The Doctoral Program in Political Economy and Government (PEG) is intended for scholars interested in academic or policy-making careers requiring advanced knowledge of both economics and political science. It is appropriate for students whose academic interests are not fully served by doctoral studies in economics or political science alone. In political economy, candidates have intellectual interests in the impact of politics on economic processes and outcomes, and the reciprocal influence of economic conditions on political life. This interest is often applied to such diverse areas as international political economy, political development, political and economic institutions, institutional transition and reform, environmental resource policies, and social policy.
The Committee on Higher Degrees at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) serves as an admissions committee for applicants to the PhD in PEG. Candidates are expected to have a distinguished undergraduate record regardless of undergraduate concentration. Many of the strongest applicants have completed a master’s degree in a related field. All successful applicants have strong mathematical preparation to the level of multivariable calculus and linear algebra. Admission to the program is limited to a few exceptional students each year. All applicants are required to take the General GRE no later than November 2015.
Applicants whose native language is not English must submit the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Failure to submit the TOEFL will ordinarily result in rejection unless a transcript is submitted verifying receipt of a degree from an institution at which English is the language of instruction.
Information on the program is available from the director of Doctoral Programs at the Kennedy School or online. All applicants must specify in the Statement of Purpose essay whether they wish to apply for the Economics track or the Political Science track. (See Website for details.) Applications are distributed by the Admissions Office, Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center 350, 1350 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138. The application deadline is December 15 for the following September. See the GSAS Admissions website.
The PhD degree is generally completed within five years. A student must be in residence for three years of full-time study. Students register each term in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. In the first two years, students are charged the prevailing full tuition rate. In the third and fourth years, students pay a reduced tuition rate. Beyond four years, a student pays the current facilities fee.
Students may apply for tuition and stipendiary support based on financial need. The number of scholarship packages varies between two and four each year. Typical aid packages include four years of tuition plus two years of stipend. In recent years, all students have received some form of financial aid. Most students are eligible for teaching fellowships and loans to help finance their studies. Please consult the GSAS Guide to Admission and Financial Aid for complete instructions. (Note: The GAPSFAS is not required.)
Applicants who are US citizens or permanent residents of the US should determine if they are eligible for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (703-292-5199), the National Science Foundation Minority Graduate Research Fellowship (703-292-8470), the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship for Minorities (202-334-2872), or the US Department of Education’s Jacob K. Javits Graduate Fellowship (202-502-7542).
Program of Study
During the first two years in residence, students acquire and demonstrate a broad grasp of economic theory and of the area(s) of political or social science theory most appropriate to their prospective research. Normally, students are required to complete 16 one-term courses in this period. PhD-level proficiency is required in four areas: macroeconomics, microeconomics, two areas of political science, and quantitative methods. Distribution of courses is described in the next section, Specific Requirements.
During the third year of residency, students continue to develop mastery of the three substantive fields that are the focus of the dissertation. A major research paper and oral exam are required by December of the third year. Refer to PEG General Exam under "Specific Requirements" for more details. The prospectus for the dissertation must be completed before December of the fourth year in residency.
In the final years of residency, the student completes the dissertation under the guidance of a faculty committee. The dissertation must demonstrate a high degree of competence in research, and capacity for making original and significant contributions to knowledge.
- Microeconomic Theory (Economics 2010a, 2010b)
- Macroeconomic theory (Economics 2010c, 2010d)
- Econometrics (Economics 2120 or a more advanced course)
- Four half-courses in government, including two in the same major field of political science
- Two half-courses in a major field of economics
- Doctoral Research Seminar
Political Science Track
- Microeconomic theory (Economics 2020a, 2020b)
- Macroeconomic Theory (Economics 2010c or similar course)
- Econometrics (Government 2001 or a more advanced course)
- Two Formal Political Theory courses, or two approved courses in Political Economy
- Two half-courses in a major field of political science
- Two half-courses in a major field of economics
- A field seminar course in government
- Doctoral Research Seminar
PEG General Examination
The Oral Examination is to determine if the student is prepared for and likely to be successful with dissertation research and writing.
Students in both tracks will be tested in their mastery of economics and political science.
The exam consists of three parts:
i) Examination in an approved field of economics.
ii) Examination in an approved field of political science.
iii) Examination in general analytical and research abilities, based in part on a research paper prepared by the student.
Parts ii) and iii) consist of a 60 minute oral exam, with about half of the examination devoted to each part. For students on the economics track, the economics field (i) is tested through a written exam administered and graded by faculty in the Economics Department. Students in the political science track can choose to take the written field exam in economics but have the option to take it as part of the oral exam (for an exam lasting a total of 90 minutes).
All coursework and the research paper must be completed in advance of the general exam. Students are expected to sit for the oral exam at the beginning of their third year and sit for the written exam (where applicable) at the end of their second year.
In selecting fields, students should choose one from Group A (Economics) and one from Group B (Political Science). Appropriate coursework to provide a sound knowledge of these fields must be completed prior to the Oral General Examination. Such coursework is generally defined by the department in which the field formally exists (e.g., labor economics, positive political theory), or by a faculty member with substantial expertise in the field (e.g., environmental and resource economics). A portion of the examination will be devoted to general analytic and research ability. This portion will be based, to some degree, on the student’s research paper, which may be a course paper. The paper must be in one of the fields that will be developed in the dissertation. It may include but cannot be limited to a literature review. Research design with implementation is expected. The length should not exceed 35 pages.
This paper must demonstrate the degree of creativity and professional accomplishment needed to embark on a doctoral dissertation. Questions from the examiners may range beyond the substance and methodology of the paper itself, in order to test analytical ability more broadly.
In choosing examiners, students must submit four faculty names to the Program Director. Of the four, there must be one economist, one political scientist, and one person from HKS. The Program Chair will choose three of the four faculty as examiners for the Orals Committee. One examiner will focus on the submitted research paper, but questions may range beyond the substance and methodology of the paper itself.
Approved Fields in Economics
- Industrial organization and public regulation
- Public finance
- International trade and finance
- Labor economics
- Economics of development
- Mathematical economics
- Decision and control theory
- Economics of health
- Economics of education
- Economics of national security
- Environmental and resource economics
- Socialism and privatization
- Transportation economics
- Urban and regional economics
Approved Fields in Political Science
- Positive political economy
- Normative political theory
- Comparative politics
- International relations
- American government
Note: Each student’s selection of fields and plans of study must be approved in writing—and well in advance—by his or her advisor, by the PhD committee, and, in some cases, by prospective examiners.
There is no foreign language requirement for the degree in political economy and government.
A dissertation prospectus is required subsequent to the general oral exam. Approval of the prospectus is contingent upon a successful oral presentation to two of the three dissertation committee members. Ordinarily, a student will have an approved prospectus before the beginning of the fourth year in the program.
The candidate is required to demonstrate his or her ability to perform original research in political economy by writing a dissertation that represents a significant contribution to knowledge in that field. Three faculty members supervise the writing of the dissertation. One member of the committee must come from the Kennedy School of Government. The other two must come from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) or the Kennedy School. If no representative of FAS is on the committee, two members of the Committee on Higher Degrees in Political Economy and Government must serve as advisors.
After the candidate has met all other degree requirements, he or she must pass an oral examination focused on the dissertation. Dissertation examiners will normally include the three supervisors to the dissertation. However, if two members of FAS cannot be present, two members of the Committee on Higher Degrees in Political Economy and Government may represent the FAS at the defense. The purpose of this examination is to assure the committee that the methodology and basic approach of the dissertation are sound and that the student has received critical advice at the most appropriate stage of his or her advanced research. The dissertation must be accepted before the formal application for the degree can be activated.
The graduate program in Political Economy and Government is designed for students preparing for the PhD. Those seeking to enroll for a master’s degree only will not be admitted. Active PhD candidates who wish to be awarded an AM in the course of their work toward the PhD must meet all the course requirements for the PhD and be recommended for the third year oral exam. Application for the PhD degree must be filed by the deadlines noted in The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Handbook. Three copies of the approved dissertation must be submitted. The dissertation must conform to the requirements described in The Form of the PhD Dissertation, issued by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Except by special vote of the committee, all work for the PhD degree must be completed within five years of completion of the general oral examination.
For more detailed information, consult the program website at the Kennedy School of Government.
Recent Dissertation Titles
- "Essays in Interservice Rivalry and American Civil-Military Relations"
- "Essays on Unemployment and Labor Supply"
- "Essays in Public Finance and Development Economics"
- "Three Essays on Lobbying"
- "Essays on Local Economic Growth in India"
- "Essays on Labor Markets in Developing Countries"
- "Politics and Policy: Essays in Economics"
- "Economic Sources of Son Preferences, Six-Differential Treatment and Household Fertility Behavior"
- "Essays in Finance and Development Economics"
- "Federal Policy and the Mid-century Transformation in U.S. Housing Markets"
- "Essays on the Political Economy of Redistribution"
- "Post Communist Capitalism: The Politics of Institutional Development"
- "Federal Policy and the Mid-century Transformation in the U.S. Housing Markets"
- "Essays on Corruption Measurement, Trust and Investors in Eastern Europe"
- "A Liberal Theory of Natural Resource Property Rights"