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Thesis Program


  1. Cow Fall (or earlier, the earlier the better) - SS368 Econometrics I  (prerequisite for SS489C)

  2. Cow Spring - SS489C Research Methods in Economics

  3. Firstie Fall - SS469 Econometrics II

  4. Firstie Spring - 498C Senior Thesis in Economics (requires admission)


  • I am a Plebe/Yearling interested in getting involved in research, what should I do to get started? 

Research in Economics is difficult to jump into without acquiring some necessary skills first, and this is best done through coursework (the policy of the  Economics major is not to offer independent studies outside of the Thesis track). Therefore, your first step should be to sign up for the classes in the Thesis sequence above. If you would like to get a head start on thinking about research prior to taking Econometrics I, there are two things I’d suggest. First, start thinking about what you are interested in. If you aren’t sure, try browsing the following spots with nice research summaries: AEA Highlights, NBER Highlights, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Journal Economic Literature.  Second, start learning how to program (ideally in STATA – the language used by most Economists and in all Economics courses at West Point). There are some resources to help you get started here.   

  • What is the purpose of the SS489C Research Methods in Economics course?  

The purpose of this course is to develop your Economic Research skills and begin your work toward a Senior Thesis during the spring of your cow year.   It is intended to give you a largely self-directed opportunity to delve deeply into an area of interest while sharpening your analytical skills. The primary product at the end of the semester will be substantial components of a future Thesis Proposal that will be used, along with any subsequent work done on the project your Firstie Fall, to determine admission to SS498C Senior Thesis in Economics in the spring of Firstie year.

  • How will SS489C Research Methods in Economics be organized?

The course will be a hybrid between a guided independent study (2/3) and a standard course (1/3).  There will be frequent intermediate update memos (~once-per-week) designed to help you come up with a promising research idea (the hard part!) and make consistent progress.  Research is not something you can cram in at the last minute.

  • Will SS489C Research Methods in Economics be challenging?

Short answer is YES. Moving beyond the confines of course work into the great unknown of self-driven research requires MUCH GREATER EFFORT but also yields much greater rewards (in terms of developing skills and knowledge that will stick with you).   The high-level of rigor that is expected of a thesis project along with the emphasis on coming up with something new, mean that this course (and Senior Thesis if admitted) will likely be more challenging than other projects you have done before.  This will not be a situation where you can get by phoning it in.  It will require a great deal of discipline and hard work... in short, it is not for everyone.

  • What does the SS498C Senior Thesis in Economics look like in the spring of Firstie year?

The program consists of working with a faculty advisor (meeting every 1-2 weeks) during the spring semester to write a thesis.   A typical thesis is organized like an article in an economics journal and will use data to identify the causal effect of a phenomena or policy (or test a theoretical prediction in a novel way).  Students will present their thesis to the faculty (and visitors) on Projects Day (typically 1 hour presentation that includes fielding challenging questions from faculty).  You can peruse past examples on the course's Teams site.

  • Am I guaranteed admission to SS498C Senior Thesis in Economics? 

No. Admission will be determined based on a Thesis Proposal submitted by the last day of classes in the fall of your Firstie year.  This will include an introduction, empirical strategy, and preliminary results, as well as a literature review paper and a data analysis memo.

  • What about earning honors? 

You will receive an Honors in Economics (Economics with Thesis/Honors), if you finish USMA with

- 3.0 in the Core 

- 3.5 in the major

- SS489C 

- SS498C

(There is no GPA requirement to participate in the thesis program.)

Examples of Past Thesis Projects

  • Meeah Mazikowski examined the impact of an additional child on maternal employment using the IV approach of Angrist and Evans, but in a context with heavily subsidized childcare (U.S. Army). She found very different effects in this context.  Elevator Pitch

  • Sam Redman used a change in the service commitment of USMA cadets branching Aviation to estimate the effect of service commitments on cadet's branch preferences with difference-in-differences and event study analyses.  Elevator Pitch  1-pager

  • Josh Thomas used a difference-in-differences approach to estimate that a change in mandatory minimums laws in Florida increased the length of time served and caused differential effects by race. Elevator Pitch  1-pager

  • Chris Slosar used variation arising from the academy's application process to identify the causal impact of attending USMA on Army post-contract retention rates with an IV strategy. Elevator Pitch  1-pager

  • Greg Brownell used a generalized diff-in-diff approach to find that being mandated to take a personal finance course in high school reduces later need for SNAP in early adulthood. Elevator Pitch  1-pager

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