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Counting Economics Phds: How Many New Graduates Do U.S. Universities Produce?1

T. Aldrich Finegan

The American Economist, 2014, vol. 59, issue 1, 1-19

Abstract: This is the first paper that seeks to reconcile the large and persistent differences across data sources in the number of new economics PhDs that U.S. universities produce. During 1997–2006, the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) reported 11,524 such degrees in all specialties, compared to 10,812 degrees by the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and 8,862 dissertations listed in the Journal of Economic Literature (JEL). The comparable estimates in general economics (GE) were 9,504, 8,534, and 7,856, respectively. Such differences can lead to problematic assessments of the balance between supply and demand in the market for new PhDs. The study finds that the SED picks up the most new economics PhDs, but it also attracts an unknown number of graduates of business schools and interdisciplinary programs. IPEDS has the most detailed classification framework of specialty degrees, but undercounts graduates of larger GE programs and misclassifies some GE programs. The JEL's annual lists provide useful information on the content of doctoral research, but suffer from serious under-reporting by economics departments. After adjusting counts, the study estimates that about 9,100 GE degrees were conferred during the survey decade. The paper offers a rule of thumb for estimating adjusted counts in future years. An epilog finds that other social science disciplines have problems counting new doctoral dissertations and making lists of them accessible to researchers.

Keywords: Market for Economists; Production of New Economics PhDs (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2014
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DOI: 10.1177/056943451405900101

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