Facts about economics Ph.d. students

1. The number of economics Ph.d degrees awarded in the U.S. fell from 1008 in 1996 to 930 in 2001.

2. The number of Ph.d degrees awarded to American citizens fell from 430 in 1996 to 350 in 2001. This number has not been so low since the Johnson administration.

3. 76 percent of newly minted Ph.d. students had undergraduate degrees in economics, 4 percent had undergraduate degrees in mathematics, 5 percent in engineering. No other undergraduate major accounts for more than four percent of the sample. (Those figures are taken from a representative but incomplete sample of respondents.)

4. Females account for 28 percent of graduating Ph.d. students. Female students are most strongly represented in labor economics, economic development, and health, education, and welfare economics.

5. The median “time to degree” is 5.4 years. The range is from 2.7 years to 29.7 (!) years.

6. 56 percent of graduating Ph.d. students wrote a “three essays” thesis rather than a single block work. This is estimated to save more than half a year’s time.

7. Only four percent of finishing Ph.d. students received no financial aid whatsoever.

8. The unemployment rate for graduating Ph.d. students is projected at 2.1 percent.

9. 23 percent found jobs outside the U.S., down from 31 percent five years earlier. The biggest foreign employers are, in order, Canada, South Korea, the U.K., and Brazil, Taiwan, and Turkey.

10. Only six percent of Ph.d. graduates in economics say they do not like their jobs. The median salary is $74,000, again noting that not everyone responded to the questionnaire.

The bottom line? It’s a great life. Sign up now.

Bryan Caplan suggests that economists’ wages are relatively high for the following reason. Few people, as a teenager, say to their parents: “I want to be an economist when I grow up.” Yet many people wish to be writers, astronauts, professional athletes, scientists, psychologists, and so on. I don’t know of any situation comedy where the lead star is an economist. So our relative lack of popularity keeps the supply low and our wages relatively high.

Here is the full report, it has many more interesting facts. Thanks to Newmark’s Door for the pointer.


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