Supply and Demand – Econ Ph.D. Edition

In a moment of weakness I agreed to serve on a faculty search committee at a small liberal arts college where I have lectured.

The college is a quite reputable teaching-first, research-second school. It is not well known outside the region. They are searching for a new economics professor.

So far the mail man has a hernia and the secretary is beside herself.

Today I sat down and read 45 application packages. There are 160 more waiting for me. Those arriving after last Friday will be returned.

So far the applicants look very legitimate, none from top tier schools but most from very good Ph.D. programs, and checking back the masters level schools look good as well.

My conclusion: economic grad students do not understand the laws of supply and demand. Obviously there are too many grads if this ad could pull so many candidates.

I have trouble believing all of the cover letters in which the applicants tell us they would LOVE to join the faculty at this school. This is not Metropolis U. This town just got an Applebees.

In my own area, accounting, there are four (4) job openings for each new Ph.D. It appears that in econ there are multiple new Ph.D.s for each job opening.

I understand some of the candidates are “shotgunning,” sending apps to every ad that appears. But good grief, this is a flood.

Is the market for econ Ph.D.s this distorted? And what does that say about econ Ph.D.s?

(Yes, I understand that schools use candidates as cheap teaching labor, and therefore may see training unnecessary economists as a valuable budget subsidy.)

Your thoughts?