Economics is a social science that covers a broad subject matter in seeking to understand 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 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 social science questions, 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 models, 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)
Economics 10a and 10b: Principles of Economics (2 courses).
- Note: All students are required to take Economics 10a and 10b, the introduction to current economic issues and to basic economic principles and methods.
- Note: Students with Economics AP scores of 5, or A levels or IB scores of 7, may choose to skip either/both parts of Ec 10. However, they must replace each semester of Ec 10 that is skipped with one elective course in Economics. Consult the Economics Concentrator Handbook or a concentration adviser for details.
One course from:
- Economics 1010a/1011a: Intermediate Microeconomic Theory
Economics 1010b/1011b: Intermediate Macroeconomic Theory
- Note: 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.
- Three courses from the Economics course catalog, available on my.harvard.edu.
- Note: 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 some graduate-level research workshops and seminars. In particular, taking both 1010a/1011a and 1010b/1011b meets requirement 2 above, as well as one of the three courses in requirement 3.
- Note: 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.
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 catalog on my.harvard.edu. The only exception is that one of Statistics 100, 104, 109, 110, Applied Math 101, or Math 154 qualifies as one of the three courses under requirement 3.
Students may take either one approved Harvard Summer School class listed on the Economics Summer School webpage or one approved study abroad course or one approved cross-registered course at MIT to meet a course requirement for the secondary field. Courses from study abroad and at MIT are approved at the department's discretion as outlined on the Economics Study Abroad webpage. Please note: Due to COVID-19, the Economics Department is allowing secondary field students in the Classes of 2021, 2022, and 2023 to count more Harvard Summer School Classes towards the Economics concentration. Please see the Economics Summer School webpage for details.
Freshman 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.
More details on the Secondary Field webpage.
ADVISING RESOURCES AND EXPECTATIONS
Students may visit the concentration advisers in the Economics Undergraduate Advising Offices in Littauer 109-116 from 10am-4pm, Monday-Friday for advice about the program, course selection, and more. The Undergraduate Program Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 the Department’s Secondary Field webpage.
Note: If the College is under remote instruction, the advisers will continue to hold their usual office hours via Zoom. Details on the Economics Advising Webpage.