Jump to content
Urch Forums

Macroeconomics : Columbia or Northwestern ?


Passeport
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hi,

 

I have just been admitted to a PhD in Economics in both Columbia U and Northwestern U. My main fields of interest would be fiscal and monetary policy, monetary union...

 

I do not know which one to choose. Both have excellent professors working on these subjects. Northwestern is supposed to realize better placements (that's what I've heard). Evanston should be a nice place to work... Still Columbia is in New York which is more attractive - but I don't want to choose only on location of course.

 

If you could give me any advice, about the faculties, the campus, the student life, the placements... This would be very helpful.

 

Thank you very much !

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While Northwestern surely has a longer track record of placements overall, Columbia's placements improved a lot this year. The placements are now posted on Columbia's econ site. The macro placements this year were at Maryland, Boston College, and the Board of Governors. The student placing at Maryland also had flyouts at Berkeley and Harvard. I don't know what the recent record of Northwestern macro placements is for comparison.

 

Columbia's improvement in placements is not some one-year fluke. There have been significant changes in the department, especially in macro. The biggest difference is the department hired three seniors, Schmitt-Grohe & Uribe & Reis, in 2008. The impact of their hiring on macro placements finally began to show this year, and I expect it's only going to get better. The department was physically renovated within the last few years, and upper year macro students all have offices right outside the professors'. That makes a huge difference. The department also has two student lunches and one faculty lunch each week devoted to macro, in addition to the usual weekly macro seminar. It's simply a much better place for macro than it was several years ago.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest 8675309

For your interests Schmitt-Grohe and Martin URibe's work is better. I've worked through some of the seminal papers in the area you've talked about and know the leaders, and neither is a close fit. What you need is people who can probably advise you in the New Keynesian tradition, as the a lot of theoretical side of currency union literature is grounded in New Open Economy Macroeocnomics, which itself is an extension new Keynesian model to international environments. Uribe and Grohe have done some work in the past on NOEM literature, not specifically in the area of currency unions and Woodford is a leader in the area of New Keyenesian economics.

 

My issue how ever, is that Northwestern seems to have shown a lot of strength in the last two or three years Christiano and Eichenbaum, are making big winds in NK literature. If it were me I would pick them, simpl because their placements are consistent and extremely strong. Most students are at major research insitutions mostly Ph.D granting North American schools, Top European schools. Even their international placements are at the top schools in those countries.

 

Placement - Department of Economics -- Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sure, as I said, Northwestern clearly has much stronger overall placement record than Columbia over the past decade. I would be sure to find out exactly how well Northwestern macro students have placed in the last few years though. Since these new Columbia macro senior hires have only been around for a few years, they're not going to have a long track record of placing people. But their first students have done very well. And keep in mind, all these senior macro faculty weren't here when these students choose Columbia -- Columbia wasn't competing as well for students with other top 10 schools at the time -- so I expect that the macro placement will be even better going forward.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest 8675309
all these senior macro faculty weren't here when these students choose Columbia -- Columbia wasn't competing as well for students with other top 10 schools at the time -- so I expect that the macro placement will be even better going forward.

Without knowing those faculty personally it is very hard to make such a strong statement credibly. Top faculty can often not be interested in training students, avoid them when ever possible outside of lecture and actually never be at the department. They could instead visiting other departments, conferences and attending book signings. I was at such an institution for undergrad, and know how this culture can perpetuate through out the department down to the administrative staff. At top places students can do well because they are independently good and peer effects. I know Guatti Eggertson has done well, but I don't know why he's actually done well. If I were in the OPs shoes I would have to think very carefully about whether Columbia's placements are the result of a new improved department.

 

 

Frankly your argument that Columbia wasn't as strong a department just doesn't seem like a credible explanation for their past department. They have never not been a top 20 department, and even their placements weren't great compared to top 20 places. A trend that reminds me a lot of my undergrad institution, where students were known not to get enough face-time with advisers.

 

 

I have said I think that Columbia is probably a better fit for the OP and his interests are a lot like mine. Despite that I'm not sure I would want to go to Columbia, if I were in his position.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have said I think that Columbia is probably a better fit for the OP and his interests are a lot like mine. Despite that I'm not sure I would want to go to Columbia, if I were in his position.

Ok, but you're approaching this from a position from ignorance and making inferences about your undergrad institution on to Columbia. At the same time you're accusing me of lying to prop of my school which I don't appreciate.

 

As for my credibility, that comes over time, but I feel my credibility here has been built for me trying to give an unbiased impression of my school and make sure everyone gives my school a fair shake. When faculty are not involved in the department, I tell people who they are. And then I give credit where credit is due.

 

Without knowing those faculty personally it is very hard to make such a strong statement credibly. Top faculty can often not be interested in training students, avoid them when ever possible outside of lecture and actually never be at the department. They could instead visiting other departments, conferences and attending book signings. I was at such an institution for undergrad, and know how this culture can perpetuate through out the department down to the administrative staff. At top places students can do well because they are independently good and peer effects. I know Guatti Eggertson has done well, but I don't know why he's actually done well. If I were in the OPs shoes I would have to think very carefully about whether Columbia's placements are the result of a new improved department.

Sure, and there's nothing wrong with the OP thinking carefully.

 

As for whether the placements are a result of an improved department, I can point to several things. One is the improvement in the quality of the faculty. Another is the improvement in the student space that improved the quality of student-faculty change. I also think the improvement of the department began when Davis & Weinstein as department chairs brought in Currie & Woodford, and both of them I believe really changed the culture of advising in the program, and both of them won the top advising awards in the program several times (Currie has now left for Princeton). Macro placements weren't as strong as they are now in part because Columbia didn't have enough now depth in senior macro faculty around when Woodford arrived, but that clearly changed in 2008.

 

Frankly your argument that Columbia wasn't as strong a department just doesn't seem like a credible explanation for their past department. They have never not been a top 20 department, and even their placements weren't great compared to top 20 places. A trend that reminds me a lot of my undergrad institution, where students were known not to get enough face-time with advisers.

 

I have no interest in entering a ranking debate, but I believe most people and rankings would concur that Columbia has clearly been a top 20 econ department in terms of research productivity. Most people would also agree that before this year that Columbia has not placed like a top 20 econ department should.

 

It's also false Columbia has "never" been a top department. Columbia was among the best departments many decades ago.

 

You're right that there are some faculty that aren't involved in seminars and advising and general academic life: but that doesn't mean it's a culture that permeates the whole department.

 

Anyway, I agree that it's fair to question whether Columbia's placement this year is one-year fluke or part of a longer-term trend for improvement. I've given some reason why I think there's a longer-term trend of improvement. It's up to the OP ultimately to do the due diligence and meet the students and faculty and make a decision.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I also just wanted to detail a few more of the changes in the department beyond the new faculty:

 

Until a couple years ago, most prof offices were on the 10th floor of the building, while student space was all inaccessible on the 5th floor.

 

The dept has since taken over the 11th floor and there is now ample student workspace by faculty offices. These natural interactions from proximity are crucial for avoiding the culture " economists " described.

 

Another big change since 2006 or so was to require students to present once per semester at a student lunch (colloquium, attended by several faculty, mandatory student attendance). There were two lunches back in 2006. Now there are 7. Columbia really used to let students get away with minimal progress years ago. Now that's no longer the case. The newer faculty that came in along with Janet Currie and the leadership at the time have been very committed to improving the quality of advising, and the results are showing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Frankly your argument that Columbia wasn't as strong a department just doesn't seem like a credible explanation for their past department. They have never not been a top 20 department, and even their placements weren't great compared to top 20 places. A trend that reminds me a lot of my undergrad institution, where students were known not to get enough face-time with advisers.

 

 

I have no interest in entering a ranking debate, but I believe most people and rankings would concur that Columbia has clearly been a top 20 econ department in terms of research productivity. Most people would also agree that before this year that Columbia has not placed like a top 20 econ department should.

 

It's also false Columbia has "never" been a top department. Columbia was among the best departments many decades ago.

 

I read Economists's post as saying that Columbia has always been a top department, but just hasn't placed as one (until recently), so that tends to agree with the statements you wrote that were premised with "most people would agree..."

 

Thanks for the info on Columbia!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest 8675309
you're accusing me of lying to prop of my school which I don't appreciate.

Where? If I did it was unintentional. I normally would take that as an attack on my character.

 

 

As for my credibility, that comes over time, but I feel my credibility here has been built for me trying to give an unbiased impression of my school and make sure everyone gives my school a fair shake. When faculty are not involved in the department, I tell people who they are. And then I give credit where credit is due.

I think you took this statement the wrong way and it was not supposed to be an attack on your personal credibility. I worded badly and I take responsibility. My comment was that the statement itself is not valuable (the information presented isn't credible irrespective of its author) without the OP knowing information about those faculties willingness to advise the student.

 

 

but you're approaching this from a position from ignorance and making inferences about your undergrad institution on to Columbia

You need to also understand that I don't draw a huge distinctions between any top 25 school. When schools like UBC, Toronto, can place multiple students into top 20 schools, including the top 5, all within the same year I don't think that the job market does either. So when a top 20 department makes the argument faculty quality wasn't good is the reason for their bad placement, I have a very hard time buying it. This discussion can be easily replaced with Cornell v.s. Duke, instead of Columbia v.s Northwestern. I would make the same comments.

 

Also that kind of statement is a one off way of discrediting someone. Most posts on test magic are made by undergraduates and masters students guessing. They possess a certain kind of ignorance and are inferences based on ones personal experience and information that they've heard. I think presenting my own undergraduate departments situation as an example is perfectly valuable information for anyone thinking about which department to go to within the top 25. It gives them something to think about other than absolute rankings.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ok, you make some fair points. I do feel I've now laid out some details on Columbia's recent history and improvements, beyond improvement in faculty quality, that can give students some more confidence that this year's placement is a trend change and not a blip. But point well taken on my initial argument.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...