For people admitted to PhD programs in economics, here are some suggested questions to get answers to before choosing the program.
Answers from online search and other sources
What is the ratio of faculty members to students?
How many faculty members does the department have in the field you are interested in? Count only those whose primary field that is, not the ones who once wrote one paper in it or who hang out at the seminars for the free food.
How many years and how many hours a week are students expected to TA during their program?
What is the ratio of students on the job market to the size of the incoming class? Equivalently how many students were mysteriously lost in the grad school process? Average across multiple years if possible.
Answers from faculty members
How many hours a week do you spend advising graduate students (reading their work, talking to them about their research)?
How many hours a week are graduate students expected to spend on TAing?
Answers from graduate students
How many hours per week or month do faculty members advise you (read your work, talk to you about your research)? Use the number of graduate students (perhaps exclude first and second years) and faculty members in the department to compare answers to this question from faculty members and graduate students.
How many hours per week are you supposed to spend on TAing and how many do you actually spend? Compare the student answer to the faculty answer.
What is the average number of years students take to reach the job market? What is the length of the stipend? How hard is it to get campus jobs (TAing, RAing) that pay for living costs after the stipend ends?
How many students are kicked out after the first year? How many in each year leave without a PhD after passing the first year exams? Divide by the average size of the incoming class for cross-university comparison.
How much time do star faculty actually spend in the department? Some professors are on the faculty at multiple universities (Dekel, Phillips) and may spend between two weeks to six months per year at any one place.
You can ask a question and look stupid, or not ask a question and be stupid.
Take into account that the graduate students who come to the visit day events and talk to admitted students are a biased sample – those who care the most about the department and those who have the most extreme opinions to share.
The field of interest may change during the graduate program, but for most people it does not.
Ask the same question from multiple people and compare answers. This gives an indication of honesty, or at least preparation and coordination of lying.
The PhD comics, especially the earlier ones, are a very accurate description of the lives of graduate students. Note the absence of smileys in this sentence.