In 1970, just 1 in 5 U.S.-born PhD graduates in economics had a parent with a graduate degree. Now? Two-thirds of them do, according to a new analysis from the Peterson Institute for International Economics. The trends are similar for other fields (and for foreign-born students), but economics is off the charts.
This partly reflects population trends: Over that same period, the share of parents with graduate degrees and college-age children rose 10 percentage points, to 14 percent, our analysis of Census Bureau data shows. But compared with the typical American, a typical new economist is about five times more likely to have a parent with a graduate degree.
The new analysis comes from Anna Stansbury of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Michigan graduate student Robert Schultz, who got their hands on detailed data on U.S. PhD recipients going back more than 50 years. The data includes extensive information about almost half a million recipients in the 2010-to-2018 period alone.
It shows that the elite dominate even more among the top schools that produce about half of all future economics professors. Among the top 15 programs, 78 percent of new PhDs since 2010 had a parent with a graduate degree while just 6 percent are first-generation college students.