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Here are my interests, what programs might be a good fit?


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My motivations for applying to grad school are:

  1. To contribute to research that can help improve the lives of poor and working class people in the US. Ideally I would conduct research somewhere in the middle of the applied/abstract spectrum. I’m not averse to math or theory but I don’t want to (A) solve math problems without interrogating the history/theory/consequences of the models I use or (B) talk about Neitszche or Hegel all day while poor people are dying because they can’t afford healthcare. (No offense meant to people who do pure quantitative or theoretical work! It's important but not for me.) Example topics that interest me:
    • If we want federal single payer health insurance, is state-level single payer a feasible or desirable stepping stone?
    • How should labor laws adapt to the growth of the gig economy?
    • Could the productivity gains from increased automation be enjoyed as a social good (such as wage increase and reduction in work hours) instead of as heightened unemployment?
  2. Moving towards a career where I can continue to do that work, whether in academia or policy (nonprofit or government). Even teaching at a community college would be fine. But I don’t want to be stuck with precarious and low-paying adjunct professorships.

It seems like most of my interests are in the realm of political economics, but the angle I would approach them from is much more qualitative than quantitative. Am I better suited to an economics program or to a political science program? Or does it just depend on the particular program? Perhaps there are political economy programs that lean qualitative, or political theory programs that lean toward applied research? I'm also looking for a faculty with socialist or Marxist leanings (but of course I'm not looking to do a dissertation on Capital or anything).

It seems like an MA would be more feasible for me since I didn't major in political science or economics (I studied broadly at a liberal arts college and did a lit crit thesis) but I'm open to hearing about PhD programs that I probably won't make it into.

Thanks in advance for any advice offered! :)

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You might consider looking at sociology programs. Sociologists seem to have more of an activist bent than political scientists in my experience, and their work is often largely qualitative. 

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I don't think political science is for you. To be honest, I would even go further in saying that it doesn't sound like you should be pursuing anything that is academic in nature (much less a Ph.D.).

Edited by Comparativist
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It does sound like you ultimately want something that's applied rather than academic in nature. Sociology may be the place for you, though you might also consider applied anthropology. I know of at least two MA programs (one in California and one in Texas) that are terminal grad programs for applied researchers. I actually just finished my MA in Applied Anthropology and centered my research around social media, geek culture, and online philanthropic communities (I promise, those all went together, haha). 

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