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Best economics department...


Replies to: Best economics department...

  • xiggixiggi Registered User Posts: 25,441 Senior Member
    We have debated the relevance of the numbers of PhD to "measure" the value or quality of a program in Economics. While I think that most that needed to be said has been said about that canard, I would encourage everyone to check the size, depth, and qualifications of the faculty in Economics at the Grinnell and Agnes Scott Colleges as they rank VERY high on the "ranking":

    2 3229 Grinnell College 7
    4 1167 Agnes Scott College 6

    So, is this PhD production number STILL a testament to the commitment of a school to a particular program. If this level of investment in the department of Economics is a "commitment" I'd hate to see what an afterthought would look like.
  • xiggixiggi Registered User Posts: 25,441 Senior Member
    "Funny thing is the top consulting firms like McKinsey, BCG, Bain.. don't seem to recruit actively in LACs (except Williams and to a lesser extent, Amherst)."

    There is nothing funny about being dead wrong about something.
  • AlexandreAlexandre Registered User Posts: 24,693 Senior Member
    I think it is a little simplistic to say that since Economics is a popular major, there isn't much of a difference between programs. Some Economics program are clearly better than others.

    I also don't think there is correlation between quality of undergraduate education and PhD production. One could even argue that the top undergraduate programs have so many companies actively recruiting on campus that there is very little insentive for their undergrads to seek out further studies.

    The top Econ programs that I am aware of are:

    Group I
    Harvard University
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Princeton University
    Stanford University
    University of Chicago

    Group II
    Northwestern University
    University of California-Berkeley
    University of Pennsylvania
    Yale University

    Group III
    Columbia University
    University of California-Los Angeles
    University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

    Group IV
    Brown University
    Carnegie Mellon University
    Cornell University
    Duke University
    Johns Hopkins University
    New York University
    University of California-San Diego
    University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Group V
    Boston University
    University of Maryland-College Park
    University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
    University of Rochester
    University of Texas-Austin
    University of Virginia

    Group I
    Amherst College
    Carleton College
    Claremont McKenna College
    Dartmouth College (although Dartmouth is not a LAC, it does not offer graduate degrees in Economics)
    Grinnell College
    Pomona College
    Swarthmore College
    Wesleyan University
    Williams College

    Group II
    Bowdoin College
    Colby College
    Colgate University
    College of William and Mary (see Dartmouth)
    Haverford College
    Macalester College
    Oberlin College
    Vassar College
    Wabash College
  • shizzshizz Registered User Posts: 723 Member
    The Gourman Report is crap because the methodologies aren't explained clearly. The ones that are known are factors such as clarity in a department's mission statement, which in most people's opinions is not enough to judge a program by.

    Graduate rankings do not reflect on the quality of the undergraduate quality.

    The "# of PhD producers" is not a good ranking and time and time again it is discredited on these forums as a way of accurately (or even generally) assessing undergraduate programs.

    Economics, as stated before, is a bread and butter dept for most schools. All the top schools will have strong econ programs, so it would be wise to mainly consider other factors when choosing a school.
  • interesteddadinteresteddad Registered User Posts: 24,177 Senior Member
    Funny thing is the top consulting firms like McKinsey, BCG, Bain.. don't seem to recruit actively in LACs (except Williams and to a lesser extent, Amherst).

    Actually, Swarthmore econ grads have gone to work for McKinsey from both of the last two senior classes -- as well as Deloitte, Accenture, USB, Charles River Associates, Cornerstone, Milestone Research, Prudential Financial, JPMorganChase, Credit Suisse First Boston, etc.

    Someone asked if university grads are more likely to go directly into the workplace. I don't think so. I think there are differences in career plans among universities, just as there are differences among LACs. For example, I don't think anyone would dispute that Northwestern is far more pre-professional in orientation than UChicago. Picking colleges is not a one-size fits all endeavor. Some students want a more pre-professional environment; others probably will find a more academic/research oriented school to their liking.

    If you want a school where every econ major wants to be an investment banker, don't pick one that tops the PhD charts. For the most part, the heavily pre-professional schools don't send as many grads to PhD programs. For example, both Duke and Dartmouth produce far fewer PhDs across the board than their SATs would suggest. Conversely, UChicago produces far more. Different strokes for different folks. Xiggi's school is an example of an LAC that has a phenomenal Economics department, but doesn't produce that many future PhDs because it is a more business-oriented place.
    Seriously, I bet LACs have good numbers in that survey in just about ANY field, not just econ.

    Some do. Some don't. There's a lot of variation, even among the very good schools. For example, Swarthmore, Carleton, Reed, and several others are a big PhD producers pretty much across the board. It only makes sense. They are in the top-10 per capita PhD producers overall, so they have to be up there in most departments. Some of them are particularly strong in all social sciences.

    Davidson, Bowdoin, Middlebury, and others don't produce many PhDs. It just depends on the orientation of the school -- just like the variety you see in universities.

    In universities, Chicago, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford are also strong pretty much across the board. Others, like Cal Tech, MIT, and Rice are very strong in science/math PhD production, not so strong in other areas.

    Alexandre: I didn't mean to suggest that there aren't qualitative differences in Econ departments, but rather that there are enough good Econ departments that a high school student should really focus on issues of big picture "fit" first (size, location, campus culture, etc.) and then worry about which of the schools within the desired subset have the better departments. Since the vast majority of 17 year olds either don't know what they will major in, or will change their minds once at college, I think it is questionable to START the college search by focusing department rankings. I mean, it doesn't matter how good UChicago's Econ department is if the student hates the school's overall style. Start with the big picture, then move to the details.
  • xiggixiggi Registered User Posts: 25,441 Senior Member
    InterestedDad summed it up very well.

    It is important to make sure that the school you select fits YOUR criteria. The only way to do that is by scratching well below the surface. The Economics program at the University of Chicago may be quite different from the program at Harvard. In the same vein, the Economics program at Amherst, Smith or Wellesley may offer a direction and focus that is quite different from CMC. Trying to establish which one is "better" is exceptionally hard and ... subjective.

    PS I agree even more after ID's edit to add additional information.
  • Sam LeeSam Lee Registered User Posts: 9,449 Senior Member
  • collegehelpcollegehelp Registered User Posts: 6,590 Senior Member
    The top LAC program for economics is probably Claremont McKenna. They have hundreds of econ majors (over 400). About 40% of the enrollment at Claremont McKenna is economics majors. McKenna was the only LAC listed in the Gourman rankings for undergrad econ. Even their graduate program in econ is well respected and made it into the top 55 graduate econ programs in the US News rankings.

    I am a little surprised by the negative reaction to the Gourman rankings that I posted earlier because the validity of the Gourman rankings is well-supported. As I have tried to say, the result of the Gourman method speaks for itself. Those of you who had an unfavorable reflex should try to keep an open mind. Interesteddad, why are you so willing to accept the opinion of your librarian but ignore the hard evidence?

    Impugning Gourman's rankings because the method is not explicit is like criticizing the daily weather forecast without looking out your window to see if it is accurate.

    Of the 46 colleges listed in the Gourman Report for undergraduate economics, 43 of them are also listed in the US News ranking of the top 55 graduate economics programs. Furthermore, there is a near-perfect correspondance between the 1998 undergrad rank in Gourman and the 2005 graduate rank in US News (the Gourman Report undergrad ranking factors in research). The correlation between the rank in Gourman and the rank in US News is +.86, nearly perfect. This is further validation of the Gourman rankings.
  • collegehelpcollegehelp Registered User Posts: 6,590 Senior Member
    Here is a ranking of top LAC econ departments by faculty scholarship.
    First by total pages published.
    Second by pages per faculty member.

    Table 1 Liberal Arts Colleges Econ Rankings (1991-2001)
    Top 20 Depts. By Quality Pgs. Top 20 Depts. By Quality Per Fac.
    rank school total q pgs rank school q pgs./fac.
    CMC=Claremont McKenna
    1 CMC 170.73 1 CMC 10.04
    2 Williams 71.60 2 Barnard 6.40
    3 Swarthmore 66.38 3 Swarthmore 6.03
    4 Barnard 57.64 4 Haverford 5.24
    5 Bowdoin 41.30 5 Hamilton 4.36
    6 Wellesley 40.65 6 Bowdoin 4.13
    7 Wesleyan 40.07 7 Macalester 4.09
    8 Hamilton 39.23 8 Williams 3.25
    9 Middlebury 36.52 9 Wellesley 2.71
    10 Colgate 32.40 10 Wesleyan 2.67
    11 Macalester 28.62 11 Pomona 2.63
    12 Amherst 27.43 12 Middlebury 2.61
    13 Pomona 26.28 13 Amherst 2.29
    14 Haverford 26.22 14 Colgate 2.03
    15 Lafayette 21.08 15 Denison 1.85
    16 Denison 18.52 16 Frank.&Marshall 1.75
    17 Wash.&Lee 18.19 17 Wash.&Lee 1.65
    18 Smith 15.17 18 Lafayette 1.62
    19 Union 10.77 19 Grinnell 1.50
    20 Vassar 10.39 20 Smith 1.08
    Note: Rankings are based on the AER equivalent page methodology of Piette and
    Laband. Only schools ranked in the US News and World Report Top 50 Liberal
    Arts Colleges were considered in the analysis. The rankings are designed to reflect
    the general pattern of scholarship among economics departments in liberal arts
    colleges over the period 1991-2001. Compiled under the direction of CMC
    economics professor Marc Weidenmier.
  • interesteddadinteresteddad Registered User Posts: 24,177 Senior Member
    Why would you be surprised by the dismissal of the Gourman Opinion?

    It is intellectually dishonest to publish a statistical report (which is what a numeric score to two decimal places is) and not provide one iota of insight into the underlying data, the collection process, or the mathmatical formula used to arrive at the statistical conclusions.

    If Gourman simply stated that his work is an opinion, fine. It's the fact that it masquerades as statistically driven research that makes it dishonest.

    At least with USNEWS, it is possible to see precisely how their numbers are derived. That gives a careful reader the opportunity to understand the factors and how they are weighted. They also provide ready access to the underlying ranks in various categories so that a reader can focus on those of interest.

    BTW, I find rankings of departments by sheer quantity of published pages to be equally irrelevant to undergrad teaching.
  • minimini Registered User Posts: 26,431 Senior Member
    Gosh. I'm going to have to write longer books. (and I just demanded my publisher make my latest one shorter - slap upside the head - what in the world could I be thinking?!) I know - bigger typeface!!!

    Or better, if I'm the Pres. of a College, only hire elderly faculty who've published lots of wordy drivel.

    (Much of this conversation would make a decent economist sneer. ;))
  • collegehelpcollegehelp Registered User Posts: 6,590 Senior Member
    I was surprised that you dismiss the Gourman report because the Gourman Report is generally an accurate listing of the best research universities according to specific undergraduate departments. It is one of the few sources of such information by undergraduate department. You say that Gourman was intellectually dishonest because he did not reveal the details of his methods. Maybe he saw it as protecting his livlihood. I don't know how many different ways I can make this point: the listings are generally correct. If the outcome is valid, then the method does not matter. What kind of ethical reasoning would lead you to dismiss a valuable and useful tool for helping high school students find the best-fitting colleges because you are not privy to the methods? Would it be ethical for a physician to deny patients a safe and effective medicine because the physician is not privy to the formula? That does not make sense to me. I just want to help high school students find the right colleges. A little light is better than no light. My parents and GC were not very helpful to me when it came time to find a college. I am sympathetic to the dilemma of searching for a college and I am eager to find whatever I can to help HS students as long as it has demonstrated veracity. What is your motivation? Your negative remark about the Gourman rankings deserved to be challenged.

    You and mini share a disdain for faculty scholarship? Or, do you disapprove of how it is sometimes measured by number of publications, number of pages, number of pages per faculty member? I am not sure I understand. Faculty scholarship is typically regarded as a measure of quality in higher ed. Faculty who publish are better able to prepare their students for academic careers and are likely to be in the forefront of their field. You have to quantify things like scholarship in order to analyze scholarship statistically. Otherwise, you wind up with endless verbal debates that go nowhere. Quantification permits you to answer questions empirically. Thus, the number of pages per faculty member statistic.

    Your comment that this conversation would make a decent economist sneer...it was intended to make people feel badly that they expressed an opinion on this discussion board? Think about that.

    A decent economist would be too busy publishing and speaking to read this discussion. A decent economist would not waste his or her time on such an impractical and definitely unprofitable volunteer activity as helping confused high school students find the right college and perhaps reach their potential. However, for the right price, a decent economist could probably apply much more sophisticated analytical tools than my simple correlations to show that the Gourman Rankings have validity.
  • interesteddadinteresteddad Registered User Posts: 24,177 Senior Member
    Would it be ethical for a physician to deny patients a safe and effective medicine because the physician is not privy to the formula?

    A medicine cannot come to market without transparent, peer-reviewed, scientific testing. No scholarly research can pass muster without transparency regarding the methodolgy. There can be no peer review of Gourman's methodology because he refuses to provide any information. The strong suspicion has to be that he is simply selling his opinion masquerading as statistical research. I mean, honestly, how hard is it to say that Kenyon is known to have a strong English department. I knew that in high school forty years ago.
  • minimini Registered User Posts: 26,431 Senior Member
    "Your comment that this conversation would make a decent economist sneer...it was intended to make people feel badly that they expressed an opinion on this discussion board? Think about that."

    I have worked in and around academia enough over the past 35 years to be able to sneer - based on experience - at a statistical measure that would take account of number of pages in print. (I have some VERY funny stories.)

    But to take it one step further, it was very, shall we say, "convenient" that the study you cited only includes the so-called "top 50" LACs, when, in economics Ph.D. productivity, Agnes Scott, Earlham, Bard, Berea, Rocky Mountain, and Coe all have higher productivity than Cornell, Columbia, Dartmouth, Penn, and Duke. It would seem obvious on its face that so called "faculty scholarship" is no automatic measure of undergraduate educational achievement.
  • AlexandreAlexandre Registered User Posts: 24,693 Senior Member
    I must agree with you on that one mini. Publication quantity and/or quality has very little to do with department quality.
This discussion has been closed.