Research Opportunities

The research life of the Economics Department is facilitated by an active workshop program, the presence of several research centers, and the availability of first-rate computing capability. Graduate students who are research or teaching assistants, and almost all those who are actively writing their dissertations are provided with office space in the department.


A workshop is a forum at which visiting speakers, Penn faculty, or Penn graduate students present research ideas that they are working on to members of the faculty and to graduate students. The workshop is a central part of academic life and Penn has one of the most active workshop series of any economics department in North America.

There are four active workshops of which most meet once a week, and participation in one or more of these workshops is an integral part of the education of our graduate students. Workshops provide an opportunity to observe research in the making, and to understand problems at the forefront of economic knowledge. They are also a source of ideas for dissertation topics. Students are encouraged to attend workshops as early as possible in their graduate career, and are expected to begin to do so regularly no later than their second year. More often than not, immediately after the workshop, there are opportunities for faculty, students and visitors to get together informally and discuss topics of mutual interest, both academic and social.

Interacting intellectually, as well as socially, with fellow students is one of the pleasures of graduate work. To foster this interaction and exchange, and to help students learn how to do research, the Graduate Economics Society (G.E.S.) organizes a number of activities. For example, the G.E.S. has organized a "twilight zone seminar" where students can discuss their initial, usually tentative efforts. These presentations are informal, and the discussion is centered on the expected fruitfulness of the proposed research plan rather than on the precise results, which have already been obtained. To ensure that discussion is relaxed and free, faculty members are not invited to the twilight zone seminars. This forum has proven to be a very valuable tool for students.

Research Centers

Several research centers function within the Economics Department. They serve as focal points for students and faculty interested in the same substantive areas of economic research and often provide some financial support to students.

The Penn Institute for Economic Research (PIER) is an umbrella organization, bringing together economic research activities throughout the university. The Institute's mission is to promote and support the efforts of faculty and students in advancing the science of economics, to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and research results within and outside of the Penn academic community, and to foster a better understanding of the importance of basic economic research in the formulation and assessment of public policy. The Institute's activities include holding conferences at which research papers are presented, disseminating research findings through a Working Paper Series, sponsoring research through a small-grants program, and producing a newsletter summarizing research findings for a non-academic audience. There are eight research programs housed within the Institute: international economics, macroeconomics, economic development, industrial organization, microeconomic theory, labor economics, econometric theory, and financial economics.

The Institute for Law and Economics (ILE) is a joint research center of the Department of Economics, the Law School, and the Wharton School. It sponsors a cross-disciplinary curriculum at the Law School and the Department of Economics and conducts research on labor markets, tax, antitrust, capital markets, and financial institutions. The Institute provides accessibility to seminar series, which focus on current research. The Institute Director oversees the joint J.D./M.A. and J.D./Ph.D. in Law and Economics. General inquiries concerning Institute programs and the joint degree programs should be addressed to, Program Director, Institute for Law and Economics, S-225 Law School, 3400 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6204 or

Two former research centers, The Center for Analytic Research in Economics (CARESS) and The Center for International Comparison at the University of Pennsylvania (CICUP) were also based here.

CARESS was the main location for theoretical research in the Economics Department. The substantive interests of its members are diverse, spanning the whole range of economics, from classical models of individual behavior to modern theories of economy-wide fluctuations. Its working paper archive is available online. 

CICUP contained Penn researchers' long-term involvement in the worldwide International Comparisons Programme. Its principal investigators and graduate research assistants generated, analyzed, and distributed large data sets that make possible comparisons of price structures, quantity compositions, and levels of material well-being of countries, both developing and developed, around the world. All the information previously hosted at Penn is now available at the University of Groningen's Penn World Table site.

Computing Resources

The department maintains a number of personal computers that are freely available for use by students. In addition, UNIX workstations are available in the Graduate Data Analysis Laboratory in the McNeil Building. Furthermore, the department, in cooperation with the Social Science Data Center, maintains a large body of data for easy access by students. The computer facilities are supported and maintained by Social Science Computing.

Other Resources of the University

Students are encouraged to take advantage of the resources of other departments of the University. The Finance Department has traditionally offered courses and organized seminars of interest to graduate students in Economics. Supplementary work in other areas such as business, demography, history, mathematics, statistics, or area studies can also have a place in a well balanced program of study. The general catalogue of the University should be consulted for a fuller description of available courses.