The economics department honors program offers majors with a strong academic record the opportunity for an excellent capstone experience doing independent research with the guidance of a faculty advisor. Honors students use the skills they develop through coursework to design, research, and write a paper on an economics topic of their own choosing.
Students are encouraged to consider an honors concentration in economics if they are interested in writing a thesis and have achieved a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.4. Students are eligible for admission into the Honors Program after they complete ECON 401, 402, and 451 (or STATS 426). Applications to the honors program are considered each academic year in early November; juniors and seniors can apply if they have taken or are concurrently taking 401, 402 and 451 (or Stats 426). Prospective honors students should apply separately to ECON 495, the advanced seminar in which students write a research paper.
An informational meeting is held in the fall to introduce students to the Honors Program and faculty teaching the winter semester ECON 495 seminars. The meeting is announced on the undergraduate economics e-mail list and attendance is strongly recommended for students intending to apply to the Honors Program. Honors application materials (link to form is below) are due on the first Monday in November.
Admission to honors is not a requirement, nor a prerequisite, for admission to an ECON 495 seminar. All 495 applicants must apply for admission (link to form is below) to the faculty teaching the seminar. Honors concentrators are given priority admission to ECON 495 seminars, but non-honors students are welcome if there is space.
Honors students are required to complete the requirements for a regular concentration in economics including a two-course statistics and econometrics sequence consisting of ECON 451 or STATS 426, and ECON 452. In addition, honors concentrators must also complete a senior thesis and enroll in at least one semester of ECON 497, a 1-credit seminar open only to honors students, which is designed to help students meet thesis draft deadlines, and improve their ability to present and write about economic research.
The honors thesis is more than a good course paper, it will require a substantial effort in research and exposition. The thesis is typically an extension of an ECON 495 seminar paper or a paper in concentration coursework.
To graduate with honors at the end of the winter semester, students must submit a preliminary version of their completed thesis by the first Friday after the mid-winter recess. This gives sufficient time for the student to receive feedback and suggestions from their thesis adviser and from the Honors Director before the final draft is due. Students then revise and resubmit the thesis shortly before the end of the winter semester. Thesis deadlines for students who plan to graduate in the fall or summer terms are determined in consultation with the Honors Director, but will generally be a few weeks before the end of the term of graduation.
Writing an Honors Thesis in Economics
An honors thesis in economics typically includes theoretical and/or empirical analysis as well as a discussion of how the analysis relates to the relevant literature. There are two general paths to completing the honors thesis:
Option I: Students enroll in an ECON 495 seminar in the winter term of their junior year and/or the fall term of their senior year. ECON 495 provides students with supervision to conduct their research project and culminates in a seminar paper. The honors student then revises, extends and polishes the paper under the direction of a faculty member, often the ECON 495 professor.
Option II: Students conduct their research project outside the guidance of an ECON 495 seminar. In such cases, students are required to work under the supervision of a UM faculty economist acting as a thesis adviser and they may enroll in ECON 498 to receive credit towards the completion of their economics concentration plan. In pursuing Option II, the student must receive advance approval from the Honors Director.
Examples of Economics Theses Awarded Highest Honors:
- A Tale of Two Crises: Argentina and Greece
- Estimation of Average Treatment Effects
- Gains from Trade in a New Way: Elimination of a Negative Cross-Sector Effect
- The Impact of the European Union Emissions Trading System on the Competitiveness and Employment of EU Firms in 2012
- The Effects of PFAS Contamination on the Michigan Housing Market
- The Effect of the Demolition of Derelict Housing on Home Property Values: Evidence from Detroit