Woot, I Suppose
July 8, 2013 Economists

Via Kurt Schuler:

A link from Marginal Revolution took me to a paper called “An Empirical Guide to Hiring Assistant Professors in Economics.” It is as interesting for what it doesn’t say as for what it does. It concludes that “top 30” Ph.D. programs in economics, which accept a bunch of quite bright college graduates every year, do a terrible job in making those who graduate capable of publishing work that academic economists find sufficiently worthwhile to accept for publication in academic journals. From all the top 30 programs combined, the average number of economics Ph.D.s in the period the authors studied was 460. Only 143 (31 percent) had at least one publication in any academic journal ranked by the authors six years after graduating. Even at Harvard, Chicago, or Berkeley, the bottom half of the class essentially published nothing. The paper is talking aboutgraduates, and is excluding students who didn’t complete their degrees. Another finding: for graduates who were not at the top of their Ph.D. cohort, Princeton, Rochester, and the University of California-San Diego seem to have provided the best preparation for writing publishable academic papers.

We indeed have several top notch faculty members who train graduate students. Check out their work here. In case anyone is wondering, I came from a “top” department and indeed am a dog, not the good kind.

And for this week’s dose of sensible analysis (do click on the Biology course description – imagine the outrage if I started teaching models of ecology in my economics courses), have a looksee here.

"7" Comments
  1. In the defense of the biology professor, the presentation notes that were posted actually looked pretty reasonable– given the pre-existing biases of the Green Dandelion, that post may not be a great reflection of the presentation. It does seem like a good idea for biologists to know the basics of environmental economics. Perhaps you could offer to do a guest lecture, and have a biologist do one in environmental econ.

  2. Were I to run an institution of higher learning, my last priority would be to get learned professors to publish books to collect dust in the library, or today, somewhere on a hard disk. Whatever might get published should have to pass a readability test, which does not mean that economists should refrain from basic equations or difficult concepts, but that they write plainly, just as Milton Friedman.

    One of the things I like about TUW is that WC makes no apparent effort to disguise what he talks about, which I think is a rare skill uncommon among academic writers, who qualify and obfuscate every sentence of interminable paragraphs.

    My test, as a university president, would be how well my professors opened and enlightened the students of my university, be they medical doctors or nurses, economists or philosophers, or physists or engineers. I would try to redirect the Department of Cherokee Poetry toward broader intellectual pursuit. Or eliminate the department.

    That said, today my wife and I were visited by a graduate of the U of R. A great woman, a mother and a golfer, and a nurse.

    Best wishes to WC and the herd.

  3. “While classical economists consider value in terms of money and profit…”


  4. My daughter is signed up to take AP (or honors?) Environmental Science next year, her senior year in high school (she attends the local government school). My thinking is much in line with that of WC, generally. I cherish the natural environment, and I think like an economist (at least I try my best). I shudder to think what she might encounter, but I want to be open minded. I will attend the annual open house for parents in the fall. I am wide open to any suggestions as to how I can help make this a constructive experience for her and perhaps for her class. For example, if the instructor allows me to be a guest lecturer for 1 hour, does anyone know of a powerful lecture I can borrow?

  5. Regarding my previous comment, here is the course description. Herein lies the source of my concern”it considers sociological and political perspectives…”. At least they are honest about it. Though I really am curious as to how that is reflected on the AP exam.

    Again, any helpful suggestions would be appreciated. I wonder if I should contact them now to offer a one hour session on environmental economics.

    249 Grade 12 Full Year 8 Credits
    Prerequisite: Completion of Honors Biology, Honors Chemistry and Honors Algebra II
    The AP Environmental Science course is designed to be the equivalent of a one semester, introductory college course in environmental sciences. This is a rigorous science that stresses scientific principles and analysis that includes three double lab periods in a six day rotation. In addition, it considers sociological and political perspectives. The goal of the AP Environmental Sciences course is to provide students with the scientific principles, concepts, and methodologies required to understand the interrelationships of the natural world, to identify and analyze environmental problems both natural and human-made, to evaluate the relative risks associated with these problems, and to examine alternative solutions for resolving or preventing them. Environmental science is interdisciplinary; it embraces a wide variety of topics from different areas of study. By the end of the course, students will be ready for the AP Environmental Science exam. Student who are enrolled in AP Environmental Science are required to take the AP Environmental Science Exam.

  6. jb: I’d start with oil. Show them how much we thought we had “left” in 1970 (or whatever date) and show them how much we at least have now. Also, explain to them how we will never run out of oil. That was pretty powerful to me when Rizzo lectured about it in Intro. I’d also throw in how we used to use a lot of one resource (say copper) to do something (say talk on a phone). And now we use air to accomplish the same the thing. My main point of the lecture would be how innovation and human capital will solve many environmental “problems”.

  7. Thanks Sherlock, that is a great suggestion and would be a very efficient use of the scarce time I will be allocated (if I am granted any). That would be like “cold water in the face”…I want to wake students up to the fact that we have a science that addresses the efficient use of resources. It’s called economics, not “environmental science.” I can also remind them that Rockefeller discovering oil probably did more to save the whales than Greenpeace will ever do.

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