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June 22, 1995

Economics department jumps in national ranking

Pitt's Department of Economics has improved from 75th to 18th best in the nation over the past 10 years, according to an analysis by The Journal of Economic Literature.

The ranking puts Pitt ahead of UCLA and the University of Pennsylvania, and just behind the University of Wisconsin and Stanford. Northwestern University was ranked No. 1.

Pitt's economics department also was recognized as the second most improved in the nation since the last rankings were published in 1981. Boston University improved the most, rising from 87th to 7th.

Rankings in The Journal of Economic Literature are based on an economics department's publication productivity in the nation's top eight economics journals over the five-year period 1987-1991. Productivity in the eight journals is considered important in determining the quality of an economics department because the publications are widely read and play an important role in molding economic thought in the United States.

"Obviously the findings are gratifying," said economics department chairperson Frank Giarratani. "We have worked hard, taken full advantage of the University's steadfast support, and achieved much." Giarratani likened Pitt's economics department's improvement to the restructuring that has taken place in the private sector. He said the department has focused on key areas, improvement in research and especially teaching.

"As a department," he said, "we define excellence through our teaching at all levels, from dissertation supervision to ways of organizing a freshman principals of economics course. Our students get the best we can offer from the best scholars we can attract and retain." According to Giarratani, Pitt's economics department is now among the best in the nation in three specific areas: game theory, experimental economics and large scale economic transitions, particularly those that have occurred and are still underway in Eastern and Central Europe, and Latin America.

Giarratani said that faculty members in Pitt's economics department are in the forefront of efforts to use laboratory experiments as a tool for understanding economic behavior in small groups. Theories involved in such experiments can be used in a variety of situations, from labor bargaining to the auction of off-shore oil leases.

In addition, Giarratani said, the department is on the "cutting edge" of research into economic transitions on a national scale. The faculty includes experts on the economies of Central Europe, Russia, China and Latin America, he added.

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