Department of Economics


We look at applications holistically, evaluating the full range of criteria including GRE scores, grades, personal statements, letters, fields of interest, rank within class, our past experience with students from your program, and personal attributes.  Weaknesses in one or more areas may be compensated by strengths in other areas. We seek evidence of previous academic success, mathematical proficiency,  an understanding of economics as a discipline, curiosity about intellectual and social issues, persistence and creativity in surmounting obstacles, and effective written and verbal communication. We try to build a class that is balanced and diverse in interests and experiences and can contribute importantly to our mission as a department.

As noted we look at applications holistically. Students without GRE scores will not be automatically excluded but likely will be at some disadvantage relative to those who have provided scores, depending on the quality of other information in your application. If you cannot get in a GRE score by the application deadline you can send it to us after January 1 and we will make sure it gets accounted for.

In the event that you are unable to take the GRE due to COVID please document that fact  in your personal statement.


That is a decision for the graduate school. Information is here.

That is set by the graduate school. Information is here.  At the present time, the Graduate School does not accept a Duolingo language degree.


While the system permits submission of more than three letters of recommendation we only require three letters and, in our experience, extra letters tend to diminish the impact of the primary letter writers. Thus we would recommend that you pick the three letter from people who know you well and have an understanding of the requirements of an economics graduate program. 

We look at applications holistically, evaluating the full range of criteria including scores, grades, personal statements, letters, fields of interest, rank within class, our past experience with students from your program, and personal attributes. We try to build a balanced, diverse and high quality class, accounting for likelihood of enrolling, that can contribute importantly to our mission as a department.

We thus do not have cutoff scores for considering your application. We also cannot assess your probability of acceptance based on any one or two criteria. We also will not try to do evaluations of more detailed information except as part of the normal application process.

However, to give you some guidance on these issues we present below graphs of the cumulative distribution of GRE scores (quantitative, verbal, and written) among applicants as well as those who are accepted for the class starting in 2020. Overall we had about 750 applications and admitted about 60. So the ratio of the point on green curve to the point on the orange curve at any score X times 60/750 represents the proportion of people below that score who were admitted in the past year.  So that means that overall we admit about 8% of applicants but, for example, for we only admitted about 4% of those with a score below 165.


Graphgraph 2 graph 3

We discourage this.  First, all decisions are made by the admissions committee. We don’t consult faculty on whether a student is a particular match for him/her. While faculty can submit letters on the side to the committee those letters are likely to be disregarded unless you have a longer-term relationship with the faculty member s he/she has specific knowledge that would not otherwise appear in your application. We also have over 750 applications so if everyone made contact with the faculty member it would create a significant burden on faculty time.

Of course, all our faculty have web pages that contain a lot of information about their projects. The optimal time for you to contact faculty would be if and when you admitted or wait listed and have a good sense of your choice set. Also it would be most productivity if were after our annual “campus visit” (around April 1) which will be online this year as it was last year. During the visit, you will see some presentations by selected faculty and then we will have open office hours that you can schedule and/or drop by virtually. You will also have a chance to visit with some graduate students.

No. We only offer an MA Degree for students in our PhD program. This MA Degree is awarded following successful completion of the first-year sequence of the PhD program.

Applicants to the program should submit the application, 3 letters of recommendation, personal statement, transcripts, and GRE General Aptitude Test scores. We do not look at the GRE subject test score. The TOEFL test is required for foreign applicants, except those who hold (or will receive) a degree from an institution where the language of instruction is English. The TSE test is not required. 

The department awards financial aid sufficient to cover both tuition and living expenses to all first year students and to all students in good standing in years 2-5 of the program who are not funded through other sources. Students in the first year receive aid in the form of a fellowship (requiring no work on their part). In years 2-4 of the program, students will generally work as a teaching or research assistant. However some students in years 2-4 will receive fellowships. In years 4-5, some students receive Merit Dissertation Fellowships, if they are making exceptional progress in their research. Typically, about half of students in their 4-5 year will receive dissertation fellowships, with the rest working as teaching assistants.

In the first year, there are no teaching or research assistant responsibilities. After the first year, students generally work as a TA or RA. There are also competitive fellowships on campus through PSTC and IBES that substitute for TA or RA work. 

Target size of the incoming class in the PhD program is 15. The admission process is highly selective: in the last years, we have received over 750 applications.

The average time of completion is five years, although some students finish in six years. Rising sixth year students in good standing may complete the Dissertation Completion Proposal to request funding. 


A) Exposure to economics at a high level. We look for students who have taken upper-level courses that exposed them to active areas of research in the field. Students who have written senior or MA theses, or worked as researchers or research assistants have an advantage. 

B) Adequate preparation in mathematics. Applications should have at least 2 or 3 semesters of calculus. We also look for coursework in linear algebra, real analysis, probability theory and/or statistics. 

C) A good grade record. This is not precise, as standards vary widely among schools.

D) Informative letters of recommendation. We are particularly interested in letters from scholars who understand the research environment at a top Ph.D. program, that is, scholars who themselves are actively engaged in research and publication and those who have Ph.D.s from research-oriented institutions. We look for letters that make it clear the applicant knows what doing a Ph.D. is like and which describe how the applicant has been exposed to the research process. 

E) The median GRE quantitative percentile among those admitted is 96% with 90 percent of all quantitative scores being above 89 percentile. The median GRE verbal percentile among those admitted is 94% with 90 percent of all scores being above the 76th percentile.

From a demographic perspective, 48% of our admitted students are US citizens, 44% are female, 6% are US citizens from historically underrepresented groups in the US, and 7% are first-generation college students.

Decisions regarding admission and financial aid are made by mid-March. Applicants must make enrollment decisions by mid-April. 

Our University code is 3094. The department code for economics is 1801. 

The Department of Economics does not have the applications. You can apply online or request a paper application from the Graduate School 

Brown does not formally accept home GRE but students who don’t have other GRE scores can mention in their personal statements.