Why is Harvard Economics so Popular?

Brad DeLong doesn’t think much of the Harvard economics department as a place for undergraduates:

My years as a junior faculty member and as head tutor of economics make me think that there is an enormous disproportion between resource inputs and educational outputs.

David Warsh says that other Harvard academics don’t think much of it, either:

The economics department, eager to be known as the world’s foremost in order to attract the brightest students, remains in bad odor within the university.

And yet, says Jeffrey Miron:

Economics is the largest undergraduate concentration, accounting for more than 15 percent of the senior class… Economics has been one of the largest concentrations, if not the largest, for many decades.

What’s going on here? Partly I suspect there’s a big difference between Harvard economics as it’s judged internally, and Harvard economics as it’s judged externally by people who have not been to Harvard and quite possibly have never studied ecomomics.

But mainly, I think, it’s this:

Many economics graduates land starting salaries in six figures.

Is that really true? Kids with nothing but an undergrad degree in economics, not even an MBA, getting six-figure starting salaries? If it is, that’s more tnan enough explanation right there.

Update: DeLong damns clarifies with faint praise in the comments: the education that undergrads receive from Harvard economics is, he says, "not bad".

This entry was posted in economics. Bookmark the permalink.