Welcome to the Department of Economics at the University of Michigan. This website is your portal to learning about who we are and our educational and research missions.
Our Department has a long and distinguished history, and we continue this tradition of excellence today. We are a large, highly-ranked Department within what is universally acknowledged as one of the very best public universities in the country. For decades we have been known especially, but by no means exclusively, for research that applies economics to the challenging and important policy questions of the day.
The 2012-2013 year marks two exciting new developments. First, we are welcoming three new professors. Jing Cai, who studies the role of education in Chinese farmers’ weather insurance purchases, joins us from Berkeley as an assistant professor. Dean Yang, who is a leader in using field experiments to study issues such as migration and remittances from developing countries, shifts a part of his associate professor appointment from the Ford School of Public Policy to Economics. Finally, as of January 1, 2013 Justin Wolfers will assume a joint appointment as professor in Economics and the Ford School, moving from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Justin has written extensively on macroeconomics, law and economics, and prediction markets, and is a leading public intellectual on economic policy issues.
Second, September 1, 2012 marks the official beginning of the Michigan Institute for Teaching and Research in Economics. Affectionately known in these parts as MITRE, the new institute was funded by an anonymous donor who has pledged $5 million for five years of expendable support to the Department of Economics. Designed to enrich and strengthen the Department and to heighten its visibility and ranking among peer institutions, MITRE will provide important resources for graduate fellowships, visiting scholars, faculty research, graduate student research, and undergraduate student activities. Already in the spring of 2012 MITRE hosted eminent economist Tom Sargent from NYU, the 2011 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences and Robert Shiller of Yale (UM AB ’67), author of Irrational Exuberance, and other eminent scholars for short-term visits.
Our research and teaching covers a broad range of fields, including development economics, econometrics, economic history, industrial organization, international finance and trade, labor economics, macroeconomics, microeconomic theory, natural resource and energy economics, and public economics. Most weeks over 15 research seminars meet, as do several informal bag-lunch workshops. We embrace an eclectic set for research methodologies, and have actively engaged frontier fields such as behavioral economics, randomized field experiments in developing countries, and applications of game theory to decision-making and auctions. We are in the forefront of improving the econometric methodologies our profession uses to learn about economic phenomena from a wide variety of data--including archival, survey, and experimental—and in applying new technology to improve the effectiveness of our teaching.
Our faculty members routinely testify to Congressional committees, comment in the international media, and provide economic forecasts to the State of Michigan and Federal government. While on leave our faculty have served at the European Commission (Kai-Uwe Kühn), at the Council of Economic Advisers (Matthew Shapiro and Joel Slemrod); and have been honored as Fellow of the Econometric Society (John Bound); and President of the American Population Association (David Lam). Reflecting the universal excellence and collegiality of social sciences at the University of Michigan, many of our faculty members have joint appointments in other units, including the Law School, the Institute of Social Research, the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
Our Ph.D. students come from nearly 30 countries, and participate integrally in the research mission as research assistants and co-authors, and in the teaching mission as graduate student instructors. They go on to positions at the best academic and governmental institutions, as well as to important think-tanks and NGOs. In the past few years we have placed students at top research universities including the University of Chicago, Harvard, Princeton, Rochester, the University of Wisconsin, and Yale; top liberal arts colleges including Colby, Franklin & Marshall, The College of William and Mary, and Williams; and government and multilateral institutions including The Federal Reserve Board of Governors, the Department of Treasury, the Bank of Canada, the Bank of Portugal, and the Korean Institute of Finance.
A growing Masters of Applied Economics (MAE) program is designed for students who wish to apply the theory and techniques of economics to the analysis of practical problems in a variety of fields. The MAE program addresses itself to the needs of those who want advanced training in economics beyond what is provided by an undergraduate degree as well as to those who wish to study economics as a complement to their work in another field.
We take special pride in our undergraduate program, the second largest in the College of Literature, Sciences, and Arts, with nearly 500 majors graduating in a typical year. During the principal terms all classes are taught by faculty, in settings ranging from large introductory classes taught by award-winning lecturers to low-enrollment honors classes and seminars that stress developing skills in writing, research, and analytical thinking. Many on our faculty are known and celebrated for the commitment to teaching, including Professor W. James Adams, a recent winner of the University-wide Golden Apple Award that honors faculty who inspire and engage students in their teaching.
An undergraduate economics education at UM provides a solid background for pursuing many career paths, in part because the study of economics engages so many issues, such as globalization and the environment, and also because it provides a rigorous, disciplined analytical way of thinking that evidence shows employers value greatly. After earning their degree, 72% of our undergraduate majors pursue careers in business, government, teaching, and service. Another 21% seek advanced/professional degrees at institutions including Yale, Duke, the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, the London School of Economics, and here at the University of Michigan. UM economics alumni include an American president, Gerald R. Ford; Gail Wilensky, former director of the Medicare and Medicaid programs (1990-1992), Senior Health and Welfare Adviser to President George H.W. Bush; and Allen Sinai, Chief Global Economist, President and Co-Founder of Decision Economics, Inc. and frequent media commentator on macroeconomic issues. Many alumni regularly return to discuss their experiences with our students, and support our activities through financial contributions.
Our subject matter, economics, is as ever a matter of crucial importance throughout the world. In the past few years the financial crisis and subsequent recession—its causes, consequences, and policy responses--have grabbed many of the headlines. Economists are engaged in most of the leading issues of the day, not only crisis and recovery but also how to address environmental concerns, fluctuating energy prices, the appropriate policy stance to facilitate growth in developing countries, the long-term U.S. fiscal imbalance, education reform, among many others. Our faculty and students address these issues both with practical policy analysis and by re-thinking the theoretical underpinning of how individuals, businesses, and governments interact.
Whether you are contemplating joining us in our mission, or are just searching for more information about our activities, welcome!