International Political Economy Major

James Vreeland
Field Chair; Mitch Kaneda, Curricular Dean

The International Political Economy (IPEC) major investigates the rich intersection between economics and politics in the global environment. It typically goes beyond the constituent disciplines by combining traditional economic concerns about efficiency with traditional political concerns regarding distributional issues and legitimacy in market and non-market environments.  The resulting combination of insights provides a means of better  understanding complex interactions at the local, national and international levels.

The special character of international political economy derives in part from the methodological and substantive overlaps between the traditional disciplines of economics and political science. Methodologically, political economy combines formal modeling, comparative methods, and statistical techniques to analyze and evaluate competing theories of economic and political phenomena.  In addition to using methods standard in the constituent disciplines, political economy has pioneered in developing new tools for the study of collective action in the presence of conflicting private interests.

Substantively, International Political Economy analyzes how international and domestic political factors interact with economic factors to determine outcomes in a wide variety of areas, e.g., legislation, elections, government regulation, and policy formation in response to international phenomena; unilateral and multilateral activities involving international trade, finance, aid, and natural resources; local and international growth, development, and income distribution; and the interaction between business, governments, and diplomacy. The scope of inquiry ranges from mature capitalist countries, to developing economies to nations making transitions to capitalist systems.  In all cases, the focus is on issues that cannot be properly understood without insights gained from both international economics and international politics.

Goals of the Major

The International Political Economy (IPEC) major is designed to provide students with the multi-disciplinary, methodologically rigorous tools needed to understand and analyze the interaction between political and economic forces around the world. These tools, as well as the substantive knowledge gained, will serve students who pursue graduate work, or careers in the private, public, or non-profit sector, international or non-governmental organizations. The IPEC major derives in part from the overlap between economics and political science, and the substantive knowledge gained by students in the IPEC major will partly reflect this. But the IPEC major also goes beyond these constituent disciplines and will provide students with knowledge of a variety of areas, including but not limited to the problems of globalization, the processes of economic development and reform, and the role of political power in economic policymaking.

Students will acquire both analytical tools and substantive expertise through unique core courses as well as through foundational courses from International Economics and International Politics on economic theory, econometrics, and international political economy. Students will also gain further expertise on specific areas by specializing in subsequent courses. All students, finally, will apply analytical tools to a particular topic of interest by writing a senior thesis.

Objectives of the Major

Substantively, International Political Economy analyzes how international and domestic political factors interact with economic factors to determine outcomes in a wide variety of areas. The scope of inquiry ranges from mature capitalist countries, to developing economies to nations making transitions to capitalist systems. In all cases, the focus is on issues that cannot be properly understood without insights gained from both international economics and international politics. This requires an understanding of the methods and principal issues animating the areas in which these fields intersect.

To do this, students will learn:

  • Quantitative and qualitative methods to make causal inferences regarding political-economic phenomena
  • The ways in which states and state-institutions help or hinder economic prosperity
  • How collective action in the presence of conflicting private interests can shape legislation, elections, and policy
  • The nature of unilateral and multilateral factors shaping international trade, finance, and aid.
  • Original research and writing that identifies a puzzle, derives testable hypotheses, selects appropriate methodologies, gathers empirical evidence, and offers conclusions.

 

Writing in the Major

Students majoring International Political Economy learn how to apply analytical tools to a particular topic of interest by writing a senior thesis and how to produce original  research and writing that identifies a puzzle, derives testable hypotheses, selects appropriate methodologies, gathers empirical evidence, and offers conclusions.

IPEC majors are introduced to analytical tools and theories through the following required classes:

  • ECON 101 Intermediate Microeconomics
  • ECON 121 Economic Statistics
  • ECON 122 Intro to Econometrics
  • GOVT 261 International Political Economy
  • PECO 201 Analytical Tools for Political Economy

Students are exposed to research topics and research methods through reading of academic papers and conducting their own research projects presented in courses such as:

  • IPEC 312 Research Topics in International Political Economy
  • IPEC 328 Political Economy of Inequality and Distribution
  • IPEC 332 Political Economy of Institutions and Development
  • IPEC 250 IPE Quantitative Research Lab
  • INAF 383 Applied Econometrics for Development: Stata Practicum
  • ECON 484 Political Economy of Trade Policy

Finally, students are trained to produce original research and writing conducted in the mandatory capstone course:

  • IPEC 401 Senior Capstone Seminar

 

Honors in the Major

Students can earn Honors in the IPEC Major by submitting a letter of intent during the junior year, writing an honors quality thesis based on original research during the senior year, earning an A grade in the Senior Seminar, earning a major GPA of at least 3.67, and earning a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5.

IPEC Requirements

IPEC majors must satisfy the following requirements.

All students must demonstrate proficiency in mathematics by one of three means: Passing MATH-035 Calculus I, score of 4 or higher in AP Calculus, or passing the Math Department Calculus I waiver test.

The Mathematics Department waiver test is an option suitable for students who studied calculus in high school but did not have the opportunity to take the AP exam. It is administered during the New Student Orientation period just before the beginning of the fall semester. Note that calculus is a prerequisite for Intermediate Microeconomics and Economic Statistics.

It is recommended that students satisfy the calculus requirement before the beginning of the sophomore year.

The following 4 preparatory courses.  These courses should be taken before senior year.

  • ECON 101 Intermediate Microeconomics
  • ECON 121 Economic Statistics
  • ECON 122 Introduction to Econometrics
  • GOVT 261 International Political Economy

ECON 101 should be completed during sophomore year, since it is a pre-requisite for PECO 201. ECON 121 should be completed by the first semester of junior year, since it is a pre-requisite for ECON 122. GOVT 261 targets sophomores and juniors. It is offered once a year, in either of the semesters. Students going abroad in the junior year should look into taking GOVT 261 in the sophomore year, as long as GOVT 060 International Relations has been completed.

Two Interdisciplinary Courses in Political Economy.

  • PECO 201 Analytical Tools for Political Economy (offered every fall)
  • IPEC 401 Senior Seminar in Political Economy (offered every spring)

PECO 201 is ideally completed during junior year. IPEC 401 must be completed at Georgetown.

4 courses from the IPEC Core and IPEC Supporting course lists, at least two of which must be IPEC Core courses.

SEQUENCING

Analytical Tools for Political Economy (PECO-201) is designed to introduce majors to the methods used in the discipline along with their applications. It is therefore best taken in the junior year. Because Intermediate Microeconomics (ECON-101) is a prerequisite for both courses, all majors are urged to take Intermediate Microeconomics in the sophomore year. (Note that ECON-101 has calculus as a prerequisite.)

QUANTITATIVE METHODS

Analyzing data, whether to test hypotheses or to summarize trends, is an important part of studying international political economy. As a result, all majors are required to take statistics and econometrics, and are encouraged to do so as early as possible, preferably no later than the end of their junior year. (Statistics and econometrics are essential in writing the senior thesis in IPEC-401.)

December Graduates: Some students who have accumulated sufficient credits elect to graduate early. To do so, students need to plan ahead. All majors must take the senior seminar, IPEC-401, which is offered in the spring semester. Any student planning to graduate early therefore needs to take this seminar in the junior year.

Study Abroad

A substantial fraction of students choose to spend part or all of the junior year abroad.  Although studying abroad has clear benefits, it also has costs. A successful balancing of these costs and benefits requires advanced planning. PECO-201 is offered in the fall semester.  As this course builds a foundation that will be used in later courses, it is best to take it before the senior year. Students spending one semester abroad should consider the spring rather than the fall semester. Those spending a year abroad should consult with the field chair and the curricular dean.


 

IPEC Courses:

Past Semester Course Lists:
Spring 2016
Fall 2015
Spring 2015
Fall 2014
Spring 2014
Fall 2013
Spring 2013
Fall 2012
Spring 2012
Fall 2011
Spring 2011
Fall 2010
Spring 2010
Fall 2009