Public Policy and Economics

Degree Requirements for the Public Policy & Economics PhD Program

** Note that some requirements may change after the time of publication. Similarly, it is likely that not all courses described below are offered each semester. It is the responsibility of the student to verify information about degree requirements with the directors of graduate studies in public policy and economics.

Economics Department Course Requirements

Economic Theory

Students must take core sequences in micro- economic theory (Economics 601, 602, 603, 604) and in macro-economic theory(Economics 605 & 607). Preliminary exams are given in August in microeconomics and macroeconomics. Failing a preliminary exam for a second time is grounds for dismissal. Satisfactory performance in these examinations is a prerequisite for continuing inthe program. 

Mathematics and Statistics

Students must demonstrate competence in mathematics, statistics, and econometrics by successful completion of Economics 600,671, and 672, or by passing written equivalency examinations. Students who do not place out of the math and statistics coursesmust receive at least a B in each of these courses.

Areas of Specialization

Students must complete two courses in an area of specialization and successfully pass a written preliminary examination in the area of specialization. Note that doctoral students in the Economics Department who are not part of the joint program must complete courses in two different areas of specialization (generally four courses total).

 Public Policy Specific Course Requirements:

(Rackham requires all doctoral students to maintain a 3.0 GPA overall to be in good standing. In addition to this, joint doctoral students must obtain a B- or better in each required public policy course. Students should consult their disciplinary department for any similar requirements in the department required courses.)

  • 1 course in policy institutions (3 credits) – typically students take a 600 level Political Science course, but students may petition the PhD Program Director to allow another course to count toward this requirement.
  • 1 course in methods (3 credits) – typically students take Survey Methods 600, Econ 675 or Public Policy 821 but students may petition the PhD Program Director to allow another course to count toward this requirement. Note that students who take the Econometrics field sequence will automatically meet this requirement.
  • 2 courses in a substantive policy area (6 credits total) – at least one of these courses must be taken outside the student’s home social science department, and both courses must be approved by the PhD program director. 
  • Policy seminar (4 semesters, 1 credit per semester) – Public Policy 810 – This seminar meets bi-weekly and students are required to enroll in this course during their first two years in the PhD program.

Third-Year Economics Paper & Third-Year Public Policy Paper

Both the economics department and the Joint Public Policy and Economics program have a third-year paper requirement. Students typically submit the same paper to satisfy both requirements. To fulfill this requirement, students must complete an originalresearch paper on a policy-related economics topic, which must be approved by at least two faculty members (one in the Economics Department and one in the Ford School). This paper may be related to papers written for doctoral courses and may (but does not need to) lead into the dissertation proposal. The goal is a paper that would eventually be suitable for publication.

Annual Student Evaluation

Reviews for students in the joint Public Policy and Economics program will follow the general timeline and structure of reviews for doctoral students in Economics, with an important difference being that reviews for joint students will incorporate feedback from advisors in both the Ford School and the Economics department, and the feedback will be provided jointly by the director of graduate studies in Economics and the director of doctoral programs at the Ford School. 

Each student’s progress will be reviewed annually, typically at the end of the academic year. The process is as follows:

  • Students will be asked to identify an advisor in both the Ford School and the Department of Economics, and then complete a self-evaluation form that outlines the progress they have made over the course of the year.
  • For students in years 1 and 2, the student’s Ford School advisor will be asked to complete a short form discussing the student’s performance.  For students in year 3 and beyond, both the student’s Ford School advisor and his or her Department of Economics advisor will be asked to complete this form.
  • The DGS in the Ford School and the DGS in the Department of Economics will then meet to discuss the student’s progress, incorporating information from the student’s self-report, the advisor reports, the student’s transcript and other relevant information (e.g., completion of required exams). 
  • The DGS’s will then prepare a joint letter to provide feedback to the student.

Note: A student must be enrolled the semester during which a preliminary examination is taken. Registration may be under the 990, Candidacy Preparation, course number or another number in Economics or Public Policy. According to the RackhamGraduate School, IF the student HAS been enrolled on a full-time basis in the preceding fall and winter terms, he/she is notrequired to enroll for the term (summer half-term) in which the prelim is taken.

More information regarding the economics department requirements can be found in documents titles ‘Department Regulations Affecting the PhD Program’ and ‘Economics Welcome Packet Letter’ distributed by the Economics department.

Prospectus Defense

A student’s prospectus defense typically occurs in the 4th or 5th year, although the timing of prospectus varies somewhat with the student’s discipline; joint students should follow the norms of their disciplinary department. During this time, a doctoral candidate lays out his/her intended dissertation research to their committee members. The prospectus defense is done in person with as many members present as possible. If necessary, some members are able to call-in. All committee members must approve the prospectus defense.

Prospectus committee members are assumed to be the same as a student’s final dissertation committee (please refer to Rackham’s guidelines for the composition rules). We request prospectus committees to consist of at least four faculty members, three of whom are members of the Graduate Faculty, and two of whom are from the doctoral candidate’s home program. Furthermore, each joint doctoral program committee must have one committee member from each department (Ford School and Economics).

Typical Plan for Public Policy & Economics Students

Year 1




ECON 600



ECON 601

Micro Theory I


ECON 603

Micro Theory III


ECON 605

Macro Theory I


ECON 671

Econometric Analysis I



Policy Seminar


ECON 602

Micro Theory II


ECON 604

Micro Theory IV

ECON 607

Macro Theory II

ECON 672

Econometric Analysis II


Policy Seminar



Micro & Macro Theory

Year 2




GSI Training Course



Economics Field Course #1 *




   ECON 675

Applied Econometrics


   PUBPOL 810

Policy Seminar


Economics Field Course #2 *



   PUBPOL 810

Policy Seminar



Econ Field

Year 3




Substantive Policy Course #1



Policy Institutions Requirement:

  POLISCI 622 (or other approved course)

American Political Institutions

Third Year Paper Course:

   ECON 695

Intro to Economic Research I



Substantive Policy Course #2



Third Year Paper Course:

   ECON 696

Intro to Economic Research II


Advance to Candidacy


Year 4




PUBPOL 995 or ECON 995

Dissertation Candidate

Year 5




PUBPOL 995 or ECON 995

Dissertation Candidate

* These courses will depend on the area of specialization chosen by the student and may vary somewhat from year to year.

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