Environmental & Resource Economics


The Environmental and Resource Economics (ERE) field emphasizes expertise in applying economic theory and empirical methods to the analysis of environmental and natural resource problems.  In completing the requirements for the field, students are expected to acquire a working knowledge of historical and contemporary environmental and natural resource problems and policies and an understanding of the role of market behavior as well as formal and informal institutions for determining environmental and resource outcomes. They also develop expertise in the elements of economic theory and empirical methods that are particularly relevant to the study of these issues.


Faculty working in the ERE field have special expertise in the economics of land use, water resources, energy, ecosystem management, non-market valuation, property rights, resource dynamics, and policy design to achieve environmental objectives. 

Course Program

Coursework in the ERE field allows students to develop advanced skills in analytical methods used in environmental and resource economics research. Such methods include optimal control theory, policy evaluation under uncertainty, techniques of non-market valuation, hedonic analysis as applied to the pricing and provision of multi-attribute goods, and location theory. Courses focus on theories and methods of environmental and natural resource economics and the application of these tools to issues of policy importance.

Specific course requirements for the Ph.D. field in ERE are provided below:

  • Masters students with an interest in ERE will put together an appropriate program of courses in the field in consultation with their major advisor and committee.
  • The Ph.D. comprehensive written examination in ERE is jointly administered by the departments of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics (AFRE) and Economics, making the ERE field especially conducive to a dual major in the two departments because the student need only pass one field exam for both degrees.  Under our dual major arrangement with the Economics department, the student writes one dissertation, which is reviewed by faculty representing both departments.  A degree is then awarded by both departments, provided all other requirements for both degrees are met.
  • The ERE course program also links to an interdepartmental graduate specialization in environmental and resource economics at MSU. This specialization is directed by economists from AFRE, Forestry (FOR), Fisheries and Wildlife (FW), and Community Sustainability (CSUS). By fulfilling the requirements of this specialization, which involves little if any additional coursework beyond that required for degrees AFRE, students can receive a formal transcript certification indicating that a graduate specialization in environmental and resource economics has been accomplished.

  • The specialization is available at the Masters (details here) and Ph.D. levels (details here).

MSU‘s recently established Environmental Science and Policy Program also sponsors a doctoral specialization in environmental science and policy.

  • For more information on the ESP Program, and for links to all doctoral programs with environmental content at MSU, see http://environment.msu.edu.


  • Major research projects have focused on the evaluation of the benefits of improved water quality, economic sustainability, bioenergy policy, analysis of economic incentives to achieve public policy objectives, prevention and control of invasive alien species, infectious disease in wildlife systems, corporate environmental management, recreational demand modeling and improvements in theory and empirical methods.

Course Requirements

  • Ph.D. students with a major field in ERE take two required courses:
    • * AFRE 923 Advanced Environmental and Resource Economics
    • * AFRE 925 Advanced Natural Resource Economics
  • In addition, the Ph.D. major requires choosing one additional course from the following menu.

    • AFRE 829 Economics of Environmental Resources
    • AFRE 823 Environmental Economics Methods
    • AFRE 891 (Special Topics: Business, the Environment, and Sustainability)
  • Masters students with an interest in environmental and resource economics should put together a suitable course program in conjunction with their major advisor and committee.

Other Courses of Potential Interest

  • In addition to the courses listed above, there are other courses across the University that may be of potential interest to students with an interest in the field. These include:
    • AFRE 865 Agricultural Benefit-Cost Analysis AFRE 930 Dynamic Models in Agricultural and Resource Economics
    • CSUS 848 Community-based Natural Resource Management in International Development
    • CSUS 851 Modeling Natural Resource Systems
    • EC 835 Public Expenditures
    • EC 836 Public Revenues
    • FOR 835 Forest Carbon Policy, Economics, and Finance
    • FW 854 Adaptive Management of Natural Resource Systems
    • GEO 419 Applications of Geographic Information Systems to Natural Resources Management
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