Academic careers

This page will be augmented as I’ll find new material.

The academic world can be intimidating and hard to understand, especially for young scholars who lack a good support from their PhD supervisor or their department.

This page is a (modest) attempt to gather some information about the academic work and academic careers in economics.

Any reader of this page should be warned that it is not exhaustive and that it can reflect my own (and various) biaises.

The Research Productivity of New PhDs in Economics: The Surprisingly High Non-success of the Successful, JEP, 2014

(Thanks to Pauline, who reminded me this paper.)

This is a great paper by John P. Conley and Ali Sina Onder. Worth reading – and in free access, thanks to the AEA.

This paper asks the following question: is it better (in terms of academic career) to be a top PhD student in a mid level research university, or a mid level PhD student in a top research university?

Basically, it empirically shows (on US data) that the first strategy is probably better than the second one. Why is that? Maybe the following quote from the paper can help to shed some light:

Along with being hardworking, well-trained, and intelligent, a successful career might also require attributes like being creative, self-motivated, thick-skinned, or having an aptitude for academic networking.

Being creative, self-motivated, thick-skinned or having an aptitude for academic networking are not stuff young scholars can learn, wether they are in a top program or a mid level program.

I find this result very reassuring: if you are a promising young researcher, you don’t need to be in a top university to expect to succeed (in academics). Thankfully, things are not as deterministic as I thought they were.

A critic to this paper, though: it does not take into account PhD who decided not to pursue an academic career.


This second quote is intended to the French academic system, where it is almost mandatory to have a “good level” publication during the 3-years PhD:

Publishing a paper before graduation is uncorrelated with the productivity over the six-year probationary period before a tenure decision.

Just sayin’…