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Thread: Northwestern Kellogg MECS--Good for empirically inclined folks?

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    Northwestern Kellogg MECS--Good for empirically inclined folks?

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    Would Kellogg's PhD in MECS (Managerial Economics and Strategy) be a good fit for someone interested in empirical research in incentives, strategy, and innovation? Given that NW only allows one application per cycle, would someone with these interests be better off applying to the econ or MECS program?

    The only MECS-related threads I could find on URCH are from 2010 or earlier, and they give the impression that MECS is heavily focused on theory. However, the MECS website doesn't state theory as its sole focus-it says students can work with both the MEDS and M&S faculty. There is also a fair number of current students doing applied work. Can someone please help resolve the discrepancy between what was written in URCH about MECS' theory focus and what is posted in MECS' current website?

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    Re: Northwestern Kellogg MECS--Good for empirically inclined folks?

    In every cohort there will be candidates working on empirical dissertations who are actually planning to go into the industry, so take that into account. Theory dissertations are really hard to sell in industry (or government) interviews, so it's not uncommon for theory students to do empirical dissertations if they decided academia isn't for them.

    As for the MECS program, their econometrics training is standard, and I think there's nothing stopping you from writing empirical papers on strategy with one of the M&S faculty as your advisors, but my impression from previously speaking with one of their adcom members is that the core faculty really try to cater their program to theory or applied theory students. Over the last two decades MECS' best placements have generally been theorists, and likewise, it's generally their theorists that get the most job talks / flyouts, on both the econ/bus-econ market as well as the poli-sci market.

    So if your interests are in empirical research in general, at first glance Northwestern Econ does make more sense than Kellogg. However, you're interested in empirical research on incentives and strategy, which isn't served well by most econ departments. On the other hand, it may be the case that the M&S faculty are really looking for strategy students and you'd be a big fish in a small pond at their MEDS program (in both the admissions pool, and later as their grad student). I think there are two (opposing) factors to note here: 1. for empirical research, econometrics training and programming experience are far more important than economics knowledge, and you can allocate a lot more time to econometrics and data if you're *not* in a theory-intensive program. This suggests Northwestern econ. 2. for placements in business schools, there's a significant advantage from having graduated from a business school PhD, compared to a straight econ PhD. If that's your expected ideal placement, then this should give you a reason to consider MECS.

    Now keep in mind you'll get more accurate information if you actually get an offer and a campus visit, so you'll definitely be able to make an informed decision about either program before enrolling. The above is just intended to help you decide which program you should apply to, because you can only choose one. At this stage you do need to keep in mind you're not maximizing the expected fit over {NWU Econ, MECS}. You're maximizing the expected fit *after* garnering more information on your choice (conditional on getting an offer). IMO, this suggests applying to MECS over NWU Econ. The key reason is that at the second stage of this process (campus visits), having MECS as one of your several offers has more option value than having NWU Econ as one of your several offers, because you're likely to get some other standard econ offers.

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