Initial Labor Market Conditions and Long-Term Outcomes for Economists

Initial Labor Market Conditions and Long-Term Outcomes for Economists

Journal of Economic Perspectives.
2006, Vol. 20, Issue 3, Pages 143-160

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 that long-term labor market outcomes for students graduating in unfavorable climates will resemble long-term outcomes for those graduating in favorable climates. In this paper, I analyze the relationship between macroeconomic conditions at graduation, initial job placement, and long-term outcomes for Ph.D. economists from seven programs. Using macroeconomic conditions as an instrument for initial placement, I show that a quality and type of initial job have a causal effect 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.