International Political Economy

Goals of the Major

The International Political Economy (IPEC) major provides students with the multi-disciplinary and 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, serve students who pursue graduate work, careers in the private, public, or non-profit sector, or careers in international or non-governmental organizations. The IPEC major derives in part from the overlap between economics and political science. In addition, the IPEC major goes beyond these constituent disciplines and provides 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 acquire both analytical tools and substantive expertise through unique core courses as well as through foundational courses in international economics, international politics, economic theory, statistics, and econometrics. Students also gain expertise in specific areas by further specializing in subsequent courses. All students apply theoretical and statistical tools to a topic of interest by writing a research paper or a senior thesis.


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 spans across nation states and regions with different political systems and in different stages of economic development.  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 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

Requirements for the Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service in International Political Economy

Courses in the SFS Core requirement serve as foundational requisites of this major.

  • Prerequisite: Calculus I or equivalent
  • Corequisite: GOVT-1400 Comparative Political Systems
  • Corequisite: GOVT-1600 International Relations
  • Corequisite: ECON-2543/243 International Trade
  • Corequisite: ECON-2544/244 International Finance
  • ECON-2101/101 Intermediate Microeconomics
  • ECON-2110/121 Economic Statistics
  • ECON-3001/122 Introduction to Econometrics
  • GOVT-2601 International Political Economy, GOVT-2602 International Organization, GOVT-2607 International Trade Law, or GOVT-2608 Political Economy of Development
  • PECO-3010/201 Analytical Tools for Political Economy or ECON-4059/459 Game Theory
  • Two IPEC Core or Supporting courses, at least one of which must be IPEC Core
  • IPEC-4980/401 Senior Capstone Seminar, or if not pursuing honors, a research paper and an additional IPEC Core course

Writing in the Major

All students majoring in IPEC must write a senior thesis or a research paper based on original research.  Students write the thesis in the Senior Capstone Seminar (IPEC-4980/401) and thus pursue their individual research projects as part of a cohort of scholars studying international political economy. If honors is not pursued, the research paper can be written in one of the 3000 or 4000-level major courses.

Honors in International Political Economy

Students can earn Honors in the IPEC Major by submitting a letter of intent during the junior year, writing a thesis based on original research during the senior year, the thesis judged as honors quality, earning an A grade in IPEC-4980/401 Senior Capstone Seminar, earning a major GPA of at least 3.67, and earning a cumulative GPA of at least 3.50.

More information about the major and its faculty may be found on the BSFS website.

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