It isn't common because the econ courses will keep you plenty busy. But no one will object. Taking statistics classes, for example, is quite common.
I was curious whether any current or former PhD students could comment on how common it is for economics PhD students to take graduate math courses. In undergrad I double majored in math in order to boost my profile, but ended up falling in love with it and really want to incorporate mathematics into my research. Is it possible/common for econ PhD students to take graduate math courses that are relevant to their research? This is something I probably would want to ask about when I receive offers, but I don't want to do that if it's a weird question.
Agreed. In fact, some universities, including mine, require students to take at least one elective course outside of their home department. Our students typically take statistics, data analysis, etc.
This is really good context, thanks to both of you. I know I'll be super busy with a full course load, I think my hope is by the second or third year be able to take some advanced math that could figure into my research (super vague, I know). Good to know that's a possibility, and a valid question to bring up with programs when I have the opportunity.
Where I am at, students interested in econometrics or microeconomic theory often take graduate probability/measure theory/functional analysis from the graduate math core. They usually spread these classes out over the first two years (measure theory and graduate probability are almost substitutes, so students often take just one). I myself can't recommend taking a graduate probability course highly enough, but it might not be "pay off" practically if your interests are very applied. The great part about being a grad student is that you can take courses that interest you without worrying about trying to "game the system" in order to boost your GPA, since grades rarely matter. Of course, if you have high stakes qualifying exams coming up, then you should just focus on those courses and delay taking math to your second year.
Thanks for the insight! Although I really liked the probability/stats sequence in my undergrad math major, I was probably most interested by the little bit of analysis that I did (topology intro real analysis). Having limited insight into what PhD research looks (I went to a small LAC) would you say that micro theory is the research area that would be mostly like to involve analysis? I also really liked number theory but it's hard for me to think of where that would intersect with economics.
Relatedly, if I'm interested in graduate math courses and doing math-heavy research does it make sense to weigh the strength of the university's math department at the margins? Say I had offers in the 40s and one in the 50s, without clear distinction in placement but the lower-ranked school had a much stronger graduate math program. Or would that not really make a difference in my research/opportunities?
First, you shouldn't be putting so much weight on the economics rankings. Econ rankings are extremely coarse. US News asks department heads and Directors of Graduate Study to rank every department on a scale of 1 to 5. As you can imagine, most of us are not familiar with most other programs. We certainly aren't up to date on important changes happening in these programs. Further, the rankings skew towards larger departments. Use the ranking as a blunt first pass. Focus on schools that are a good match for your interest and talk to the faculty and students there to get a better sense of the program.
Should you consider the ranking of the math department? This depends a little bit on your area of interest in economics, but you probably don't want to balance the rank of the math department.
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