Economics

Economics is a social science that is at once broad in its subject matter and unified in its approach to understanding the social world. An economic analysis begins from the premise that individuals have goals and that they pursue those goals as best they can. Economics studies the behavior of social systems—such as markets, corporations, legislatures, and families—as the outcome of interactions through institutions between goal-directed individuals. Ultimately, economists make policy recommendations that they believe will make people better off.

Traditionally, economics has focused on understanding prices, competitive markets, and the interactions between markets. Important topics such as monopolies and antitrust, income inequality, economic growth, and the business cycle continue to be central areas of inquiry in economics. Recently, though, the subject matter of economics has broadened so that economists today address a remarkable variety of social science questions: Will school vouchers improve the quality of education? Do politicians manipulate the business cycle? What sort of legal regime best promotes economic development? Why do cities have ghettos? What can be done about grade inflation? Why do people procrastinate in saving for retirement—or in doing their homework?

Economics today is a scientific discipline. Bringing their particular perspective to the questions of social science, economists formulate theories and collect evidence to test these theories against alternative ideas. Doing economic research involves asking questions about the social world and addressing those questions with data and clear-headed logic, employing mathematical and statistical tools whenever possible to aid the analysis.

An undergraduate education in economics focuses on learning to analyze the world in terms of tradeoffs and incentives—that is, to think like an economist.

REQUIREMENTS: 6 courses (24 credits)

  1. Economics 10a and 10b: Principles of Economics (2 courses).
    All students are required to take Economics 10a and 10b, the introduction to current economic issues and to basic economic principles and methods.
    Students may use Economics AP scores of 5, or A levels or IB scores of 7, to place out of either/both parts of Ec 10. However, they must replace each half of Ec 10 that is skipped with one course elective in Economics. Consult the Economics Concentrator Handbook or a concentration adviser for details.
  2. One course from:
    • Economics 1010a/1011a: Microeconomic Theory
    • Economics 1010b/1011b: Macroeconomic Theory
    These intermediate theory courses teach the analytical tools that economists use. The 1011 courses assume a background in multivariate calculus whereas the 1010 courses have a prerequisite of single variable calculus. A minimum grade of B- is required.
  3. Three courses from the Economics course search in my.harvard.edu.
    All Economics courses and cross-listed courses in the department are eligible, except for Economics 910r: Supervised Reading and Research; Economics 970: Sophomore Tutorial; Economics 985 and Economics 990 senior thesis seminars; and graduate-level research workshops. In particular, taking both 1010a/1011a and 1010b/1011b meets requirement 2 above, as well as one of the three courses in requirement 3.
    In contrast to students who are concentrating in Economics, there is no requirement to take economics courses that fulfill a writing requirement or that have intermediate theory as a prerequisite.

OTHER INFORMATION

All courses counting for secondary field credit must be taken for a letter grade.

Courses given in other FAS departments or other Harvard faculties may not be used for credit in the secondary field, unless they are explicitly cross-listed or jointly offered in the Economics course search in my.harvard.edu. The only exception is that one of Statistics 100, 104, 110, Applied Math 101, or Math 154 qualifies as one of the three courses under requirement 3.

Students may take either one Harvard Summer School class listed on the approved Economics Summer School webpage or one approved study abroad course to meet a course requirement for the secondary field. Courses from study abroad are approved at the department's discretion as outlined on the Economics Study Abroad webpage. Freshmen Seminars may not be used for credit in the secondary field.

Students pursuing a secondary field in Economics are not given preferential access to limited enrollment courses.

Only one course may double-count towards both your concentration and your secondary field. This is a Harvard College policy.
 

ADVISING RESOURCES AND EXPECTATIONS

Students may visit the concentration advisors in the Economics Undergraduate Advising Offices in Littauer 109-116 from 10am-4pm, Monday-Friday for advice about the program and course selection. The Undergraduate Program Coordinator (econupc@fas.harvard.edu) is also available for general inquiries. One of the concentration advisers must sign the final form for secondary field credit. The secondary field form and more information are available on our website.