Is the economics job market worth it?

There is a new NBER paper on this topic by McFall, Murray-Close, Willis, and Chen, gated copy here.  Here are some key takeaways from the paper:

1. One-third of the job candidates in the sample were women.

2. More than one quarter of all job candidates on the market come from top ten institutions, which tend to have the largest Ph.d. programs.

3. 28 percent of new job candidates enter the market with some kind of publication.  The average candidate has served as primary instructor for one or two courses, plus as teaching assistant for more than three courses.

4. The five most frequently listed fields are labor economics, macro, IO, applied micro, and econometrics, each listed by 21-23% of the candidates.

5. 72% of the people on the market express a preference for jobs as assistant professor.

6. More than eighty percent of the job candidates “expected to place in the top half of the distribution for their graduate department.”

7. Although there is overoptimism, in terms of relative rank candidates have a decent idea of where they will end up.

8. Job candidates receive three offers on average (noting that only half of the candidates in the total pool responded, so there may be bias.  Three strikes me as a little high on average).

9. Number of publications predicts higher yield in terms of job offers, whereas gender, undergraduate school, having a Ph.d. from the U.S., and teaching experience have only weak predictive power.

10. As a candidate progresses through the process of interview, flyout, and the like, unobservable characteristics matter more and more for predicting outcomes.  This is consistent with the view that the process itself yields information, though whether that information is ultimately accurate as a predictor of success remains an open question.

11. Approximately 92% of candidates ended up with a job (!).

12. More than two-thirds of the candidates are “very” or “extremely” satisfied with their final results.

13. The average base salary for accepted jobs is $93,000.  The median base salary is $88,600.

14. The paper has many other results of interest.  As Bryan Caplan has previously observed, being an economist is a great life and a great career — do it!


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