Major in Political Economy


The Political Economy program offers an A.B. Degree in Political Economy that is jointly managed by the Department of Economics and the Department of Government. The major in Political Economy exposes students to the rich intersection between economics and politics. Students study the social, political, and economic factors that affect and are affected by systems of production, exchange, and distribution, as well as the mix of values reflected in them.

At the heart of the major is the methodological and substantive overlap between economics and political science. Methodologically, political economy emphasizes rigorous and frequently quantitative methods, including formal modeling, econometrics, and comparative case study methods. Substantively, political economy analyzes how international and domestic political factors interact with macro and micro economic factors to determine outcomes in a wide variety of areas including globalization, international trade, international finance, regulation, development, taxes, institutional design, the environment, and income distribution. The scope of inquiry ranges from developed countries to developing economies, to nations making transitions to market-oriented systems.

The strength of the major is its ability to analyze important issues that do not divide neatly along the classic disciplinary lines of economics and political science. The intellectual enterprise typically goes beyond the constituent disciplines by combining traditional economic concerns about efficiency with traditional political concerns regarding distributional issues and legitimacy in markets and nonmarket environments.


The major in Political Economy requires eleven courses as follows:

  • Three of the following four foundational courses in the Government department:
    • U.S. Political Systems (GOVT-020)
    • Comparative Political Systems (GOVT-040)
    • International Relations (GOVT-060)
    • Elements of Political Theory (GOVT-080)
  •  Four foundational courses in Economics:
    • Intermediate Micro (ECON-101)*
    •  Intermediate Macro (ECON-102) or International Finance (ECON-244)
    • Economic Statistics (ECON-121)
    • Intro to Econometrics (ECON-122)

* Note: ECON-101 has Microeconomic Principles (ECON-001) and Calculus I (MATH-035) as prerequisites.

  • Four courses in Political Economy:
    • Analytical Tools for Political Economy (PECO-201)
    • Two (2) electives in Political Economy (PECO) courses
    • Senior Capstone in Political Economy (PECO-401) or 1 additional PECO 300 or 400-level elective that includes a research paper


Effective expression of ideas through written work is an essential requirement of the major. Political economists develop models and statistical tools to facilitate analysis. The PECO major requires that students build, solve, test, and present political-economic models. To do this well requires that students achieve transparency and clarity of ideas in their written work.  To help students achieve this goal the political economy program requires all PECO majors to take a political economy course that requires a research paper which serves to guide students through the arduous process of creating and communicating (in written form) original research.  The research paper for this major is expected to analyze a theoretical or empirical puzzle relevant to political economy.


In order to graduate with honors in Political Economy, a student must:

  • Earn a cumulative grade point average of 3.33 and a grade point average of 3.67 in the major by the date of graduation.
  • Write an honors-quality thesis in the Capstone Course PECO-401. The paper must receive a grade of “A” from the professor(s) teaching PECO-401 and must also be approved as of “honors quality” by a designated committee.


Up to two electives in support of the Political Economy major can be taken abroad with prior approval by either the Field Chair for Political Economy in the Department of Economics or the Field Chair for Political Economy in the Department of Government.  To obtain approval please submit a syllabus for the course for which you wish to receive credit.


Michael Bailey, March Busch, Matthew Carnes, Raj M Desai, Sharat Ganapati, Shareen Joshi, Mitch Kaneda (SFS Dean of IPEC), Marko Klasnja, Roger Lagunoff (PECO Field Chair for Economics), Rodney Ludema, Kate McNamara, Anna Maria Mayda, Irfan Nooruddin, Ken Opalo, Jenny Guardado Rodriguez, Nita Rudra, George Shambaugh (IPEC Field Chair & PECO Field Chair for Government), Joel Simmons, Yuhki Tajima, and Erik Voeten.