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06.01a PhD Student Placement in Philosophy and Economics; Rookie Publishing; The MIT Economics Class Entering in 1980; Frank Fisher's Retirement Book. I'll collect various thoughts on PhD Programs in this entry. I've been reading Brian Leiter's May 31 and earlier posts on placement of Philosophy PhDs, which links to the very complete Michigan data. Quality of placement has been an issue at my own university. A while back, the Dean cut the size of the business school PhD program in half. I'm sure the real reason was to save money and to turn faculty attention away from research and onto teaching MBA students, but the purported reason was that Indiana was not placing its students at comparable institutions. That's a silly argument, as the following example shows.

Suppose that top-tier departments MIT, Harvard, and Princeton each have 19 students on the market this year. That comes to 57 students. How many top-tier jobs are there? Those three schools are probably hiring 6. The second tier will get the other 51 students.

Suppose the second tier is made up of 10 departments that each produce 15 students. That comes to 150 students. That tier is hiring 20, so they don't hire any of their own students, and pass all 150 to the third tier. Also, 31 of the first-tier students will be looking for jobs there.

Suppose the third tier is made up of 30 departments. They will hire 60 students. That uses up all the first-tier students, and 29 of the second-tier students, but 121 of the second-tier students will still be looking for jobs in the fourth tier.

The bottom line: It is going to be very tough for third-tier students to find a job in the third tier. They should be very happy if they can find jobs even in the fourth tier.

Of course, the main reason to have a PhD program is not placement. That is a bad argument too, and some business school professors wonder why we have PhD students at all, because we lose money on them and only other departments benefit. That attitude illustrates the main reason we need them: to improve the research quality of our own business school. We need more inquiring minds who will challenge the faculty to keep up with the latest research and help the faculty keep abreast of it by requiring doctoral teaching and advising. The presence of PhD students also highlights the fact that many people teaching in business schools are completely incompetent to teach doctoral courses, something we should be concerned about. Too many teachers now are lecturers and adjuncts who know less than our incoming PhD students, even though they can guide undergraduates or MBA students through a textbook.

And I would not be too concerned about placement from the students' point of view either. We should make sure they know how they will be placed, but if they want to come and get a PhD even if they are unlikely to get a job at a university as good as Indiana-- or, indeed, any university-- we should still welcome them. As

Jason D'Cruz (a grad student in philosophy at Brown University) remarks in one of Brian Leiter's posts,

What student advisers need to impress upon undergrads thinking of doing a PhD is that they must regard grad school as an end in itself, not merely as a means. It is most certainly not a long and arduous apprenticeship that naturally terminates in one's being admitted to the guild. If living off $15000/year and doing some of the most intellectually stimulating work of your life for five to seven years does not sound intrinsically appealing, then a PhD in philosophy is not for you.

Another oddity is that in some business school departments-- and perhaps in other parts of the university-- students publish before getting their first jobs, something not true of economics. It was not true in 1984 when I graduated, and when we hired a rookie a couple of years ago, most of the good vitaes we saw had no publications (and we hired one of those people). I was given the advice, which I give to others, that a rookie ought first to concentrate on just finishing the dissertation, and then to shoot for the top journals rather than rushing something into print early.

This April, I did a little checking, just to see if my alma mater of MIT had changed. MIT has arguably the best PhD program in economics in the world (Princeton and Harvard would argue, though). I looked up their current graduating class, and see that of the 19 students, only 5 have publications or forthcoming articles in any journals, and only 3 more have any articles submitted. And of the 5 with publications, only 2 have articles in journals of quality that will count for much at tenure time.

I was also inspired to think about my own class at MIT. Here is a list of them, from memory aided by some websearching (where I've defined my class as those who were in my first-year classes in 1980-81, rather than those who finished in any particular year). I've asterisked those who seem to have stayed in the same job in the 20 or so years since we finished,and put an at-sign (@) next to foreigners.

Dean Amel, Fed Board of Governors*
Larry Ball, Johns Hopkins econ
Bob Barsky, Michigan econ*
@Axel Boersch-Supan, Bonn econ*
@Eduardo Borenzstein, IMF*
Harold Cataquet, consulting, [email protected]
Linda Kole, Fed Board of Governors, International Finance Division
Sue Collins, Georgetown econ
Larry Forgy, World Bank consultant
Louis Hook, chief info officer, LA airport system (he transferred to Harvard B-School's MBA program)
@Free Huizinga, ?
Pat Kravtin, consulting, Economics and Technology, Inc
Greg Mankiw, Harvard econ*/Council of Economic Advisors
@Won Am Park, Hong-Ik bus
Robin Prager, Fed Board of Governors
Eric Rasmusen, Indiana bus econ
@Larry Schembri, Bank of Canada
@Aaron Schwartzman (spelling?), ?
Matthew Shapiro. Michigan econ*
@Andres Solimano, World Bank
Mike Whinston, Northwestern econ
Mike Woodford, Princeton econ
Steve Zeldes, Columbia bus econ
So of 23 students that's about (depending on definitions) 8 in economics departments, 3 in business schools, 5 in government and quasi-government, 3 in consulting, 1 in business, and 3 I don't know about. Note that only two of us got jobs in university departments in the same tier as that from which we graduated, and if you drop down a tier, that only adds 5 more.

One last item, while I'm being nostalgic. Some current MIT students just put together a scrapbook of reminiscences, handwritten notes and suchlike, for my advisor, Frank Fisher. They titled it,

Forty-Five Essays on Franklin M. Fisher


His Students

submitted in very partial fulfillment of their debt to him for forty-four years of teaching, advising, and friendship at the


May 2004.
That's what I'd like from my students thirty years from now.

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