Columbia University – Department of Economics

More than a century of intellectual development lies between the beginnings of economics as a systematic subject and the formal recognition of its autonomy in the curriculum at Columbia University. Not until 1880 did it attain its full stature as an integral part of the newly established School of Political Science. But the history of political economy goes back almost to the founding of the College. Columbia was among the first institutions to make room for the curriculum for instruction in economics. Reverend John McVickar, who was appointed Professor of Moral Philosophy, Rhetoric and Belles Lettres in 1817, began giving instruction in political economy (as the subject was then called) at least as early as 1821.
In the eighteenth century Columbia’s outstanding contribution to economics was not a study, but a student – Alexander Hamilton. As the first Secretary of the Treasury, his famous reports on the mint, public credit, a national bank, and manufacturers established the principles for the permanent economic foundations of the new republic. These reports adapted the latest learning of the old world to the exigencies of the new, and they set a high standard for future Secretaries of the Treasury.
Today, the Department of Economics is ranked among top institutions globally for studying, conducting research and teaching in the field of economics. The Department has many eminent faculty who teach in the areas of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, Contracts and Organization, Development Economics, Econometrics, Finance, Health and Education, Economic History, Industrial Organization, International Macroeconomics, International Trade, Labor Economics, Macroeconomics, Monetary Economics, Microeconomics, Political Economy, Public Economics, and Urban Economics.
The Department offers a general economics major in addition to five interdisciplinary majors structured to suit the interests and professional goals of a heterogeneous student body. All of the undergraduate programs have different specific requirements but share the common structure of core theoretical courses that provide the foundation for higher-level elective courses culminating in a senior seminar. Graduate students receive training within an outstanding research environment, supported by members of faculty who are leading research in their fields.
In 2018, the Department had 4,610 undergraduate enrollments in 42 economics courses with active enrollment. The M.A. program, which provides a technical approach to the study of advanced, graduate-level economics, typically has cohorts of 50-60 students. In addition, the doctoral program receives approximately 1,000 applications each year for an incoming class of roughly 25 students.
The Department has played a prominent role in the development of economic thought. It will continue to through its faculty and students, and contribute to a better understanding of economic activities and the elaboration of policy.