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Best economics department...

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Replies to: Best economics department...

  • xiggixiggi 24571 replies872 threads 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.
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  • Sam LeeSam Lee 9273 replies176 threads Senior Member
    bball87,
    Stanford
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  • collegehelpcollegehelp 6322 replies275 threads 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.
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  • collegehelpcollegehelp 6322 replies275 threads 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.
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  • interesteddadinteresteddad 23879 replies298 threads 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.
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  • minimini 26167 replies259 threads 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. ;))
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  • collegehelpcollegehelp 6322 replies275 threads Senior Member
    interesteddad-
    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.

    mini-
    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.
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  • interesteddadinteresteddad 23879 replies298 threads 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.
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  • minimini 26167 replies259 threads 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.
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  • AlexandreAlexandre 24280 replies434 threads Senior Member
    I must agree with you on that one mini. Publication quantity and/or quality has very little to do with department quality.
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  • xiggixiggi 24571 replies872 threads Senior Member
    "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."

    And what kind of "undergarduate educational achievement" would the inclusion of Agnes Scott, Earlham, Bard, Berea, Rocky Mountain, and Coe really demonstrate? Except for I-dad concoction, do you have ANYTHING to back up your spurious claim?

    Yet, you find yourself good enough a judge of academic rigor to "sneer" at research that appears to be rigorous and comprehensive. Could you give us ANY specifics about why would this research or ranking deserve your contempt and scorn? Is it the methodology? Is it that the selection of schools is dubious?

    Oh well, I am not holding my bated breath in anticipation of a plausible answer. I am well used to the post and scoot whenever someone calls you on providing facts to support your posts beyond the usual perverse and hollow criticism. And that is why I labeled your post "another guerilla"

    I realize that for you a perfect ranking of economics' department would probably follow this formula:

    Number of Pell grants X Diversity Index X 1/SAT scores of students X 1/net tuition X 1/size of tenured faculty X 1/faculty resources X 1/selectivity ranks.

    Le ridicule ne tue pas!
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  • xiggixiggi 24571 replies872 threads Senior Member
    Alexandre, would you -for my curiosity sake- compare these three rankings that use three different methodologies? Do you see any glaring differences?

    Ranking I
    Harvard University
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Princeton University
    Stanford University
    University of Chicago
    Northwestern University
    University of California-Berkeley
    University of Pennsylvania
    Yale University
    Columbia University
    University of California-Los Angeles
    University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

    Ranking II
    Harvard University
    University of Chicago
    University of Pennsylvania
    Stanford University
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    University of California-Berkeley
    Northwestern University
    Yale University
    University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
    Columbia University
    Princeton University
    University of California-Los Angeles

    Ranking III
    Harvard University
    University of Chicago
    University of California-Berkeley
    Stanford University
    University of Pennsylvania
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Yale University
    University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
    Northwestern University
    Princeton University
    University of California-Los Angeles
    Columbia University

    Oh well, I'll save you a lot of time:

    1. Ranking I is the ranking YOU provided in this thread with this introduction, "Some Economics program are clearly better than others. I also don't think there is correlation between quality of undergraduate education and PhD production."

    2. Ranking II is the ranking used by Tom Coup
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  • AlexandreAlexandre 24280 replies434 threads Senior Member
    I have never seen the Tom Coupe report. My groupings are based on my personal exposure to the Economics field and it varries because there is such a small gap between the top programs. There is obviously practically no difference between the top 10-15 Econ programs. they are all about the same.
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  • jacknjilljacknjill 828 replies43 threads Member
    I just wanted to say thank you to everybody who replied and put in their time for my question. As important as rankings are, I agree that I should think about the "big picture". However, instead of thinking about other factors first, I thought maybe I should have a clear idea of what the top, lets say 20 institutions are. Then Id think about the city, the size, the people...
    I will be applying as a transfer student, which I think gives me an advantage in a sense that I now know what to give more importance to in my decisions. My current criteria is that it should be in or very close to a big city, preferably in the Northeast. Small classes so I can have a good relationship with professors. I'm not saying that a small class is necessary to be on good terms with professors but throughout HS I would usually discuss things with teachers after class and I still meet up with some of my teachers...I’m finding it difficult to do so right now. I would appreciate school spirit as neither my HS's nor my university has a lot of it and I feel deprived :( Unfortunately, most of these universities fit my criteria...so I don’t know what to do.

    I'm not really looking in to the general student population all too much, but I feel like I should. Although I've heard about how U Chicago students constantly study and give great importance to academics and just knowledge in general, I feel intrigued...but I don’t know. Northwestern on the other hand is only a 40 minutes drive from the city and seems to have a more relaxed environment and is more of a party school, while still being a great school.

    Thanks again for the various rankings. Some may be more useful than others but they all help form a general idea. Regardless, there is no need for hostility...

    Now Im thinking of:
    U Chicago
    Northwestern
    U Pennsylvania
    NYU
    Cornell

    But the list seems to change daily...
    Again, thanks for everyone’s input.
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  • xiggixiggi 24571 replies872 threads Senior Member
    Alexandre, my purpose in posting the three rankings was to show the parallel between your own "quality" based grouping and the results of Tom Coup
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  • ashernmashernm 963 replies23 threads Member
    There is an absolute dearth of information about the true quality of instruction. There was an article in the Atlantic Monthly saying exactly that. Rankings use information about the success of students beforehand (SAT, grades, class rank), or afterwards. There is no good empirical measure in my view, used yet. The AM article suggested some kind of standardized test, anything, to gauge the amount of material learned between matriculation and graduation.
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