Does graduate school performance predict job placement?

by on January 8, 2007 at 6:24 am in Education | Permalink

For economists, that is.  A superstar team of co-authors — Susan Athey, Larry Katz, Alan Krueger, Steve Levitt, and Jim Poterba — writes:

…students’ grades in required core courses are highly correlated across subjects.  The Ph.D. admissions committee’s evaluation of a student predicts first-year grades and Ph.D. completion, but not job placement.  First-year performance is a strong predictor of Ph.D. completion.  Most importantly, we find that first-year Micro and Macro grades are statistically significant predictors of student job placement, even conditional on Ph.D. completion.  Conditional on first-year grades, GRE scores, foreign citizenship, sex, and having a prior Masters degree do not predict job placement.  Students who attended elite undergraduate universities and liberal arts colleges are more likely to be placed in top ranked academic jobs.

Here is the paper.  This bit comes at the end:

Our results raise an interesting question: Why are some characteristics much stronger predictors of grades than of job placements?  Foreign-trained and male students achieve substantially higher first-year grades, on average, but do not appear to be placed into much higher ranked jobs.

In my time, twenty years ago, foreign-trained students are more likely to have already seen the core material.  It may also be that many elite, non-U.S. educational systems are better geared toward producing good grades than producing independent researchers.

sanagol January 8, 2007 at 10:04 am

I’m surprised they didn’t condition on the student’s specialization in economics when predicting job placements. The general perception is that conditional on first year ability, job market candidates with theory papers have a much harder time on the job market than candidates with empirical papers.

aaron_m January 8, 2007 at 10:35 am

“It may also be that many elite, non-U.S. educational systems are better geared toward producing good grades than producing independent researchers.”

Hmm, and this is your second guess!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! (Note that what your first guess could actually speek against your second guess)

Could it not be because the makret is much better in the US and US born students have an advantage in their own market. Combined maybe with the fact that foreign students have a much stronger interest in moving to markets that are worse than the US market (i.e. home to mom and the boyfriend/girlfirend).

Tyler Cowen January 8, 2007 at 11:36 am

The link is working for me…go to the AEA program for another way in…

Anon January 8, 2007 at 1:06 pm

How is it that (from the first excerpt) conditional on first-year grades,
sex and foreignness do not help placement, but (according to the second
excerpt) males and foreigners get higher grades without placing into
better jobs? These claims seem inconsistent.

aaron_m January 8, 2007 at 5:39 pm

“But this head start is only good for first year marks, so on average, you’d expect the same average outcomes.”


With a head start you would expect the foreign students to do slightly better. Ever been to a race?

Joao January 8, 2007 at 8:59 pm

Oh, let’s also have him giving a job market talk
in Chinese. Lovely!

ugo January 9, 2007 at 8:26 am

I have not read the paper, but assume that those who get good grades are indeed better researchers.
Also assume that employers prefer women and US nationals, then one effect may balance the other and we
will observe no correlation between factors that predict grades and factors that predict job

Jason Voorhees January 9, 2007 at 10:07 am

ugo – it sounds like the paper is implying that those who get good grades are not necessarily better researchers. At least, getting good grades in the first year doesn’t appear to predict performance on the job market, which I imagine is a good proxy for “good researcher.”

PrestoPundit January 10, 2007 at 10:18 pm

The unspoken truth in economics is that neither “research” nor grades are good predictors of a rich or sound understanding of economics and what their math constructs can and can’t do. “Idiot savant” is still the best descriptor of your typical new economics PhD. High status “research” and grades aren’t good predictors of teaching ability either — as if this were a concern in the university.

Mallory January 29, 2007 at 10:35 pm

If it has nothing to do with job placement…then why are we wasting our time and money on something that won’t do us any good in the long run? Why not use that time for an internship where you can get practical experience that can better serve you in the “real world†? And also, what about the students that have a hard time taking tests compared to those that stay up all night to study? Would students have a higher advantage over others? I don’t understand why we’re wasting our time and money if it’s not going to do us any good?! What’s the point besides sending thousands of dollars down the drain?

32rrfrtg October 7, 2007 at 10:35 pm
batteries October 16, 2007 at 11:05 am
不動産投資 July 11, 2008 at 9:48 pm

資金を増やそうとするのに不動産投資をするのが手っ取り早い。日本で不動産で東京 賃貸をさがすのはきわめて難しくシステム開発は日本の会社が良い。

kemp January 11, 2011 at 4:15 am

Real estate agents may engage in subtle forms of racial steering, believing that they are best serving the interests of both their white and their nonwhite clients and not intending to do racial harm. Likewise, banks and other lending institutions have a variety of apparently neutral rules regarding mortgage approvals that too often result in a higher level of loan refusals for persons in lower-income black neighborhoods than for equivalent white applicants. Research also suggests that ostensibly neutral criteria are often applied selectively.

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