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The Research Productivity of New PhDs in Economics: The Surprisingly High Non-success of the Successful

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  • John P. Conley
  • Ali Sina Onder

Abstract

We study the research productivity of new graduates from North American PhD programs in economics from 1986 to 2000. We find that research productivity drops off very quickly with class rank at all departments, and that the rank of the graduate departments themselves provides a surprisingly poor prediction of future research success. For example, at the top ten departments as a group, the median graduate has fewer than 0.03 American Economic Review (AER)-equivalent publications at year six after graduation, an untenurable record almost anywhere. We also find that PhD graduates of equal percentile rank from certain lower-ranked departments have stronger publication records than their counterparts at higher-ranked departments. In our data, for example, Carnegie Mellon's graduates at the 85th percentile of year-six research productivity outperform 85th percentile graduates of the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, and Berkeley. These results suggest that even the top departments are not doing a very good job of training the great majority of their students to be successful research economists. Hiring committees may find these results helpful when trying to balance class rank and place of graduate in evaluating job candidates, and current graduate students may wish to re-evaluate their academic strategies in light of these findings.

Suggested Citation

  • John P. Conley & Ali Sina Onder, 2014. "The Research Productivity of New PhDs in Economics: The Surprisingly High Non-success of the Successful," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 28(3), pages 205-216, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:28:y:2014:i:3:p:205-16
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.28.3.205
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. John P. Conley & Mario J. Crucini & Robert A. Driskill & Ali Sina Önder, 2013. "The Effects Of Publication Lags On Life-Cycle Research Productivity In Economics," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(2), pages 1251-1276, April.
    2. Paul Oyer, 2006. "Initial Labor Market Conditions and Long-Term Outcomes for Economists," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(3), pages 143-160, Summer.
    3. Tom Coupé, 2003. "Revealed Performances: Worldwide Rankings of Economists and Economics Departments, 1990-2000," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(6), pages 1309-1345, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Peter Arcidiacono & Esteban M. Aucejo & V. Joseph Hotz, 2016. "University Differences in the Graduation of Minorities in STEM Fields: Evidence from California," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(3), pages 525-562, March.
    2. von Hippel, Paul T. & Bellows, Laura & Osborne, Cynthia & Lincove, Jane Arnold & Mills, Nick, 2016. "Teacher quality differences between teacher preparation programs: How big? How reliable? Which programs are different?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 31-45.
    3. Flores-Szwagrzak, Karol & Treibich, Rafael, 2015. "Co-authorship and the Measurement of Individual Productivity," Discussion Papers of Business and Economics 17/2015, University of Southern Denmark, Department of Business and Economics.
    4. repec:eee:ecoedu:v:64:y:2018:i:c:p:298-312 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. John P. Conley & Ali Sina Önder & Benno Torgler, 2016. "Are all economics graduate cohorts created equal? Gender, job openings, and research productivity," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 108(2), pages 937-958, August.
    6. John H. Cawley & Michael A. Morrisey & Kosali I. Simon, 2015. "The Earnings and Consulting Income of US Health Economists: Results from the 2012 Survey of the American Society of Health Economists," American Journal of Health Economics, MIT Press, vol. 1(2), pages 255-274, Spring.
    7. Sascha Baghestanian & Sergey V. Popov, 2017. "Alma Mat(t)er(s): Determinants of Early Career Success in Economics," Economics Working Papers 17-02, Queen's Management School, Queen's University Belfast.
    8. Ali Sina Önder & Sascha Schweitzer, 2017. "Catching up or falling behind? Promising changes and persistent patterns across cohorts of economics PhDs in German-speaking countries from 1991 to 2008," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 110(3), pages 1297-1331, March.
    9. Ariel Rubinstein, 2017. "Comments on Economic Models, Economics, and Economists: Remarks on Economics Rules by Dani Rodrik," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 55(1), pages 162-172, March.
    10. Arcidiacono, Peter & Aucejo, Esteban M. & Hotz, V. Joseph, 2016. "University differences in the graduation minorities in STEM fields: evidence from California," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 64178, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • A11 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Role of Economics; Role of Economists
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J44 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Professional Labor Markets and Occupations

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