INITIAL LABOR MARKET CONDITIONS AND LONG-TERM OUTCOMES FOR ECONOMISTS

by Paul Oyer

Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20, Summer 2006, 143-160

ABSTRACT

Each year, graduate students entering the academic job market worry that they will suffer due to uncontrollable macroeconomic risk. Given the importance of general human capital and the relative ease of publicly observing productivity in academia, one might expect unlucky graduating cohorts' long-term labor market outcomes to resemble those who graduate in favorable climates. In this paper, I analyze the relationship between macroeconomic conditions at graduation, initial job placement, and long-term outcomes for PhD economists from seven programs. Using macro conditions as an instrument for initial placement, I show a causal effect of quality and type of initial job on long-term job characteristics. I also show that better initial placement increases research productivity, which helps to limit the set of economic models that can explain the effect of initial placement on long-term jobs.