Update: Vandy's PhD in Law and Economics

Josh Wright —  6 October 2006

A few months ago, Keith posted regarding the announcement of Vanderbilt’s new PhD program in Law and Economics. The post generated a lively discussion in the comments (and a follow up post here on GMU’s own Law and Econ program). Much of the discussion focused on the following questions: what would such a program should look like? What classes would be taught? And by whom? Well, Vandy has answers! The new (to me at least) website contains a program announcement, information on curriculum design, and a roster of what looks like a truly top notch faculty (which is apparently looking to expand).

The concept of the program appears to be a PhD in “applied economics.” The core curriculum includes two semesters of micro, three semesters of probability theory/ econometrics (including a course entitled “econometrics for legal research”), two semesters of “Law and Economics Theory,” and one semester each of mathematics for economists & behavioral law and economics. Available field requirements thus far include: behavioral law and economics, risk and environmental regulation, and labor and human resources (each field requires 6 hours of coursework).

As I’ve mentioned before, I am very happy to see more of these types of programs and will be extremely interested to see how the Vanderbilt program works out. This program should attract students who: (1) want to a PhD in applied economics in order to do research in L&E; or (2) are pursuing a JD/PhD concurrently and view the new program as a better complement than the traditional program (perhaps for the same reasons as in (1)). The market test, of course, will depend on how the legal academic market responds to candidates without a PhD from a “traditional” economics department? I also wonder if the program will attract a substantial number of JD/PhDs or if it will primarily focus on PhD-only students.

A few other points of interest that I noticed while perusing the websites. First, as Keith predicted, no macro. Second, the faculty list as it stands does not include any JDs (though it is possible that I missed one or two by not checking all the CVs). My sense is that the faculty will eventually include or incorporate some of Vanderbilt’s JD-wielding L&E scholars. Third, and excuse my bias, but where is the antitrust/ industrial organization field? They could certainly produce an impressive field sequence with their faculty! All in all, pretty exciting stuff. Discuss.

3 responses to Update: Vandy's PhD in Law and Economics


    Not to mention Froeb, Daughety, Reinganum, etc., on the IO side of things. I’m guessing such a field is in the works.


    This is a great update to our discussion, Josh, on an issue to which all of us who care about Law & Economics ought to be paying close attention. I agree with you that the lack of macro makes sense and am equally puzzled by the lack of antitrust and IO. Presumably Kip Viscusi (who has a fine book on the subject co-authored with several scholars, including my friend and former IO teacher Joseph Harrington, Jr., a game theorist at Johns Hopkins of some renown) could easily handle both of these. But he’s likely very busy with many other things right now, so your question is a good one.

    The next steps are to see which students they attract, what sort of work they produce, and where they end up placing. Let’s keep watching!

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  1. Vanderbilt PhD Program in Law and Economics « Organizations and Markets - October 16, 2006

    […] Vanderbilt University has become the only US institution (as far as I know) to offer a PhD degree in Law and Economics. The program has a new web page describing the faculty, curriculum, seminar series (Henry Manne is on the Fall slate), and other practicalities. (Via Josh Wright.) […]