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Mandy_244

Chances for PhD in Political Economy, Quantitative Pol Sci/Scoiology

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Hi, I'd like some advice regarding decisions regarding graduate study.

I will graduate in Physics from a university in India, and I wish to shift to social science, particularly econ/pol sci/quant sociology etc., where I can use quantitative methods but also have qualitative and philosophical arguments. I received admission to the Econometrics and Mathematical Economics MSc (10 months) at the London School of Economics, which is one of the best as far as I know if one intends to get into a top US PhD in Econ.

I would however, prefer to be at the intersection econ and pol sci, or maybe some sociology departments. Specifically I want to: how will political economy adcoms (like the ones at Princeton, Harris, Harvard PEG) or pol sci departments look upon the Econometrics MSc? Do I stand a chance at top sociology departments? Should I consider a different masters program?

PS: I am not considering 2-year masters due to funding constraints; 10-15 month programs are ideal. I am plan to get at least two years of research experience as RA before PhD, first during 2019-20  as I have deferred MSc by a year, and in the year after completing masters, so what kind of research would help my PhD application?

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You're absolutely competitive for these schools, in all three disciplines. Sociology adcomms are very open to applicants who come from other social sciences. I get the impression that this is generally true for political science as well. Political science has in the past few decades really made a move towards applying econometrics to political questions, so I'd imagine your economics credentials will serve you well. Economists might be less open to admitting applicants from other social sciences, but with your MSc that obviously isn't an issue. 

You'll really need to figure out where you fit, though. You sound like you'll make a strong applicant (especially if you have the GRE scores to match) but you should focus on figuring out where the best disciplinary home is for you. Luckily, you have time. Read articles that interest you from each of these fields and figure out what you find most convincing, most thought-provoking, etc. 

Best of luck!

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What sort of topics are you interested in? Econ gives better outside options (industry jobs), so you should probably consider that as well.

Do you plan to RA for an economist? Then applying for Econ makes the most sense IMHO.

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Are you more inclined to empirical or theoretical PE? Since you're considering the LSE EME, I assume it is the former. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • LSE EME is the top Master's program in Econ for a reason. You will be grinding it out against other very bright people for ranks, and RA/Recommendations. If you're confident this might be the way to go, but I'd assume it is much better to be the star in a weaker program than it is to get a middling rank in EME.
  • PE has a hard time placing in the Econ job market. Might be better to brand yourself (both in applications and in job market) as public or developmental econ.
  • If you lean more towards the theoretical side, Northwestern Kellogg and Caltech are great choices. They also have a smattering of empiricists (Qian at MEDS, Caltech has experimental/neuroeconomics).
  • Entrance difficulty for different PhD's (at least to my understanding) is Econ>= Top 5 Public Policy>Political Science>Sociology. Harris seems like a really good choice since they have both theorists and empiricists (they just got Scott Gehlbach!) and seem to be making big investments in PE. I've also heard they allocate one/two spots to the top performers in MAPSS. You might also want to consider other top 5 public policy, some applied econ programs.
  • I know very little about Sociology programs but I assume that attending one will almost certainly block you out of Econ/PubPolicy/Polisci job markets. I'm also skeptical of the quantitative training and the attitudes faculty will have toward you.
  • In Polisci, also consider Stanford GSB, Princeton, Columbia, NYU, Rochester, and WUSTL. Some have stronger/more PE faculty than others, but the training in each of these places should be solid. Be sure to look at placements though.

Take my advice with a grain of salt though, I'm also applying to PE programs this fall.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

While I doubt that staylite has ever spoken with a sociologist, let alone a quantitative sociologist, he's probably right that a soc PhD will likely prevent you from entering the econ job market. An econ PhD will also likely have trouble on the soc job market. An econ PhD is comparable to a degree in applied mathematics. Because of econ's emphasis on advanced mathematics, the field tends to see itself as more scientific than other social sciences. Qualitative methods have effectively been abandoned by the field. Something similar but less pervasive has happened/is happening in political science. Sociology is actually also becoming steadily more quantitative, but in general there's widespread respect for the ability of qualitative research to generate theory. I think that you'll likely have trouble on the econ market with anything other than an econ PhD, though, because economists tend to view their training as superior to that of other social scientists (see: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/jep.29.1.89). You'll also probably have trouble on the soc market with training in economics, as it's less likely that you'll be able to frame your work in a way that interests both quantitative and qualitative scholars. That said, at the best sociology programs you're absolutely able to receive outstanding quantitative training, especially if you make it a priority.

As I said before, I think it's best that you read work produced by scholars in each field to see what grabs your attention: what theory interests you, what methods persuade you, whether empirical rigor is sufficient. There are slight "philosophical" differences, so to speak, across these disciplines, so you'll want to pursue training in whichever field produces the kind of research that you most wish to produce.  

Edited by sociopolitic

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Posted (edited)

My point was not to be dismissive of Sociology (which I have much respect for) but rather to point out that for most people interested in Political Economy, training and socialization within Econ/Public Policy/Political Science would likely be better. For one, I honestly doubt that there is any Sociology program equipped to teach the theoretical (and mathematical) foundations of PE. Compare courses, faculty, and seminars at one particular school across these disciplines, and you'll find a nontrivial amount of variation.

Placement is also nontrivial. Econ graduates can and do place into Public Policy, Political Science, and Business Schools. Public Policy graduates can place in similar areas (and some, like David Autor placed in Econ). Recent Harris and Stanford GSB PE graduates have placed extremely well in Political Science. I'm unfamiliar as to whether it is common for Sociology grads to place into Econ/Public Policy/Political Science but I assume this is rare.

That is not to say that the original poster should not consider sociology grad schools if that is their interest, but in terms of training (and possible industry options if the job market doesn't work) I'd argue that there are better options.

 

Edited by staylite

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Political economy is absolutely something you can pursue in any of these disciplines, OP. Find the field that does PE research that appeals to you.  

@staylite, it is rare for anyone in any discipline to land a TT job in a field outside their discipline. Occasionally IPE economists land political science jobs, occasionally political scientists land sociology jobs, and occasionally sociologists land communications and business school jobs, but for the most part any given field hires PhDs in that field. 

You clearly are not familiar with either political or economic sociology, but there is a great amount of work being done in each that could be of interest to the original poster. Especially given that he/she wants to advance "qualitative, philosophical arguments."

In any case, I've never argued for the supremacy of one PhD over another. Though you may be dismissive of sociologists' ability to analyze political economy, I merely suggest that the original poster take the time to read relevant work in each of these disciplines before deciding where to apply. My own research interests are similar to OP's, and I found that this was tremendously helpful in finding a disciplinary home.

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