Second Year

Starting in the second year, students take courses from a variety of fields within economics. A requirement of the PhD program is to complete two majors and one minor in different fields. We offer courses in the following six fields:

  • Applied Microeconomics
    • Labor
    • Urban / Public
    • History / Institutions
  • Econometrics
  • Experimental Economics
  • International / Development / Comparative Economics
  • Macroeconomics
  • Microeconomics

Because of the diversity of topics within applied microeconomics and the expertise of our faculty in that area, we list three different tracks within this field: labor, urban / public, and history / institutions. Students interested in applied microeconomics could major in only one of these tracks, but could pursue one track as major and another one as a minor. A major consists of two courses within the field and one graded field seminar. External speakers present papers at each of our six seminars. A minor consists of two courses within the field. Course offerings in each field are available here (insert link to Graduate > PhD program > Field courses). Most students complete the course requirements for the majors and the minor in their second and third year. Completion of these requirements amounts to a total of 24 credits (3 credits per course). Together with the 21 graded credits earned during the first year, the cumulative 45 credits satisfy the required number of graded course credits to earn a PhD in economics.

During the second year a number of students serve as teaching assistants (TAs) for either undergraduate or graduate classes. During the fall term, the following mandatory 1-credit course prepares students to be effective TAs and instructors:

Teaching Economics (Econ 2740)

This course aims to provide orientation and training for second-year graduate students in preparation for their duties and responsibilities as Teaching Assistants.  Additionally, the course will serve to introduce the basic tools and skills necessary for university level instruction to those graduate students who might eventually teach courses independently for the first time. Sample syllabus

During the spring term, the following mandatory 1-credit course helps students in the transition from first-year coursework to research:

Research Methods in Economics (Econ 2720)

This is a mandatory course for second-year PhD students. The course introduces students to strategies for identifying interesting research ideas, to determine whether the idea is worth pursuing, to effectively review the literature, and to plan how to conduct the research. Insights into how these strategies change across fields within economics are provided by relevant faculty guests. Other topics discussed in the course include the typical difficulties involved in conducting research and how to address them; how to deal with advisors; academic etiquette; techniques for presenting work in progress at seminars; and how to write and submit academic papers. Requirements include the drafting of the second-year paper proposal (PhD Comprehensive Research Paper) and the selection of two faculty readers.  Sample syllabus 

Second-year students are also encouraged to take an Empirical Methods course, offered every fall. This course is complementary to all major fields and focuses on general applied techniques:

Empirical Methods (Econ 2160)

This course will cover empirical methods typically used in applied micro-economic research and it is designed to help you learn how to apply the econometric techniques learned in the econometrics sequence. We will focus on techniques used in applied microeconomics to identify causal estimates. The course will cover data issues and distributional estimators in some detail along with matching and propensity scores, local regressions, instrumental variables, regression discontinuity designs, and inference issues. Many example will come from development, health, labor, public economics, and political economy, but I hope the material will be useful to any applied researcher. The course will focus also on the implementation of econometric techniques learning the basic tools of programming and coding using statistical software. The goal of this class is to provide students with the tools needed to become critical readers of empirical work and teach them techniques that they can apply to their own original research.  Sample syllabus 

Starting in the second year students are expected to attend the weekly brown bags in their fields of interest. Faculty and students present research in progress at these brown bags and receive feedback on their projects.

By mid-April of the second year of study students submit a research proposal for the second-year paper, an important milestone in the program. This paper satisfies the PhD Comprehensive Examination requirement. The research proposal must be approved by two faculty readers. Students spend the summer working on their research project and submit a paper the last week of August.

Most second year students use their second-year research proposal to apply for a summer fellowship award.