August 2011-2012 Chair Statement
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. Economics was one of the original 13 professorships included in the territorial law of 1817 that established the University of Michigania. Its origins date from when economics was first being established as a separate academic discipline in this country, with the first instructor appointed in 1880 and the first Ph.D. granted in 1890. Some of the great names in American economics have passed through our halls as professors, such as Henry Carter Adams (president and founder of the American Economics Association), Richard Musgrave (founder of the modern study of public economics), Lawrence Klein (who, while at the University of Pennsylvania, won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics), and Hal Varian (now chief economist at Google).
The Department today continues this tradition of excellence. We are a large, top-ranked Department within what is widely acknowledged as the second-ranked public university 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.
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. 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 draw credible inferences from a wide variety of data, including archival, survey, and experimental.
Our faculty 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 have joint appointments in other units, including the Law School, the Institute of Social Research, the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and the Population Studies Center. Several others conduct collaborative research with scholars from outside the Department, reflecting the respect for interdisciplinary endeavors the University encourages and facilitates.
Our Ph.D. students come from 28 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 five 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 using technologically state-of-the-art pedagogy 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 strive not only to disseminate knowledge, but to inspire and engage students in its pursuit. An undergraduate economics education 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, 67% of our undergraduate majors pursue careers in business, government, teaching, and service. Another 21% seek advanced/professional degrees at institutions including Yale, Duke, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, London School of Economics, and here at the University of Michigan.
Our undergraduate majors have gone on to shine in many endeavors. Economics alumni include an American president, Gerald R. Ford; Gail Wilensky, former director of Medicare and Medicaid programs (1990-1992), Senior Health and Welfare Adviser to President George H.W. Bush; Robert Shiller, professor at Yale University and author of Irrational Exuberance; Allen Sinai, Chief Global Economist, President and Co-Founder of Decision Economics, Inc. and frequent media commentator on macoreconomic issues; and Rajiv Shah, current Administrator of USAID. Thousands of our graduates come back to campus regularly and stay in touch with each others’ accomplishments through our newsletter and other outreach events. 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. But economists are engaged in most of the leading issues of the day—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.
We hope you will use this website to learn more about our Department—our research, educational programs, and events.
Economics Alumnus is New USAID Administrator
January 7, 2010
Dr. Rajiv Shah, '95econ was sworn in as the new administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on January 7. See video.
Less than a week later, U.S. President Barack Obama named Shah to be the government's unified disaster coordinator for U.S. rescue and recovery efforts in Haiti following the devastating earthquake there on Jan. 12. See more.