press enter after type

Harvard. Undergrad economics program described in The Harvard Crimson, 1953



The Harvard Crimson has a really useful search function that can get you a student’s perspective on undergraduate economics education in Harvard’s ivy-covered (well, sometimes) lecture halls. I added links to courses and professors for a bit of value-added. Otherwise the article speaks for itself.


The Harvard Crimson
April 22, 1953

Number of Concentrators: 331.
1952 Commencement Honors: cum, 17; magna, 20; summa, 1; 2 cums in General Studies.

The fact that Economics can boast one of the top faculties in the country, and probably has more nationally known professors than any other department in the College, is one of the main drawbacks to the concentrator. For few undergraduates are able to claim having really studied under any of them.

Most of the courses are conducted under the lecture system which does allows the undergraduate little contact with the men who divide their time between Washington and Cambridge.

The mistake should not be made that a concentrator in Economics will be trained in how to make his first million, no illusions should be developed that Economics is just another term for business administration. What the Department of Economics attempts to do is quite simple: the development of the economic background to present day social and political issues.


Economics I, required of every concentrator, is designed to introduce the student to the field. Its main criticism is that it is too general. But in the past it has been quite efficient in preparing students for the more advanced courses.

In an attempt to introduce some personal contact, the Department has now extended tutorial to all sophomores and juniors. According to Departmental chairman Arthur Smithies, its purpose is threefold: 1) to make specific things brought up in classes more concrete, 2) to tie the various fields of economics together, 3) to bring out the close relationship between economics and the other social sciences.

Tutorial in the junior year, usually limited to honors candidates, is now open to non-honors candidates also. Called “presumptive honors tutorial,” it meets in sessions conducted along honors tutorial lines. The program was opened last year with the hope of inducing more concentrators to apply for honors in their senior year. According to Ayers Brinser ’31, Head tutor of Economics, a great majority of the juniors who enter the junior tutorial with no intention of being an honors-candidates, change their minds during the junior year. By offering the presumptive tutorial, the department enables students who did not sign for honors to change in their senior year.

Basic Courses

Requirements for concentration do not impose too great a restriction on the concentrator’s program. Four Economic courses including Economics I are a must for non-honors men, while honors candidates are held for five. Three of the courses must be chosen from the basic courses: Economics 101, Economic Theory and Policy; Economics 141, Money, Banking and Economics Fluctuations; Economics 151. Public Finance; Economics 161, Business Organization and Public Regulation; Economics 171, Economics of Agriculture; and Economics 181a and b, Trade Unionism and Collective Bargaining, Public Policy and Labor.

Honors candidates may elect to take tutorial for credit for one semester of their senior year, while they work on their 40,000 word theses. Currently, more than a third of the concentrators are honors candidates.

The department also requires all concentrators to take full courses in Government, History, Social Relations or the second group Social Science courses.

Most popular of the advanced courses last year was Economics 161. Professors Kaysen and Galbraith divided last year’s schedule. The course deals with the structure and character of business and their markets; the attitude of the public toward combination and regulation, including the transportation industry and the public utilities; and the problems of resource conservation and industrial mobilization.

Labelled by most concentrators as the most difficult of the basic courses, Economics 141 crams a great deal into its program. Most concentrators prefer to get this one out of the way in their sophomore or junior year, since it is a good foundation for other courses in the field.

Labor Economics

One of the most popular professors teaching an undergraduate courses, John Dunlop will be back to give the two semesters of Labor Economics. Different from the other basic courses in that it emphasizes more human aspects, Economics 181 combines human and legal aspects of the labor movement as well of the economic foundation.

Economics 101, the basic theory course for undergraduates, is restricted to honors candidates in their last year of study.

Source: The Harvard Crimson, April 22, 1953.



Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier