Job-Market News for PhD Students
The evidence here is related to a previous post about the long-run effects of short-run business cycles.
Imagine two newly minted Ph.D.s who have produced equally important dissertations. Both are on the edge between a good job and a bad one. One finishes her degree in a year when there is strong demand for new faculty. As a result, she gets a good job at a Top 50 university. The other finishes in an off year, when a recession keeps most public universities from hiring. Although equally promising as a scholar and teacher, she starts her career at a more obscure school. Five or 10 years hence, what do the careers of these two young professors look like?...
If the quality of initial placements persistently affects career success, then the academics who start in boom years should remain in better positions five or 10 years out—even though the bust-year graduates were equally talented and qualified when they left the starting gate. And sure enough, five years into their respective careers, members of the boom cohorts are more likely to hold good jobs at Top 50 institutions than similar candidates entering the job market in bust years. In general, about a quarter of elite Ph.D.s end up at first-tier institutions. Starting one's career in a boom year raises the probability of ending up at a Top 50 department by between 40 and 60 percent.