Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Harvard vs MIT

It is now the time of year when the next generation of economists is deciding where to attend graduate school. Those with the best undergraduate records will typically choose either Harvard and MIT. There are several reasons for this:
  1. Each school has a great economics department.
  2. Each school is only a couple of miles away from another great economics department.
  3. Each school is close to the NBER, a preeminent economics think tank.
  4. Each school is in Cambridge, which is a cool place to be a grad student.

As a result, it is rare for a student who gets into either school's PhD program to turn it down, unless he or she is attending the other.

Every year, I meet a number of highly promising students who were accepted by both schools and are having trouble choosing between them. Here is my advice:

  1. Don't sweat it. You will get a great education at either place.
  2. Look up your favorite ranking of economists' productivity and look at which school has more faculty near the top. Those are the profs you want to hang around and learn to emulate.

For example, if you use this standard ranking and look at the top 50, you will learn that MIT has 3 and Harvard has 12.

That should settle the question.