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Appalachian ranks among world leaders in experimental and environmental economics

BOONE—Appalachian State University’s Department of Economics has one of the world’s top programs in the fields of experimental economics and environmental economics, according to a prestigious worldwide organization that disseminates economics research.

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In its report “Top 10% Institutions and Economists,” Research Papers in Economics ranked Appalachian’s Department of Economics in the Walker College of Business 27th in the world in experimental economics and 81st in the world in environmental economics. The rankings were released in October and include all academic and non-academic research institutions globally.

Among U.S. universities, Appalachian’s experimental economics group ranked 14th behind the University of Virginia and California Institute of Technology and ahead of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. Appalachian’s environmental faculty ranked 34th among U.S. universities, ahead of the University of California-Davis and the University of Wisconsin.

The field of environmental economics focuses on issues related to the management of environmental and natural resources, and the field of experimental economics uses experimental methods to study economic and policy issues.

“While the ranking highlights the significant research produced by the economics faculty engaged in experimental and environmental research, it is indicative of the overall strength of the department,” said Dr. Michael McKee, director of the Appalachian Experimental Economics Laboratory.

In addition to the departmental ranking, three faculty members are listed among the world’s top 150 experimental economists. McKee is ranked 52nd, while Dr. Todd Cherry is 88th on the list and Dr. David Dickinson is 130th on the list. Dr. John Whitehead, department chairperson, is among the top 100 environmental economists.

“There are a lot of synergies across experimental methods and environmental research,” Cherry said, “and many faculty members work in both of these areas.” Appalachian’s experimental and environmental group also includes strong junior faculty who are already emerging as leading scholars in the field.

The ranking is a culmination of a decade-long effort by the Department of Economics. “The economics faculty decided to pursue a plan to specialize in experimental economics about 12 years ago,” said Cherry, director of Appalachian’s Center for Economic Research & Policy Analysis. “The goal was to elevate and distinguish the department, and the rankings are an indication that we accomplished our goal.”

The department’s efforts have received support from the Walker College of Business and Appalachian. “It is unusual for the administration of a business school to provide such strong support to an economics department, much less one that has a research focus on environmental issues, but we are in that enviable position,” Whitehead said.

The Walker College of Business currently is planning a new experimental economics laboratory that will enhance research by the experimental-environmental group. Dr. Heather Norris, the college’s acting dean, said, “I’m proud of the work of the economics faculty, which is important to our college-wide efforts in sustainable business practices.”

The Department of Economics offers five undergraduate degrees in economics, including a B.A. in environmental economics and policy, and contributes to graduate degrees in business and environmental policy.

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