Political Economy

The Political Economy major is designed to give students a grasp of the ways in which political and economic forces interact in shaping public policy. The major includes substantial study of the central analytical approaches in both Political Science and Economics and seeks to surmount the sometimes artificial barriers of specialization that may characterize either discipline taken by itself. Three of the required Political Economy courses undertake a conscious merging of the approaches in the two fields. These courses are designed by, and usually are taught jointly by, political scientists and economists. Political Economy 250 examines major theoretical texts in political economy and analyzes economic liberalism and critiques of economic liberalism in the context of current policy issues. Political Economy 401 examines contemporary issues in political economy in their domestic, comparative and international contexts. Political Economy 402 asks students to research and make proposals in policy areas of current importance. Background for the two senior courses is acquired through introductory courses in Economics and Political Science, a course in empirical methods, and elective courses in international, domestic and comparative economics, politics and policy.

Students in Political Economy 402 visit Washington, D.C. Sunday night through Wednesday of the first week of spring vacation to conduct interviews relating to their Political Economy 402 group projects. This is a course requirement and thus a requirement for the major.


The Political Economy major requires students to complete eleven (11) courses: two introductory courses each in Economics and Political Science; one empirical methods course; three core courses specific to the Political Economy Program; and three electives, one from each of three categories. In order to balance students’ educations, majors must take at least one elective in Economics and one elective in Political Science; the third elective may come from either Economics or Political Science. In light of the public policy orientation of the program, all majors are also required to complete one course with a substantial experiential education component which is related to the making or effect of public policy. The purpose of the experiential education requirement is for the student to get out into the world and interact with people in cases where the stakes are real, often involving some element of community service or participation in the political process or in the making of or analysis of public policy, in order to learn something about public policy that one cannot get from a purely academic experience. This requirement must be fulfilled prior to taking POEC 402. It can be fulfilled through a regular semester-length course (which might also serve as an elective in the major), a winter study course, a study abroad academic internship, a winter study internship, or a summer internship. The chair distributes a list of approved experiential courses to majors at the beginning of each academic year. For an internship to satisfy the requirement, its focus must be the making or effect of public policy. Approval of the chair is required to use an internship to fulfill this requirement.