Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What do Economics graduate students think?

David Colander has made a series of illuminating surveys of graduate students in Economics that have given us a very interesting picture of our profession, or at least how these students view it. Much of his work was, however, performed with surveys sent to the top US PhD programs. He follows up now with a survey of what he compassionately calls the "median" range, the other US graduate programs.

David Colander, Tiziana Dominguez, Gail Hoyt and KimMarie McGoldrick report a few interesting results. Compared to top programs, median ones have proportionally more Americans, who are more likely to have chosen the program for geographical than prestige reasons. Students from median programs seem to be more interested in various fields of Economics, probably a reflection of the fact that they are on average two years older and have more of sense of purpose in their studies. I am pleased to read that about half the students consider Economics to be a tool set. It is also interesting to note that whether in a top or median program, students appear to have similar views of policy and of assumptions in Economics.

All in all, students in top and median schools do not look that different. Their expectations in terms of jobs are different, as they should be, as well as the way they get funded. Lower ranked schools cannot fund them as well as research assistants or provide them with fellowships. Colander and co. interpret the fact that more are teaching assistants at median schools as a choice by students, it seems more a funding constraint to me. No real surprises in this survey.

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