Modified Major

Modified Major in Economics

The modified major in economics is is intended to fit the needs of students who have an interest in economics but are also interested in studying some specific problem or topic that falls partly in the field of economics and partly in a related field.

In most cases students will be best served by completing a standard economics major.  If you have interest in two different departments this is not a reason to do a modified major unless the content of the courses in the department outside economics is directly relevant to economics research.  Pursuing broad interests is one of the benefits of a liberal arts education, but in most cases this is a reason for doing an economics major and an outside minor.  The economics major only constitutes about one quarter of the courses you will take at Dartmouth so there is plenty of flexibility to pursue multiple interests without having it codified in a modified major.  

The goal of modified majors is to use classes outside the discipline of economics to support the study of topics rooted in the primary major of economics.  The economics curriculum is built around the senior seminar (ECON 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48 or 49) with students learning specific subject matter and the techniques of doing economic research as they prepare to do their own original research.  In the modified major the courses outside of economics should support the investigation of economic questions posed in the senior seminar.  Courses suitable for modifying economics will cover topics related to economic questions or tools suitable for economic research.

The modified major is identical to the minor, except that it also requires four major-level courses in another department or program. The ten courses that make up the modified major must form a unified, coherent whole, and not consist of a series of unrelated courses. If all of the four additional courses are in one department and that department allows it, you may obtain a major in economics modified with that department.  For example, a modified major with four math classes would appear as "Economics Modified with Mathematics." If the four additional courses are in multiple departments, or one department that does not allow modifications, the major would appear as "Economics Modified."

A student planning a modified major must prepare a written proposal explaining the rationale for the planned courses. A template for this proposal is provided above.  All modified majors must be submitted to the Vice Chair at [email protected] for approval at least two terms before the student will graduate.  Course offerings in the modifying departments can change.  It is the responsibility of the student to be sure that the full set of classes will be available in the terms that they plan to take them.  Any course changes from an accepted plan require the submission of a new proposal.

In several disciplines the connections to economics are quite clear.  Three examples are presented below with worksheets to guide you through course selection.  In all three cases the outside courses support the study of economic questions either topically or through the study of methodologies and tools used in economic research.  Students wishing to pursue modified majors with these departments will still need to submit a proposal, but proposals that follow the guidelines described below will generally be approved.

Economics Modified with Psychology

Economics and psychology share an interest in human decision making and therefore have significant overlap in content.  In particular, the sub field of behavioral economics explores how psychological insights into human behavior can explain how individuals make economic decisions.   Economics can therefore be modified with psychology courses that have content related to how individuals and organizations make decisions

In addition to the general guidelines for modified majors, acceptable proposals to modify economics with psychology should include:

  • ECON 35, Games and Economic Behavior.
  • ECON 44, 45, 46, 47 or 48 (not econ 42 or 49)
  • PSYC 1 or PSYC 6
  • PSYC 23, 27, or 28
  • Four upper level PSYC courses (see worksheet).

Psychology Modified Major Worksheet

Economics Modified with Computer Science

Over the last few decades the combination of large data sets and increasing computing power has led economics to become much more empirical.  Empirical research in economics benefits greatly from some knowledge of programming.  In addition, techniques for data analysis from computer science such as machine learning have become part of the empirical economics toolkit.  Modifying economics with computer science provides valuable tools for performing economics research in your culminating experience.  Because the focus is on tools useful to economics research the majority of the computer science classes should not be pure programming classes.

In addition to the general guidelines for modified majors, acceptable proposals to modify economics with computer science should include:

  • COSC 1 or COSC 10
  • COSC 11, MATH 22, or Math 24 (a linear algebra course)
  • One Systems Software COSC Course (see worksheet)
  • Three Theory or Applied COSC courses (see worksheet)

Computer Science Modified Major Worksheet

Economics Modified with Mathematics

Economics is an inherently mathematical discipline.  Economics models seen in research papers often use math beyond the Math 3 requirement for economics majors.  Empirical research benefits from further study of probability and statistics.  Graduate programs in economics require courses in linear algebra, real analysis, and differential equations for admission.  Further study of mathematics is therefore complementary to the study of economics.  

In addition to the general guidelines for modified majors, acceptable proposals to modify economics with mathematics should include:

  • MATH 11 or MATH 13
  • COSC 1 or COSC 10
  • COSC 11, MATH 22, or Math 24 (a linear algebra course)
  • Four upper level MATH courses (see worksheet)

Mathematics Modified Major Worksheet

Economics Modified with Multiple Departments Based on Topic

The modified majors described above can be contained within one modifying department because these departments share significant overlap with economics in content and techniques.  There are other departments where this is possible, but we have often found that it is difficult to find four courses in a single department that have significant enough overlap with economics.

A different approach would be start with interest in a particular economics topic and ask how courses in other departments might inform research into that topic.  This will generally require courses from more than one department.  The modifying courses should all have a clear connection to the research that you will pursue in your economics culminating experience either topically or methodologically.  Below we go through each of the culminating experiences in economics and discuss potential modifications.

ECON 44 - International Development
ECON 47 - Labor Economics
ECON 48 - Public Economics

Within economics these three topics are generally categorized as applied microeconomics and they have significant overlap.  Labor economics, for example, studies models of labor markets that are applicable to developing countries.  Public economics studies government policies that influence labor markets. There are a number of other departments on campus that teach courses that touch on topics related to these areas of economic research, particularly in the social sciences.

Before considering courses in departments outside of economics it is important to take advantage of all related courses within economics.  In particular, any applied micro based modified major should include ECON 24, development, ECON 27, labor or ECON 28, public..  

Courses outside the economics department should be directly related to topics covered in the culminating experience or cover a research methodology or tool that is not taught within the economics department.  In addition to the MATH and COSC courses associated with the modified majors described above, GIS courses within the geography department or survey method courses within sociology or anthropology might be useful.  Successful proposals will typically have a mix of topic and tool courses.

ECON 42 - Macroeconomics
ECON 49 - International Economics

These culminating classes tend to have a stronger focus on economics at the aggregate level and somewhat less overlap with other departments.  Since these topics involve monetary policy, fiscal policy, and relationships between countries, overlap will typically be seen in the realm of policy.  Modification may focus on methodological tools.  Spatial relationships are important in these disciplines so GIS courses from geography might be useful along with MATH and COSC courses described above.

ECON 45 - Industrial Organization

Most Industrial Organization modifications are methodological and therefore focus on MATH and COSC classes as described above.  One potential exception to this is a modification with ENVS.  Industrial Organization is one of the homes of Environmental Economics (Public Economics being the other) and is therefore amenable to modification with Environmental Studies.  We have found that it is difficult to find 4 ENVS Studies classes suitable for modification so a combination of ENVS classes with courses from other departments such as GIS classes from GEOG might be a possibility.

ECON 46 - Finance

Most Finance modifications are methodological and therefore focus on MATH and COSC classes as described above.

Guideline

  1. The Modified Major is intended to fit the needs of students who have a definite interest in the major department/program but are also interested in some specific problem or topic, the study of which depends on courses in related fields.

    The first part of your proposal must therefore identify the specific problem or topic that you wish to study and justify why its study depends on courses in related fields.
     
  2. It (all 10 courses of the Modified Major) should be planned as a unified, coherent whole, and not consist of a series of unrelated courses.

    The second part of your proposal must therefore explain how the 4 courses outside of economics support the learning that you will do in the 6 courses in economics, as they pertain to the specific problem or topic that you wish to study. Since Econ 20-21-22 aren't field specific, you can focus on the 3 economics courses numbered above 23 in this part of the proposal.

    Within the Economics Department, there is a presumption that the 4 courses outside of economics should be comparable to economics courses numbered 24-39 in their level of analytical rigor. So as you write the second part of your proposal, you should be comparing the way the 4 courses outside of economics enable you to study the specific problem or topic relative to the most suitable 3 courses inside of economics that are not already part of the major. 

    When you have a draft of the proposal, you should send it to Professor Feyrer ([email protected]) for comments. You should expect to revise the proposal in light of those comments.

 

Another major modified with economics

Econ 1 and Econ 10, with an average grade no lower than C, and Math 3. A student who fails to achieve the minimum grade average for the prerequisites may, with the permission of the vice chair, substitute grades in Econ 21 and Econ 20 for those in Econ 1 and Econ 10, respectively. Another statistics course may be substituted for Econ 10.

This should be a unified, coherent program of at least four courses in economics in addition to the prerequisites, with a GPA of no less than 2.0. The four courses must contain both Econ 21 and Econ 22, or contain a sequence of at least 2 courses and one of either Econ 21 or Econ 22.

If a sequence contains a 40 level or an 80 level, then Econ 20 is also required.