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Thread: Business economics or economics for theory interests

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    Business economics or economics for theory interests

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    What are people's opinions on business economics versus economics for someone with theory interests?

    So what's the verdict on urch? How would these programs stack up?

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    Last edited by eggnogone; 03-01-2021 at 07:44 PM.

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    Re: Business economics or economics for theory interests

    If your interests lie in the intersection of Economics and Finance, always go for the business school option if you can stomach teaching undergraduate Finance courses once you get an academic position. The PhD stipends are better and faculty positions in business schools almost always fetch higher salaries than their econ counterpart. Do note that Business Econ programmes are also a lot more competitive, since the incoming class is usually very small (something like <5-10 students).

    Business Econ students will have access to business schools as well as traditional econ jobs once they're on the market, so why would that be a bad thing? The only tough thing is that most of the time, their fields of specialisation lie closer to the realms of Finance than traditional Econ, which is why most end up in business schools and not traditional econ departments.

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    Re: Business economics or economics for theory interests

    With regard to Stanford GSB specifically, their "Econ Analysis & Public Policy" program is a top micro theory program thatshould compare favorably to other top theory departments (e.g. Stanford, Northwestern). They've placed people at Northwestern and NYU. The main advantage of doing Stanford GSB over Stanford (if you're fortunate enough to have the decision!) is presumably the fact that the GSB micro theory PhD sequence requires only 1 quarter of macro. In terms of advising, while formally you will need advisors from Stanford GSB, there shouldn't be that huge a friction stopping you from working with people in the Econ department.

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    Re: Business economics or economics for theory interests

    Quote Originally Posted by tutonic View Post
    If your interests lie in the intersection of Economics and Finance, always go for the business school option if you can stomach teaching undergraduate Finance courses once you get an academic position. The PhD stipends are better and faculty positions in business schools almost always fetch higher salaries than their econ counterpart. Do note that Business Econ programmes are also a lot more competitive, since the incoming class is usually very small (something like <5-10 students).

    Business Econ students will have access to business schools as well as traditional econ jobs once they're on the market, so why would that be a bad thing? The only tough thing is that most of the time, their fields of specialisation lie closer to the realms of Finance than traditional Econ, which is why most end up in business schools and not traditional econ departments.
    When you say that "Business Econ programmes are also a lot more competitive" are you referring to admissions being tougher (I've already been admitted to the aforementioned programmes) or the actual programme being tougher or more cutthroat once you're in?

    I'm mainly worried about Business Econ's perception as a programme for finance guys to place into business schools whereas I'm interested in traditional econ academia.

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    Re: Business economics or economics for theory interests

    Quote Originally Posted by hallowedelegy View Post
    With regard to Stanford GSB specifically, their "Econ Analysis & Public Policy" program is a top micro theory program thatshould compare favorably to other top theory departments (e.g. Stanford, Northwestern). They've placed people at Northwestern and NYU. The main advantage of doing Stanford GSB over Stanford (if you're fortunate enough to have the decision!) is presumably the fact that the GSB micro theory PhD sequence requires only 1 quarter of macro. In terms of advising, while formally you will need advisors from Stanford GSB, there shouldn't be that huge a friction stopping you from working with people in the Econ department.
    Interesting that you bring up Northwestern. I also have an offer from Northwestern Managerial Economics and Strategy (their Business Economics equivalent) but hadn't been considering them as strongly. Given that I'm personally biased against Stanford and the West Coast in general for PhD, how would you evaluate {Harvard econ, Harvard Business School Business Econ, Columbia Business School, Northwestern Kellogg} for my interests in theory, also factoring in the potential for my interests to shift slightly over time (though still be focused on micro)?
    Last edited by eggnogone; 03-01-2021 at 07:46 PM.

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    Re: Business economics or economics for theory interests

    Quote Originally Posted by eggnogone View Post
    Interesting that you bring up Northwestern. I also have an offer from Northwestern Managerial Economics and Strategy (their Business Economics equivalent) but hadn't been considering them as strongly. Given that I'm personally biased against Stanford and the West Coast in general for PhD, how would you evaluate {Harvard econ, Harvard Business School Business Econ, Columbia Business School, Northwestern Kellogg} for my interests in theory, also factoring in the potential for my interests to shift slightly over time (though still be focused on micro)?
    Congrats on your admissions! I wonder if we had interacted at the Stanford visit day hahaha. To answer your question, when I said "Northwestern", I meant "Northwestern Economics". I have not really heard anything about Northwestern Kellogg's ranking in micro theory, and I don't know how close Kellogg is with the Econ department (compared to Stanford, for example).

    But if you have strong locational preferences, then you could hardly go wrong with choosing HBS/Harvard over Stanford/Stanford GSB, especially if you think that your interests may shift slightly, given the historical advantage Harvard/MIT students appear to get (as long as you don't think you'll do macro theory, in which case Stanford Econ is the place to go). My understanding is that doing a PhD at HBS is essentially the same as doing a PhD at Harvard because your primary advisors don't have to be in HBS (e.g. Andreas Schaab's main advisor was Emmanuel Farhi before Farhi passed away, and two of Schaab's current advisors are housed in Harvard Econ). The primary difference is that you'll need to take MBA courses at HBS, but on the upside you usually get more funding at HBS.

    If you decide on Harvard/HBS, then you should definitely just ask Harvard Econ/HBS faculty what their advice would be. I sincerely doubt they'll be "competitive" about which program you attend since you'll be in contact with them regardless.

    To reiterate advice I've received from multiple professors, once you're into the Top 5 programs, as long as your interests are well represented at the program you attend (which they are for you), then your post-PhD outcomes will depend mostly on your own effort and ability. The relative added value between these programs is miniscule, and other factors (like your location preference) should matter far more. In other words, don't stress about it. It's not going to matter very much in the long run.

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    Re: Business economics or economics for theory interests

    I think there is a lot of confusion here: HBS Bus-Ec and Northwestern MEDs are just standard econ programs. They participate in the same job market and students take the same coursework (MEDS students don't take macro). I don't know anything about Columbia.

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    Re: Business economics or economics for theory interests

    Quote Originally Posted by Zubrus View Post
    I think there is a lot of confusion here: HBS Bus-Ec and Northwestern MEDs are just standard econ programs. They participate in the same job market and students take the same coursework (MEDS students don't take macro). I don't know anything about Columbia.
    I understand that Harvard Business Economics is the same program as Harvard econ in terms of coursework and advising, but I'm asking whether there's a difference in perception of prestige on the job market. Of course job market outcomes are largely due to the quality of one's JMP but all else equal is one seen as better or worse than the other? At the end of the day I don't want to choose Business Economics over traditional economics if it's seen as the program people go to if they didn't get into "proper economics" programs.

    I have heard some students say this, though among business school faculty it sounds like Business Economics is seen as more prestigious than its econ counterpart because it's more selective to get into.

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    Re: Business economics or economics for theory interests

    I don't think HBS is where people who didn't get into Harvard go to (and similarly Stanford GSB is where people who didn't get into Stanford Econ go to). For other business schools, there is probably a penalty on the job market for economics positions (I say this based on a discussion my predoc cohort had with a tenured prof from a T10 school). With respect to HBS and Stanford GSB, these programs have slightly different preferences for the students they admit (e.g. if you're into finance, there's more weight on you since business schools do more finance research), and there's nontrivial noise in the application process, especially as the admit classes are smaller at business econ programs. At this point, I think the most informative thing for you to do is ask the programs directly for their advice and views on this point (is there a reason to favor business economics over economics or vice-versa). I've gotten fairly honest advice from faculty (e.g. I was explicitly told by several faculty to choose a different program over theirs because, based on my CV, the other program strictly dominates any other places to which I was admitted).

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    Re: Business economics or economics for theory interests

    Congrats on your amazing admission results!

    For Harvard, Biz Ec at HBS usually wins all cross-admits. Here are some reasons:

    • For advising and the completion of the PhD, there is essentially no difference. You can have advisers exclusively from the Economics department. Regarding the prestige aspect on the job market, there has historically been no difference: What matters is your JMP and your advisors' letters (which can be Economics department only).
    • The HBS stipend is substantially higher and does not require any teaching. So you can spend all your time on coursework and research.
    • The HBS facilities are much nicer, especially the office you get in comparison with Littauer basement.


    So if the decision you have to make is between HBS Biz Ec and Harvard Econ, every insider will tell you to take Biz Ec. I hope this helps!

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