Pre-Doctoral Economics Intern

With world attention on both the environment and the economy, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is where policymakers and business leaders turn for win-win solutions. By focusing on strong science, uncommon partnerships and market-based approaches, we tackle urgent threats with practical solutions. We are one of the world’s largest environmental organizations, with more than two million members and a staff of approximately 700 scientists, economists, policy experts, and other professionals around the world. We operate in 22 geographies with unique projects running across four programs. You will be part of a vibrant workplace that welcomes diverse perspectives, talents and contributions, where innovation and results are a way of life.


EDF envisions a world in which people from all backgrounds and experiences feel connected to the environmental challenges we face and are engaged in creating durable, equitable solutions. We seek talented candidates who share the Core Values that allow us to experiment courageously in our work while staying true to who we’ve been as an organization for 50 years. Are you a results oriented individual who is passionate about creating environmental solutions that make a lasting difference in the world? Do you respect diverse perspectives, talents and contributions? Do you value innovation and enjoy designing and using a wide range of problem-solving tools? Do you embrace environmental goals with a sense of optimism while taking into account real-world dynamics? If you have integrity and a strong desire to uphold a commitment to science, rigorous analysis, intellectual honesty and ethical action, then EDF is the place for you.

EDF offers internships and fellowships for students and recent graduates in a variety of programs and departments throughout the organization. The ultimate goal of our internship and fellowship program is to provide high-quality experiences (including relevant projects and opportunities for networking) that form the foundation for any individual who is serious about pursuing an environmental career.

Program Overview

Ensuring that economics is the backbone for all EDF policy positions, the Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) is the nexus of economics at EDF.  To be effective in this role, OCE provides thought leadership and programmatic support for other EDF programs and fosters relationships with economists in academia, think tanks and international organizations.

As part of a new initiative intended to further strengthen EDF’s thought leadership on environmental policy, OCE is implementing a Pre-Doctoral Internship program for the second year this summer. OCE will host a PhD student in Economics at an EDF office over the summer to explore topical environmental policy issues (please see list below), interact with experts inside and outside EDF to learn about the dimensions most relevant to policy makers and to identify critical research gaps and opportunities. The objective is to give the PhD student an opportunity to learn what research questions are most important to policy making and to help identify a research agenda that can make a critical contribution to the policy debate.

We are looking for strong and highly motivated early program PhD students with an open mindset who are able to think comprehensively and creatively about the issues at hand. We encourage applicants with an interest in subfields such as behavioral, labor, energy and network economics and industrial organization in addition to environmental and resource economics. We would also encourage active involvement from the student’s academic supervisor (if the student already has one), who could help guide the student to maximize returns from the program, together with the senior staff in OCE who will be hosting the student for the summer.


Topic areas

New mobility for achieving an environmentally friendly transportation sector

New mobility - from autonomous and electric vehicles to bike and ride sharing - is changing the transportation sector and challenging our understanding of how people choose to travel and commute. What are the policy options that can help advance these technologies at least cost - for the environment, to society at large, and to those investing? How can we ensure this transformation is done in an equitable manner? (Based in the NYC office.)

Policy design to address global methane emissions from the oil and gas sector

The oil and gas sector is a significant contributor to global methane emissions and is a likely source of low cost greenhouse gas reduction opportunities. What policy designs and mechanisms could be used to address global methane emissions from the oil and gas sector -considering that many major oil and gas producing countries are less likely to implement ambitious climate policies themselves? What policy options do oil and gas importing countries have to address the methane footprint of their oil and gas consumption?  (Based in the NYC office.)

Human Capital and Productivity Benefits of Reduced Air pollution

Reductions in air pollution may result in a boost to human capital accumulation and overall labor productivity and, thereby, yield positive spillovers to the broader economy, but there is currently little research documenting these productivity benefits. What are the empirical approaches and data that could be used for new research on the effects of air pollution on educational outcomes, human capital accumulation and labor productivity? (Based in the NYC or DC office.)


Role of carbon pricing in the dynamics of transition to clean energy

Changes in energy systems take time because energy production relies on large, expensive infrastructure that is slow to turn over. Transforming these systems usually takes decades, which might prevent us to meet our carbon emissions budget targets for limiting the global mean temperature rise within 2C-1.5C band. How far can the efficiency and renewable targets as well as technology innovation get us in reaching these emission targets? In accelerating this transition, what should be the role of carbon pricing? What kind of pricing mechanisms could be used to improve overall economic efficiency while allowing for an equitable cost sharing? How should/would pricing mechanisms look like in different regions/sectors? While a global focus is encouraged in approaching this issue, any focus on specific regions, i.e. the U.S., China, India are also welcomed (Based in the Boston office.).


If these pre-selected topic areas do not match the student’s research interests, we invite candidates to propose an area of policy relevant research they would like to explore under the following broad research areas: Climate cooperation, Climate mitigation policy (including transitions to net-zero emissions, pricing, and methane reduction from fuel production), Energy markets, Air Quality, Transport and environment, Climate resilience (including coastal and agriculture), and Freshwater resources.


Overall Function

The Pre-Doctoral Economics Intern will work with members of EDF’s OCE team to work on one of various projects. The Intern will provide their expertise on the critical challenges the team is working on.



The specific deliverables expected of the fellow will be determined in conversation with the EDF host based on the fellow’s previous expertise and the specifics of the topic. Responsibilities may include:

  • Compile a literature review (in a report/publication) summarizing the most important contributions to date within the topic area
  • Connect with key OCE and other EDF staff as well as outside experts and stakeholders to identify the most important policy issues and related research questions in the relevant space
  • Potentially contribute to an expert workshop to hone in on the most valuable research questions
  • Outline, together with EDF and outside experts, a research agenda for themselves and the broader research community and identify critical research questions and the methods and data needed to answer them
  • Deliver a final presentation describing the lessons learned and the proposed research agenda
  • Develop in more detail an approach to answer one of the questions identified in the research agenda, including what data, methods, or tools the student could use Develop a research project that continues throughout the academic year


  • PhD student currently enrolled in a PhD program in Economics or closely related field - preferably in their first or second year
  • Motivated by a desire to do policy-relevant research
  • Excellent research and analytical skills
  • Willingness to take initiative
  • Ability to work independently, as well as with supervision
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Skilled at forming new relationships and interacting with experts from other disciplines
  • Ability to work with colleagues and partners of varied backgrounds and experience



Full-time, 35 hours per week


Summer 2020


Depending on the project, an intern can be based in New York, NY, or Washington, DC


This internship would involve either compensation for work paid at a rate competitive with leading non-profits or academic credit. Students are encouraged to seek academic credit or funding through their college/university and EDF will ensure that any and all paperwork needed to secure academic credit is completed.

Application Materials

In your application, in addition to your CV, please provide a letter in which you describe why you are interested in this program, what you are hoping to learn from it, and which topic area(s) are of most interest to you. Please also describe how you envision addressing the topic and which body of economic theory and methods you think could be leveraged. For applicants proposing their own topics, please submit a one-pager with a description of the topic proposal, including an explanation of the topic’s policy-relevance and how it relates to EDF’s work.


Environmental Defense Fund is an equal opportunity employer where an applicant's qualifications are considered without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other basis prohibited by law.