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Econ department ranks eighth in nation

Department credits recent hires for success, ranking determined by number of citations

The Department of Economics was ranked eighth in the country last month by the Research Papers in Economics, which bases its rankings on the number of times a department’s work is cited in research papers.

The department’s ranking has fluctuated over the years but has recently trended upward. Professor of Economics and former Department Chair David Weil ’82 attributed the department’s success largely to its recent hires, which include Professors of Economics Rafael La Porta, Jesse Shapiro, Emily Oster, John Friedman and Bobby Pakzad-Hurson.

“Researchers at Brown are publishing articles and engaging in research debates that are central to the progress of the field,” he said. “We’re happy with how we are able to hire faculty who are publishing works that are very visible and advancing the research mission.”

“Every person you hire changes the department,” he added. “They bring new areas of expertise, new subjects they can teach and new research tools.”

The ranking enhances the department’s reputation and visibility, allowing it to recruit better professors and doctoral students, said Oded Galor, professor of economics. This also improves training and future prospects for undergraduate students, he added.

The department has seen improvement in areas not reflected in the RePEc ranking.

Senior Lecturer in Economics Rachel Friedberg, who has been at the University since 1992, noted that the department has recently hired more women. “There were several years when I was the only female professor in the department, which was discouraging,” Friedberg wrote in an email to The Herald. “Now, 10 of the 35 faculty members are women, and we have a woman Chair for the first time.”

Additionally, the number of courses offered in the department increased from 85 in the 2010-11 academic year to 97 in the 2017-18 academic year, according to the University’s institutional research website.

Catelyn Huang ’21, an applied mathematics-economics concentrator, enjoys the breadth of courses that the department offers. “I feel like Brown does a good job at having a diverse range of economics professors and classes that focus on different topics within the field of economics,” Huang said.

The number of undergraduate students studying economics has also increased over the past few years, said Anna Aizer, chair of the Department of Economics.

Jonathan Gomez ’20, an economics concentrator, noted that he wished Brown had more finance classes for students who want to “go into the corporate world” instead of studying economics theoretically.

In the past, the Department of Economics had significant strengths in only some fields, such as economic growth and development, Galor said. But with the recent hiring of new researchers and faculty members, the department has broadened its strengths to fields such as applied microeconomics, short-run macroeconomics and finance, Galor added. Increased donations have also funded more undergraduate teaching assistants and undergraduate research assistants, Weil said.

The department is working with the University on an expansion plan, which may include hiring around eight additional faculty members, Aizer said. “The University has been an incredible partner,” she added. “They want to see the quality of the department rise and make sure they serve their students well.”

The department plans to focus on hiring in “certain areas where we think we need more faculty,” Aizer said. “For example, monetary policy is an incredibly relevant topic given the ongoing policy discussions these days, and we hope to expand in that area.” Additionally, both Weil and Aizer noted the need for more econometricians given the increase in demand of that field.

Aizer is hopeful that the department will continue to rise in national rankings. “All of the top programs have much larger faculty than we do,” Aizer said. “If we really want to move up in the rankings, we need to expand our faculty, and the University has been very supportive.”


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