Markets.
- Labor markets.
The field of International Trade is primarily interested in understanding why countries trade and the consequences of trade for their economies, welfare and income distribution. Broad themes include: (1) When is trade mutually beneficial and how large are the gains from trade?; (2) What are the patterns of trade? Who sells what to whom?; and (3) Should governments regulate international trade? Why so or why not?
Macroeconomists ask large scale questions about economies, such as: What determines the overall level of activity? Why do unemployment and the inflation rate vary over time? What determines the shape of the wealth distribution and inequality? Why do some countries grow faster than others? Why is growth faster now than centuries ago, and will this continue? Why do exchange rates between currencies fluctuate? Macroeconomists also ask questions about how government policies, such as fiscal and monetary policy, affect large-scale outcomes. Some macroeconomists mainly work with aggregate data when doing empirical work, while others seek answers to macroeconomic questions by using detailed data at a more micro level.
There are several subfields of macroeconomics represented at Duke, including business cycle analysis, monetary economics, international macroeconomics and finance, growth theory, the macroeconomics of heterogenous households/firms, and environmental and natural resources macro.
- International Macro and Finance
- Monetary Economics
- Aggregate Fluctuation
- Heterogeneous Firms and Consumer
Econometrics provides the methods that empirical economists use to learn from data. It is the bridge between data and economic theory, providing methods for both testing and refining theories and for using those theories to make quantitative predictions. It is also an interdisciplinary field, using tools from mathematics, statistics, computer science, and machine learning.
Recent econometrics research has studied how to analyze new kinds of data---like big datasets with many observations, many variables, or both, and high frequency datasets which record many observations in a short period of time. It has also provided new methods for analyzing traditional data sources, including methods for measuring sampling uncertainty and methods for understanding causality.
History of Economic Thought
The economic theories and methods of today are the product of many centuries of historical development. Courses in the history of economic thought courses allow students to explore various aspects of this history, from the ideas of people such as Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, and Friedrich Hayek to forces behind the modern mathematical and quantitative turn in the subject and its growing influence in the policy realm.
Students also discover how economic analysis—whether of the market process, macroeconomic activity, trade policy, or the appropriate role for government within the economic system—has been influenced by a wide range of historical events, the ongoing evolution of commercial society, ethical considerations, and different conceptions of ‘science.’ As home to the world’s leading Center for teaching and research in the history of economics, the Center for the History of Political Economy, Duke Economics offers its students an unparalleled set of opportunities to explore the field’s rich history.
Political economy examines the reciprocal relationships between politics and markets, both within and among countries, using a variety of analytical tools, including those of economics. Its concerns include interactions among economic and political development; cooperation and conflict among nations, groups, and individuals; the distribution of material resources and political power; the effects of political actors and institutions on economic outcomes; the causes and consequences of technological and structural change, growth, and globalization; and local, national and international regulation.