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The Undergraduate Origins of PhD Economists


  • John J. Siegfried
  • Wendy A. Stock


The authors document the types of undergraduate colleges and universities attended by those who earned a doctorate in economics from an American university from 1966 through 2003. They examine relationships between type of undergraduate institution and attrition and time-to-degree in PhD programs. The total number of new economics PhDs awarded to U.S. citizens has declined precipitously over the past 30 years. Concurrently, the number of new economics doctorates who hold undergraduate degrees from U.S. universities has fallen by half, from a high of about 800 in 1972 to about 400 in 2003. Among those who have earned undergraduate degrees from American institutions, the mix of schools attended by the doctorates has remained relatively stable, with about 55 percent of those who earn a PhD in economics each year holding their bachelor's degree from a university that offers a PhD in economics and a bit more than 10 percent holding a bachelors degree from a selective liberal arts college. Currently, 18 of the 25 American undergraduate institutions that send the largest percentage of their graduating classes on to earn a PhD in economics are liberal arts colleges. Graduates of liberal arts colleges also have shorter time-to-degree and higher verbal Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores than other economics PhD students.

Suggested Citation

  • John J. Siegfried & Wendy A. Stock, 2007. "The Undergraduate Origins of PhD Economists," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(4), pages 461-482, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jeduce:v:38:y:2007:i:4:p:461-482 DOI: 10.3200/JECE.38.4.461-482

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John J. Siegfried & Wendy A. Stock, 2001. "So You Want to Earn a Ph.D. in Economics?: How Long Do You Think It Will Take?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 36(2), pages 364-378.
    2. Stock, Wendy A & Siegfried, John J, 2001. "So You Want to Earn a Ph.D. in Economics: How Much Do You Think You'll Make?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 39(2), pages 320-335, April.
    3. Wendy Stock & Richard Alston & Martin Milkman, 2000. "The academic labor market for economists: 1995–96," Atlantic Economic Journal, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 28(2), pages 164-185, June.
    4. Siegfried, John & Getz, Malcolm, 2006. "Where do the children of professors attend college?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 201-210, April.
    5. Wendy A. Stock & Richard M. Alston, 2000. "Effect of Graduate-Program Rank on Success in the Job Market," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(4), pages 389-401, December.
    6. John J. Siegfried, 2000. "How Many College Students Are Exposed to Economics?," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(2), pages 202-204, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Wendy A. Stock, 2011. "The Characteristics of Economics Graduate Students," Chapters,in: International Handbook on Teaching and Learning Economics, chapter 70 Edward Elgar Publishing.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • A22 - General Economics and Teaching - - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics - - - Undergraduate
    • A23 - General Economics and Teaching - - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics - - - Graduate


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