Economic Sociology

Economic Sociology is an MIT Sloan PhD research group training scholars to conduct leading-edge research applying sociological tools and concepts to understand and explain behavior of organizations and the economy. The program reflects the confluence of two trends that have gained increasing salience over the past twenty years: (a) the increasing demand in business schools for faculty with sociological training; and (b) the rapid growth of economic sociology as a sub-discipline of sociology.

Each of these trends represents the growing recognition that the sociological imagination sheds unique light on economic processes, mapping specific connections among organizations, institutions and the economy. And yet the increasing demand for economic sociology has not been met with a corresponding increase in supply.

Distinctive Aspects Of The Program

The Economic Sociology group places heavy emphasis on research. While students gain experience in the classroom and graduates should be ready to teach in various programs (see below), the faculty believe that the primary goal of PhD training is to habituate students with the processes by which great social science research is conducted.

The substantive research focus is on general mechanisms of social organization. While we believe that all researchers must have a deep understanding of the specific contexts that we study, our primary reason for studying a particular case (i.e., an organization or industry) is to use it as a “strategic research site” for understanding social mechanisms and processes that are present in various forms in many different contexts.

Our research group is catholic with regard to method. We believe that qualitative research (i.e., fieldwork, case studies, ethnography); quantitative research (e.g., surveys, archival databases, social network analysis) and modeling (e.g., systems dynamics, game theory, agent-based models) are each quite useful depending on one's research objective.

Economic Sociology is an integral part of the set of PhD research groups that comprise the Behavioral and Policy Sciences at MIT Sloan. These are: Organization Studies; Institute of Work and Employment Research; and Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Economic Sociology overlaps with each of these in terms of: (a) the substantive focus of research; (b) the research methods employed; (c) the types of students that the programs attract; (d) as well as the faculty conducting PhD training.

In evaluating applicants, the Economic Sociology faculty looks for evidence of: (a) a strong research orientation; (b) skills and experience relevant to economic sociology; and (c) an understanding of academic social science research culture.

Note to potential applicants: An excellent way of deciding whether to apply to the Economic Sociology group is by reading articles in top sociology journals (e.g., American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology) and secondarily at top journals in organizations and management (e.g., Administrative Science Quarterly, Organization Science), especially those authored by our Economic Sociology faculty, and deciding whether you want to write articles like these.

Economic Sociology Faculty

Economic Sociology Seminars

Economic Sociology Graduates

Example Thesis Topics

  • Summer Jackson (2021)

    “Essays on Organizational Inequality”

  • Brittany Bond (2020)

    “Essays on Status Recognition and its Consequences for Top-Talent Mobility and Productivity”

  • James Whitcomb Riley (2020)

    “Social Exchange and Valuations in the Market for Contemporary Art”

  • Duanyi Yang (2020)

    “Essays on Workplace Practices in Different Institutional Settings”

  • Laurel Grassin-Drake (2019)

    “The Global Integration Challenge: Global Management Teams, Temporal Difference, and Constructing the Identity of the Global ‘Other’”

  • Minjae Kim (2018)

    “Essays on Social Norms”

  • Tristan Botelho (2017)

    “Essays on Knowledge Sharing and an Opt-in Evaluation Process among Investment Professionals”