Economics Department

Interdisciplinary Majors

The Economics Department participates in three organized, “standing” interdis­ciplinary programs at Reed. Some students have also pursued ad-hoc interdis­ciplinary majors involving economics. The Mathematics-Economics major is for students who want to combine the study of economics with extensive training in mathematics. The International and Comparative Policy Studies—Economics major allows a student to integrate a concentration in economics with courses in other social sciences relating to international issues and the study of public policy. The Environmental Science—Economics major is for students who want to combine focused study in economics with interdisciplinary work on environmental themes across the natural sciences, history, and social sciences.

Mathematics-Economics Major

The math-econ major involves a heavy concentration of coursework in both mathematics and economics. Students must take eight units of coursework in math, six units in economics, plus the two-unit thesis. (Consult the current Reed Catalog for the exact requirements.) As interdisciplinary majors, those majoring in math-econ are not subject to the distribution requirements of the Division of History and Social Sciences. However, the department strongly encourages students considering the math-econ major to complete two units in one department within the Division of History and Social Sciences. Math-econ majors must pass junior qualifying exams in both the mathematics and economics departments. The thesis is normally jointly supervised by advisers from both departments and should involve substantial content from both disciplines.

The math-econ major is well suited to students who plan to attend graduate programs in economics. Survival in economics graduate school depends crucially on aptitude and training in mathematics. The better your undergraduate mathematics background, the less you will suffer with the math and the more you can focus on the economics as a graduate student.

Link to Math-Econ in the Reed Catalog

International and Comparative Policy Studies (ICPS)

The ICPS program is appropriate for students who wish to combine a topical interest in international policy with a disciplinary interest in economics, political science, history, sociology, or other fields. Each ICPS major has a “home” discipline, in which he or she completes nearly all of the courses necessary for an ordinary major. In addition, each student takes substantial coursework in related disciplines to fulfill the ICPS core requirement. (See the current Reed Catalog or the ICPS student handbook for the exact requirements.) ICPS—Econ majors take seven units of non­thesis economics coursework, including the micro­eco­nomics and macroeconomics core courses required of regular eco­nom­ics majors. They must take the economics junior qualifying exam as well as the ICPS exam, which consists of an oral defense of a written thesis proposal. The thesis is usually jointly supervised by faculty in the home department and a member of the ICPS committee.

Link to ICPS webpage

Environmental Studies-Economics Major (ES-Econ)

The Environmental Studies-Economics major is for students who wish to combine focused coursework in economics with interdisciplinary work on environmental themes across the natural sciences, history, and social sciences.  ES-Economics majors take seven units of nonthesis economics coursework, including the microeconomics and macroeconomics core courses required of economics majors.  ES students are required to pass the junior qualifying exam in their home department.  In addition, they must prepare a research proposal for the ES committee.  The research proposal must be signed by an advisor in the home department and by a potential first reader from a different department.  The research proposal must be signed by a member of the ES committee.  These signatures indicate approval that the proposed research contains sufficient environmental content.  Approval of the proposal by the ES committee constitutes passing the ES portion of the junior qualifying exam.  Students must complete a thesis with an environmental focus.  The thesis orals board must include the thesis advisor from the home department and a first reader from outside the home department.

Link to Environmental Studies webpage

Ad-hoc Interdisciplinary Majors

In recent years, students have completed ad-hoc interdisciplinary majors combining economics with political science, psychology, English, physics, and philosophy. Such programs must be requested by petition to both departments. The petition must present a compelling reason why the proposed course of study would not fit suitably within a single major. It should detail what coursework would be taken in both major fields and in related areas. Students should note that it is possible to take extensive coursework in other fields within a regular economics major by judicious use of electives.

The Economics Department normally requires that students proposing interdisciplinary majors take seven units of non-thesis coursework in economics, including the complete theory and econometrics core, and pass the economics junior qualifying exam. The thesis should bear a close relationship to the discipline of economics and a member of the economics faculty should be involved in its supervision.