Doctoral programs

"Discipline Plus": Economics & Public Policy. Sociology & Public Policy. Political Science & Public Policy. 

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A pioneering approach

In our joint doctoral programs, candidates combine their public policy studies with disciplinary work at one of the U-M's top-ranked social science departments: economics, political science, or sociology. 

Our doctoral students become full members of their disciplinary departments, taking a rigorous sequence of theory and methods courses. In addition, they become active participants in the Ford School’s collaborative, interdisciplinary, outstanding public policy community, working with world-renowned faculty who are also enthusiastic teachers and mentors.

The program is designed to appeal to students who want to pursue research careers in a traditional social science discipline and who see themselves as deeply committed to the study of public policy.

Our goal: for joint PhD students to bring the most rigorous tools of social science to bear on critical public policy questions.

See where the Ford School's PhD has taken our graduates.

Distinctive program features

The joint doctoral program is distinctive in these ways:

  • Generous support: All of our PhD students receive five years of funding, contingent on satisfactory performance. The funding covers tuition, health insurance, and a stipend. Support may be in the form of fellowships, research assistantships, and teaching assistantships. Learn more.
  • Disciplinary orientation: Students spend most of their first two years in a department, taking the same sequence of theory and methods courses that are taken by departmental students. In addition, students have a departmental faculty advisor to help them become integrated into the department and to help ensure that they receive a thorough grounding in the theory and methods of the discipline.
  • Empirical methods: We expect students in the program to develop sophisticated analytical skills including statistics, economic analysis, benefit-cost analysis, evaluation methods, and qualitative and quantitative approaches to data collection and analysis.
  • Research training opportunities: Active engagement in research is a key component of the program, and our students have an array of research opportunities. All students have the opportunity to spend at least a year as a research assistant to a faculty member. In addition, all students attend a biweekly research seminar during their first and second years. Faculty advisors provide careful guidance for the independent research paper that is part of the third year.
  • Interdisciplinary policy analysis: A key goal of the program is to facilitate multidisciplinary training and research. We've organized coursework so that early in their studies students are given extensive exposure to different perspectives and approaches and have the opportunity to compare them. Similarly, our faculty, many of whom hold joint appointments, are engaged in multidisciplinary research and can assist students in bringing the ideas of different disciplines to bear in addressing policy issues.


Specific requirements and additional information are available by program area: 

Meet a few of our graduates

Angel Harris

Angel Harris (PhD '05), professor of sociology, Duke University

Harris' dissertation, "Do African Americans Really Resist School: An In-Depth Examination of the Oppositional Culture Theory," won the 2005 Horace H. Rackham Distinguished Dissertation Award.
Christina Cross

Christina Cross (PhD '19), postdoctoral fellow and assistant professor of sociology, Harvard University

Cross' dissertation, “The Color, Class, and Context of Family Structure and its Association with Children’s Educational Performance,” has been awarded the ASA 2020 Dissertation Award.
Alex Resch

Alexandra Resch (PhD '08), senior researcher, Mathematica Policy Research

Resch's dissertation "Three Essays on Resources in Education" examines school finance reform and the economics of education.

Download our PhD brochure

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