Field IV: Economics and Public Policy

Nov 08 2021
By Philippa Haven

My name is Philippa Haven, and I am a second-year Master in Public Affairs candidate from Boston. Before Princeton, I worked for three years at the Congressional Budget Office, where I estimated the costs or savings of proposed health care legislation. I was lucky to work with bright colleagues, who inspired me to apply for a graduate school program that would challenge me to think deeply about policies that address the inefficiency and inequity of the U.S. health system.

People come to Princeton for all different reasons: some, like me, wanted to improve their intuition of and ability to explain Economic concepts. Field IV (Economics and Public Policy) is a great fit for students like me who want to pursue rigorous and quantitative coursework. The required courses teach us how to use Economic tools to develop policies that are both efficient and equitable. Your first-year core classes will revamp your understanding of Economic theory. Coming into my second year, I felt well-versed in recent academic literature and confident in my technical skills. I am finding a diverse number of Economic classes to choose from that enable me to find common themes about what factors hinder or promote economic equality. 

Getting back in the classroom after a few years in the workforce was incredible fun. In graduate school, Economics is not limited to abstract graphs and hypothetical theories! When learning about monetary policy, classmates who worked at the Federal Reserve and the Bank of Thailand weighed in on the political reality of employing central bank tools. When learning about the Laffer curve, the Professor recalled his time at the Council of Economic Advisors when explaining the incentives of the U.S. tax system that often get overlooked by policymakers.

Pursuing Field IV dissolved a lot of preconceived notions I had of what it meant to study and work in the field of Economics. I was happily surprised that Professors consistently highlighted the limitations to analyzing policy through just an Economics lens. They taught me that it is important, and expected, to evaluate and question your assumptions. The concepts we cover are mathematically challenging, but students take advantage of Princeton’s many resources, including precepts, free tutors, and office hours. Instead of competition, there is collaboration among my classmates; nobody hesitates to help with someone’s code or pitch a new idea on how to solve a homework problem. This is reflected in class discussions as well: Professors and students are eager to share their experiences and learn from one another.  

While I don’t feel ready to leave Princeton just yet, I’m looking forward to joining the ranks of Field IV alumni. Just last year, graduates went on to be Presidential Management Fellows, Senior Evaluation Adviser in the British Cabinet Office, Tax Analyst at the Congressional Research Service, and a myriad of other analytical positions. For the time being, I am ecstatic to continue my Field IV Rep duties of raising classmates’ concerns to the Administration, participating in student government resolutions, and (most importantly) organizing events where there is free food!