The Economics Department is a highly ranked research department. The National Research Council ranks it among the top 10% of U.S. Ph.D-granting Economics departments in research productivity per faculty member.

Faculty publish conduct cutting-edge research in a broad range of areas and using theoretical, empirical and experimental methodologies. Over the last five years, faculty have published in top-level general interest journals like The American Economic Review, The Journal of Political Economy and Economic Journal as well as top-field journals like Journal of Econometrics, Journal of Economic Growth, Journal of Economic Theory, Journal of International Economics, Journal of Monetary Economics, and Journal of Urban Economics. Additionally, faculty have won major academic awards, are members of prestigious research bodies like the NBER and IZA, and are editors of major academic journals.

Leveraging the academic research expertise of the Economics Department and the policy expertise of the George W. Bush Institute, the George W. Bush-SMU Economic Growth Initiative was launched in Summer 2018. The Initiative produces a strong policy voice on the pressing economic issues of our time and advances policies that promote economic growth and strengthen our competitiveness in the global economy.