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Doctoral Program in Business Economics

With a format that is unprecedented in Brazil, the proposal for an Insper Doctoral Program seeks to explore the interface between Economics and Business.

In many business schools around the world, it is common to have departments of Managerial Economics covering various fields, such as industrial organization, international trade, theory of the firm and contracts, as well as other specialized departments with research projects that heavily build on economic foundations (e.g., Finance). Likewise, many fields of knowledge in Management have increasingly incorporated economic theories and methods. For example, there is thriving literature in Economics that seeks to measure and assess the managerial practices of firms and their impact on productivity.

The proposed focus in Business Economics seeks to explore the complementarities between the fields of Economics and Management. Specifically, students receive a rigorous quantitative academic experience they can apply to the problems faced by organizations when taking a wide range of strategic decisions and by governments in the execution of their policies and regulatory activities.

The program is taught in English and students are expected to complete their degree in four years. The program features 26 courses, which include not only courses on foundations and specialization topics for each research line, but also applied research courses and an intensive training on how to write research papers so that students can successfully draft and defend their dissertation.

The program features 25 courses that correspond to 50 credits (with each credit corresponding to 18 hours).  This group of courses includes not only those on fundamentals and specialization in research lines, but also applied research courses at the centers and the preparation of papers for their dissertation. Students who pass the comprehensive examination for this research line receive 5 credits, which is the same number of credits they receive if they pass the dissertation qualification examination.  The final dissertation involves a total of 20 credits. Therefore, to graduate from the program and receive a diploma, students must obtain 80 credits.

Also to graduate, students must pass, at the end of the second year, a comprehensive exam  specific to their research line; pass the dissertation qualification exam; and successfully defend their dissertation before a panel formed by five members, at least two of whom are external members.

The program’s structure involves three quarters per year, with three courses per quarter. The structure of the courses is detailed below (each course corresponds to two credits).

Foundation Courses – Download

First Year

The program begins with a general development cycle that includes pre-preparation in mathematics and statistics and a sequence of courses in microeconomics, econometrics, macroeconomics, asset pricing, theory of the firm and institutional analysis. This set of courses, which is common to all of the research lines, provides students with a rigorous theoretical and quantitative foundation to be applied to subsequent courses.

Preparatory Course in Mathematics and Statistics

Series of mandatory courses:

  • Quarter 1: Microeconomics I; Econometrics I; Institutional Environment
  • Quarter 2: Microeconomics II; Econometrics II; Asset Pricing
  • Quarter 3: Theory of the Firm; Econometrics III; Macroeconomics

Second Year

In the second year, the program begins to specialize in accordance with each research line. Each line has a set of two mandatory courses and four elective courses, as well as three courses in which students work on research projects related to the centers (Applied Projects I, II and III, one in each quarter). Students must prioritize elective courses in their research line, but also can take courses in other lines as their elective courses.

NOTE: The mandatory courses in each line are listed as “elective,” since in the case of a student in the Finance line, for example, a certain course in Strategy or Applied Microeconomics is not mandatory.

Strategy Line:

  • Quarter 1: Advanced Topics in Industrial Organization (shared course with the Applied Microeconomics Line); Elective Course; Applied Project I
  • Quarter 2: Strategic Management I; Applied Project II; Elective Course
  • Quarter 3: Applied Project III; Elective Course; Elective Course


Applied Microeconomics Line:

  • Quarter 1: Advanced Topics in Industrial Organization (shared course with the Strategy Line); Applied Project I; Elective Course
  • Quarter 2: Policy Assessment; Applied Project II; Elective Course
  • Quarter 3: Applied Project III; Elective Course; Elective Course


Finance Line:

In the field of Finance, three courses will be regularly offered (Corporate Finance, Empirical Finance and Monetary Policy).  Depending on their research emphasis, students may choose two of these courses as mandatory. For example, a student can take Empirical Finance and Monetary Policy as mandatory courses and then choose four other courses as electives.

  • Quarter 1: Corporate Finance*; Applied Project I; Elective Course
  • Quarter 2: Empirical Finance*; Applied Project II; Elective Course
  • Quarter 3: Monetary Policy*; Applied Project III; Elective Course


* If a student takes the three courses listed, one of them counts as an elective course.

Third Year

Students approved in the comprehensive exam  at the end of their second year will continue on to the third year, which will involve a series of courses on preparing research papers and more elective courses.  Since the dissertation should be based on the format of “three papers” linked to the central topic (common in international schools), students are expect to start work on a different paper in each quarter. In the third year, students are also encouraged to study abroad under the supervision of a renowned international professor, besides the local advisor at Insper.

  • Quarter 1: Elective Course; Academic Paper Project I
  • Quarter 2: Elective Course; Academic Paper Project II
  • Quarter 3: Elective Course; Academic Paper Project III

Fourth Year

Preparation of dissertation.

Qualification examination for approval of dissertation project.

Defense of dissertation.

Elective Courses

There are four general groups of elective courses:

1st group of elective courses

Consists of course offered by line of research in the form of seminars to discuss the papers. The courses listed below will be offered during the second and third years, and only one course may be offered in one of these years.

Elective courses in the Strategy line: Strategic Management II; Marketing Theory; International Management; Analysis of Social Networks.

Elective courses in the Applied Microeconomics line: Development Microeconomics; Labor Economics; International Trade; Public Sector Economics.

Elective courses in the Finance line: Advanced Corporate Finance; Advanced Topics in Finance I; Advanced Macroeconomics I; Advanced Macroeconomics II; Advanced Bayesian Econometrics: Macroeconomics and Finance.

To ensure flexibility in the event that other topics not initially planned come to be offered, including those given by collaborative and visiting professors, elective “Topics” courses will also be registered, such as Topics in Strategy I, II, III and IV; Topics in Applied Microeconomics I, II, III and IV; and so on.

2nd group of elective courses

The second group of elective course involves “Guided Studies.” This is a course with the same total class time, but that involves the individual project of a certain professor with a certain student on a highly specialized topic. For example, a student in the Strategy line can take Guided Studies with a specialized professor in a certain technique for modeling phenomena of organizational decision-making.

3rd group of elective courses

The third group involves elective courses administered at others schools in Brazil or abroad. If the content of these courses does not perfectly meet the requirements of the group of courses of the program, the credits related to these courses may be incorporated as a “Topics” course.

4th group of elective courses

Specifically, the Applied Project courses involve the student working on a certain project already existing at the center related to his or her research line. For example, a student in Applied Microeconomics can work on a project already existing at the Center for Public Policy in the area of education or safety. The objective is precisely to leave the student more familiarized with projects linked to their research line and to involve them more intensely in the collection of data and analyses.

Meanwhile, the Paper Project courses involve interaction between the student and their adviser professor to help get them started on their research paper each quarter. Since the dissertation must be prepared in the form of three papers with the potential for international publication, these course enable students to already make progress on the concept and research methodology for each paper, thereby contributing to the preparation and conclusion of their dissertation. This advance involvement by students on the centers’ projects in the Applied Project courses can already result in ideas and even data that can be used in the Paper Project courses.

International Insertion

The Doctoral Program in Business Economics is administered in English in order to attract students from other countries. The program will have  a professor  with joint appointments at Insper: Fabio Chaddad from the University of Missouri in the Strategy research line.

The program will also have two visiting professors who will lecture elective courses annually: Heitor Almeida from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Igor Cunha from Nova de Lisboa in the Finance line, and Thomas Fujiwara (Princeton University) in the Applied Microeconomics line. Students will be encouraged to take elective courses abroad, while also maintaining contact with a renowned international researcher (in addition to an advisor professor from Insper) for conducting their research.

Research Centers

The Doctoral Program in Business Economics has three lines of research strictly related to the topics studied at the research centers: Strategy (Center for Strategy), Applied Microeconomics (Center for Public Policy) and Finance (Center for Finance). Doctoral students can become involved in applied research in the topics focused on by the centers and the results of this research can help the centers reinforce the impact of their knowledge production. With the professors already grouped independently at the centers, the presence of students on the projects will certainly facilitate the exchange of knowledge and the joint efforts to conduct high-quality and high-impact research.

Learn more about our Research Centers.

Research field: Strategy

The Strategy research line seeks to examine the factors associated with the sector, firm or location that generates persistent differences in performance among organizations in terms of productivity and profitability. Research has shown that there is a high degree of performance heterogeneity among firms. In certain cases, these differences can persist over years, which is a phenomenon called “sustainable competitive advantage” in the field of strategic management. In other cases, the differences are temporary due to the industry’s competitive dynamics (namely entry and imitation processes).

Given the program’s nature, research in the field of Strategy will be heavily based on microeconomics (including game theory and industrial organization) and complemented by the recent advantages in management literature. Furthermore, the research will be supported by advanced identification and estimation techniques. Once the business strategies are chosen by the firms, attention must be devoted to solving problems involving endogeneity and self-selection. Note that much of the latest research in the literature on strategic management does not adequately address this problem. Therefore, there is a big opportunity for research in the Strategy line of the Doctoral Program in terms of helping to refine the empirical analysis of various business strategies.

Students in the Strategy line will have a relevant advantage in terms of microeconomic fundamentals and quantitative techniques for identifying the various factors that influence organizational performance.

Students can conduct research in four Strategy sub-areas:

  • Analyzing competitive dynamics, market strategies and price formation factors within industries.
  • Analyzing how firms establish their horizontal and vertical boundaries; i.e., which factors affect the corporate portfolio of businesses selected by the company.
  • What are the implications of the internal organizational choices made by firms involving a set of aspects from decision and control rights to incentive contracts involving performance-based remuneration.
  • How business strategies interact more broadly with the institutional environment (e.g., how firms respond to a weaker institutional context in terms of the protection of property rights or an uncertain regulatory environment).

Research field: Applied Microeconomics

The Applied Microeconomics line encompasses the areas related to labor economics, public sector economics, household economics, migration, international trade, development economics, public policy assessment and microeconometrics. These areas use theoretical and empirical models to understand the determinants of the behavior of households, companies and countries, especially in microeconomic aspects.

Research in the area of Applied Microeconomics makes intensive use of secondary data made available by government agencies, such as the National Institute for Educational Studies and Research (INEP) and the Brazilian Geography and Statistics Institute (IBGE), as well as sophisticated methods for modeling the determinants of companies’ productivity, the supply of labor, the quality of education and trade flows, for example. Furthermore, research of original fields may be conducted to collect primary data and for controlled interventions (experiments).

This line will also focus on the assessment of public policy, given Brazilian society’s current need for studies that are well founded in terms of methodology that examine the impact and social return of social programs and public policies on the lives of their beneficiaries, whether they be people, companies or regions.

Students choosing the field Applied Microeconomics will have a solid background in mathematics, statistics, economic theory and econometrics. They will be able to build new economic models at the forefront of economics and/or use large databases with econometric models to estimate causal relationships between microeconomic variables of interest to the company and to policymakers.

Research field: Finance

The Finance research line covers the discussion and analysis of economic growth processes and economic policy tools, the functioning and efficiency of financial asset markets, the selection of assets and portfolios by investors based on assumptions of their behavior and attitudes with regard to the risk and return tradeoff of assets and portfolio, including their influence on the price formation of these assets. In the case of companies, analyses are made of investment decisions, capital structure and distribution of profits from the standpoint of creating value for the investors involved, including the agency relationships inherent to the presence of different types of rights to the cash flows of the companies, as well as the costs and mitigation mechanisms found in reality.

The first important basic differential of students graduating in the Finance line will be the capacity to critically assess the leading literature in the area. Using the database, students should be able to develop new ways of explaining relevant phenomena, thanks to the formal theoretical foundation, as well as to propose tests of their explanations or of the explanations proposed in the literature, thanks to the econometric resources they acquire in the program. The areas in which students can develop include:

  • Pricing of financial and real assets.
  • Investor behavior in financial markets.
  • Problems related to investment, financing and the distribution of profits
  • Macroeconomic theory and models.
  • Monetary and fiscal policy.


Research field: Strategy

Charles Kirschbaum
Danny Pimentel Claro
João Manoel Pinho de Mello
Paulo Furquim de Azevedo
Rodrigo Menon Simões Moita
Sandro Cabral
Sérgio Giovanetti Lazzarini

Research field: Applied Microeconomics

Camila de Freitas Souza Campos
Hedibert Lopes
João Manoel Pinho de Mello
José Heleno Faro
Naercio Aquino Menezes Filho
Ricardo Paes de Barros
Rodrigo Menon Simões Moita
Sergio Firpo

Research field: Finance

Klenio Barbosa
Hedibert Lopes
João Manoel Pinho de Mello
José Heleno Faro
Marco Bonomo
Marcelo Rodrigues dos Santos
Bernardo Ricca


Heitor Almeida (PhD, University of Chicago)
Finanças, professor da University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Igor Cunha (PhD, University of Illinois)
Finanças, Professor da Nova de Lisboa
Marinho Bertanha (PhD, Stanford University)
Microeconomia Aplicada, CORE-UcLouvain

Coordenador de Pós Graduação Stricto Sensu e Pesquisa
Ph.D. em Economia pela Universidade da Califórnia em Berkeley

Sergio Firpo is Full Professor of the Unibanco Institute Chair at Insper. He received a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Campinas (Unicamp) (1996), a master’s degree in Economics from Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) (1999), and a master’s degree in Statistics (2002) and a Ph.D. in Economics (2003) from the University of California at Berkeley. Previously he was Assistant Professor in the Economics departments at the University of British Columbia (2003–2006) and at PUC-Rio (2004–2008) and an Associate Professor in the São Paulo School of Economics at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (EESP-FGV) (2008–2015).

He is a member of the Econometric Society and, since 2007, a member of the Standing Committee for Latin America. He is a Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) since 2009, a 1-D researcher at the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) and a founding member of the National Institute of Education Science and Technology, Economic Development and Social Inclusion. From 2007 to 2010, he was editor of the Brazilian Review of Econometrics.

He conducts research in microeconometrics, with theoretical and applied contributions to the following fields: labor economics, education economics economic development and political economics. His papers have been published in various international scientific journals, such as EconometricaJournal of Development EconomicsJournal of Applied EconometricsJournal of Economic Inequality, and in chapters of books, such as “Handbook of Labor Economics.” In recognition of his academic work, he received awards from the Brazilian Society of Econometrics in 2015 and 2014 (first and second place, respectively, in the Econometrics category), the Econometric Society in 2009 (Simonsen Lecture) and the National Association of Graduate Centers in Economics (ANPEC) in 2007 (Haralambos Simeonidis Award). His research has been financed by CNPq, CAPES, a federal agency regulating stricto sensu graduate programs, the São Paulo State Research Support Foundation (FAPESP) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). As a consultant, he has collaborated with the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the National Industry Confederation (CNI), the São Paulo State Research Support Foundation (FAPESP), the Federal Accounting Court (TCU), Itaú Social Foundation and Unibanco Institute.