Too Many Ph.D. Graduates or Too Few Academic Job Openings: The Basic Reproductive Number R[subscript 0] in Academia
Author(s)Larson, Richard Charles; Ghaffarzadegan, Navid; Xue, Yi
The academic job market has become increasingly competitive for Ph.D. graduates. In this Note we ask the basic question of “Are we producing more Ph.D.’s than needed?” We take a systems approach and offer a “birth rate” perspective: professors graduate Ph.D.’s who later become professors themselves, an analog to how a population grows. We show that the reproduction rate in academia is very high. For example, in engineering, a professor in the U.S. graduates 7.8 new Ph.D.’s during his/her whole career on average, and only one of these graduates can replace the professor’s position. This implies that in a steady state, only 12.8% of Ph.D. graduates can attain academic positions in the U.S. The key insight is that the system in many places is saturated, far beyond capacity to absorb new Ph.D.’s in academia at the rates that they are being produced. Based on the analysis, we discuss policy implications.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Engineering Systems Division
ESD Working Papers;ESD-WP-2013-06