Friday, April 11, 2008

Ranking Economics Departments

In a previous post, I offered some advice for those lucky duckies who were admitted to PhD programs in economics at both Harvard and MIT. I noted that if you use the standard REPEC ranking and look at the top 50 economists, you will learn that MIT has 3 and Harvard has 12.

I ran into an old friend at the Brookings conference yesterday, and he told me he distrusted that particular REPEC ranking. He said he preferred one based only on citations.

Okay, so for my friend and anyone else who might be interested, here is a recount: Using the REPEC citation ranking, MIT has 2 of the top 50 economists, and Harvard has 11.

Alternatively, one might look at the institutional ranking based on total citations, where (ignoring the think tanks) one gets this ranking of schools:

1. Harvard econ
2. Princeton econ
3. Chicago econ
4. NYU econ
5. UC Berkeley econ
6. London School of Economics
7. MIT econ
8. Chicago GSB
9. Harvard Kennedy School
10. Oxford econ
11. Columbia econ
12. Columbia Business School
13. Boston University econ
14. Harvard Business School
15. UC San Diego econ

Of course, none of these rankings is perfect. But they provide a starting point for students trying to figure out which school to attend. And remember: subjective judgments of quality are imperfect as well.

Update: David Autor of MIT emails me:
Dear Greg,

Because I chair recruiting for MIT, several folks have contacted me about your blog entries on Harvard v. MIT. As one of our grad students has pointed out, there is a an irony to the department rankings that your blog overlooks:

a. On the list of top authors by
rank score, 13 of the top 50 were educated at MIT (yourself included, of course) and 10 were educated at Harvard.

b. On the list of top authors
by citations, 14 are MIT Ph.Ds and 11 are Harvard Ph.Ds.

I suppose you could argue that it matters more [where] these "home-runners" sit now than where they were trained. But the evidence doesn't really bear this out: the
attached paper on department rankings, forthcoming in the ReStat, uses graduate student placements to rank departments. Over the past 40 years of data, Harvard slightly out-places MIT. Using data since 1990, MIT slightly out-places Harvard.

So, if you want to keep your readers well informed, you might point out these facts as well.

- David
Let me conclude by repeating advice from my original post on the topic of Harvard vs MIT: Don't sweat it. You will get a great education at either place.