Are the ‘Top Schools’ Really that Good?

From Economist’s View:

Along with business schools, Economics is where pedigree matters most in the placement of PhD students to academic positions. Students from top ranked (or considered such) programs have a job almost guaranteed in research universities, and students from lower ranked universities find it very hard to break into such universities no matter what their performance is. …

John Conley and Ali Sina Onder find that while there is indeed a steep gradient across program rankings, there is an even steeper gradient within programs. They use student rankings within programs and cohorts and their publication output after six years, that is, when they are up for tenure. Looking at AER equivalents, they find that the top Toronto student is equivalent to the number three from Berkeley, for example. And to illustrate how steep the gradient is, the median Harvard student has after six years only 0.04 AER equivalent publications, despite coming from the #2 program. This means that more than half of Harvard students are not tenurable in any research-oriented institution.


By the way, my favorite example of a “diamond in the rough” who did not attend the top schools…John List (B.A. – U Wisconsin, Stevens Point and PhD – U of Wyoming).  List has, at current count, 164 journal publications, many of which are in AER, QJE, J of Econometrics, and other top outlets.  Oh, and while he almost certainly would have not even have been considered for positions at the top schools upon completing his degree, he’s now the department chair and Henry J. Livingston Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago.

Author: Brandon Dupont

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