About EES

EES Home | About EES | EES People | EES Admissions & Requirements

On this page:

Introduction to Environmental Economics

What Makes EES Different?

Economics at UCSB

Details for Prospective Students

Introduction to Environmental Economics

Environmental and resource economics is the study of the intricate connections and extensive interactions between economics and the environment. At the core of environmental economics is the recognition that markets often do not provide the right amount of environmental protection, and that some intervention by government, typically through regulation, tax policy, or the establishment of property rights, is frequently needed to strike the right balance between conflicting societal needs.

In a world where economic activity stresses the environment and utilizes fisheries, forests, minerals, energy sources, and other environmental resources, it is increasingly important to use economic tools in developing environmental approaches and policies. Armed with these tools, environmental economists are able to conceptualize economic problems related to environmental issues, then apply appropriate quantitative and qualitative techniques to design and implement appropriate research methods.

The Economics and Environmental Science (EES) emphasis at UCSB instills these abilities in PhD students.

The EES emphasis is not a PhD program or department in and of itself. Rather, EES students are enrolled as doctoral students in either the Department of Economics or the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management and must satisfy the PhD requirements in their home unit. The EES emphasis provides a structure for students who wish to pursue a multidisciplinary program in environmental economics by supplementing their home unit's degree requirements in a well-defined manner.

The EES program typically starts in the second year of the PhD program, following successful completion of a first-year core sequence in microeconomics and econometrics. In the second year, students take coursework in environmental and natural resource economics and a second field of economics of their choosing. Students also begin to acquire an understanding of an area of environmental science. This culminates in a research experience, working in the laboratory of one of the EES natural-science faculty members. A student's dissertation is typically in an area of environmental economics.

Back to top

 

What Makes EES Different?

Most PhD programs in environmental economics are either disciplinary in nature, with little added environmental science, or multidisciplinary. Multidisciplinary programs are typically located in schools of the environment, where depth in economics is sacrificed so that breadth in environmental science may be achieved. The EES emphasis takes a third path: students receive a deep education in economics and develop a substantive understanding and appreciation of the natural science that underlies their economics research.

This dual emphasis uniquely prepares students for a wide variety of careers, including faculty positions in disciplinary departments (e.g. economics or agricultural economics) and multidisciplinary departments (environmental studies programs and graduate schools of the environment), and for non-academic careers in government, industry, and consulting.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has described multidisciplinary PhD programs as falling into two basic types: "interdisciplinary" and "PhD-plus." In an interdisciplinary program, students study a "new" field located at the intersection of two or more traditional fields. Neuroscience, a melding of psychology and biology, is often cited as the quintessential interdisciplinary field. In a PhD-plus program, students take the equivalent of a full disciplinary PhD and supplement it with training in a complementary area—the "plus."

The EES emphasis falls into the PhD-plus category. Students, whether from the Economics Department or the Bren School, are as rigorously trained in economics as they would be in any top doctoral economics program; there are no compromises in the depth of the economics education. But in taking the third path of providing a PhD plus advanced training in an area of environmental science, the EES emphasis distinguishes itself from virtually any the other PhD program in environmental and resource economics in the nation.

The EES program is more than the sum of separate training in economics and a natural science. EES students are expected to have a deeper understanding of environmental problems because they understand both the natural science and the economics underlying them. Few possess this broader understanding, which can only enhance one's ability to develop research ideas and develop innovative solutions to problems. It is our intent that EES graduates will be at a distinct comparative advantage in both academic and non-academic job markets.


Back to top

Economics at UCSB


The ten-campus University of California system is generally recognized as the world's premier public university system. As of July 2014, UCSB was ranked fifth in environmental economics among all universities in the United States and eighth among all universities in the world. In a 1997 Graham and Diamond study based on faculty productivity, UCSB was rated the No. 2 public university in the U.S., second only to another University of California campus (Berkeley). In the 2010 National Research Council rankings of U.S. universities, nearly half (45 percent) of the UCSB departments that were ranked were rated in the top ten nationally.

UCSB's international standing and the eminence of its faculty are widely recognized. Among the faculty are five Nobel Prize winners including Professor Finn Kydland of the Economics Department, where environmental economics has been a strength for decades. As a lead author for the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Professor of Environmental Economics Charles Kolstad joined other IPCC participants in work that earned the group the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

The strengths of UCSB's Economics Department as they relate to environmental economics have been in public economics, labor economics, and other areas of applied microeconomics, but in recent years, the department has also become strong in macroeconomics, as evidenced by Professor Kydland's Nobel Prize.

UCSB's strength in environmental and resource economics is due in part to the close connection between the field and public economics. The leading journal in the field, the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, was, until recently, edited at UCSB. Another leading journal, Resource and Energy Economics, was also recently edited at UCSB. The new journal Review of Environmental Economics and Policy is co-edited here, and Professor Kolstad was recently President of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, the leading international professional organization for the field.

The establishment of the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management in the mid-1990s resulted in the hiring of additional environmental and resource economists. These Bren School environmental economics faculty, combined with Department of Economics faculty, have combined to earn UCSB its position as one of the world's leading centers of environmental and resource economics.

UCSB is the host of the Occasional California Workshop on Environmental and Resource Economics, a forum for faculty and graduate students to present research in an informal setting. The workshop has been held every 12 to 24 months since the early 1990s and draws participants from all over western North America.

Back to top

Details for Prospective Students

EES is an emphasis within the PhD programs of the Department of Economics and the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. UCSB students apply to be admitted to the emphasis and must satisfy certain requirements to graduate with the emphasis.

Prospective UCSB students who are considering the EES emphasis should have interest in economics and the problems of environmental protection and natural-resource use. Those who are interested primarily in policy analysis or non-research dimensions of environmental problems will probably find that EES is not for them.

Because of the multidisciplinary nature of the emphasis, a variety of student backgrounds are entirely appropriate for EES. A master's degree is not necessary, though having one is a plus.

Although students need not have majored or minored in economics prior to entering the program, they should have been successful in their economics coursework, have an understanding of basic principles, and demonstrate a strong interest in the field. Students having little formal training in economics should be able to demonstrate an understanding of the nature of an economics graduate program and a career in economics.

It is desirable that participants have some training in natural science at the university level. Students should have taken one or more of the introductory sequences in biology, chemistry, and physics offered for science majors at most universities. Students having relatively little preparation in natural science are advised to remedy this deficiency during the year and the summer immediately preceding their enrollment in the EES emphasis at UCSB. This can be achieved, for instance, by enrolling in university physics and/or chemistry during the fall when applying to graduate school and then continuing the sequence through the remainder of the academic year.

It is important that all prospective students be well prepared in mathematics and have comfort and facility with quantitative methods and problems. Most successful EES students have done well in a rigorous course sequence in single and multivariate calculus. It is helpful to have taken such additional coursework as linear algebra, differential equations, real analysis, or mathematical statistics. Performance on the quantitative portion of the GRE is one indicator of mathematical facility; a high GRE score, however, is no substitute for rigorous mathematical training.

Back to top