Assorted Thoughts on the Market for New Econ PhDs

Here’s the good news. There were 1,243 new econ PhDs in 2012 and the AEA has 2,790 job listings. Compared to other fields where quantity supplied far outstrips quantity demanded, econ is doing very well.

Why are there fewer PhDs than jobs? One factor may be that women are underrepresented in economics. Women earn 34% of the PhDs in economics which is below the 46% of doctoral degrees earned by women overall. (On the other hand, economics is more gender-balanced than psychology where 72 percent of all degrees are earned by women). If women earned more degrees in economics would total degrees increase? Perhaps, although that hasn’t happened in medicine where the cartel has limited total physician supply.

What about the bad news? The number of new jobs for econ PhDs fell by 4.3%. The fall was especially pronounced in academia where the number of new jobs fell by 6.6%. New jobs tumbled in 2008 and since that time there has been some recovery but no catch-up. Are we seeing the transition to a new equilibrium?

On the university side, Clay Christensen’s prediction that half of all universities may go bankrupt in the next 15 years is not yet showing up in the data. Should I file that under good news or bad news?


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