Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Completing an Economics PhD in Five Years

Thanks to Christian for pointing out this paper published in the AER today (by Stock, Finegan and Siegfried). Endogeneity concerns aside, finishing your PhD within the designated time is positively affected by:

- larger 1st year PhD classes
- shared offices
- being male
- whether someone went to a top tier university for undergrad

Factors that have a negative effect are:

- doing your PhD with a top tier instution
- high attrition in the 2nd year
- pre-thesis research work requirement
- having an undergrad degree in economics

The authors conclude that "many considerations unique to individual students and faculty that we cannot measure—such as ambition, motivation, persistence, organizational skills, the creativity of students, and interest in students’ success as well as mentoring and motivational skills among graduate faculty—matter more than the myriad characteristics we were able to measure, which collectively account for less than 15 percent of the variation in completion among students."

Some insights on how non-cognitive personality constructs (such as ambition, motivation, persistence and organisation) apply to graduate education are provided in the Educational Assessmnet Journal (2005) by Patrick Kyllonen, Alyssa Walters and James Kaufman from the Princeton Educational Testing Service. We discussed this research on the blog before: here.

Stock and Siegfried (2006) reported on time-to-degree for economics Ph.D.'s in the United States in the AEA Papers and Proceedings. That research motivated me to consider that the duration of the Ph.D. process (or time-to-degree) may be a source of comparability problems in self-rated skills matching for Ph.D. graduates (see a previous post on skills-matching here).

The idea is that the more the individual has committed to the process of atatining a Ph.D., the more he or she will want to view the outcome of that process favourably. Taking a year longer during Ph.D. training implies a very particular opportunity cost. There is a precedent for this type of comparability-bias in the anchoring vignettes literature.

Buckley (2007) used the anchoring vignettes technique to investigate the "rose-coloured glasses" effect, which refers to parents reporting higher levels of satisfaction with a school solely or partially as a justification for the effort expended in the choice process. The analogy to 'time-to-degree' is about the amount of time expended in the Ph.D. process. (See a previous discussion of Buckley's research here).


Stephen Kinsella said...

Recommendations for finishing PhD in <5 yrs: 1. Crisis Pregnancy 2. Funding Crisis 3. Urgent need to get a job b/c of 1.+2.

Diego said...

Thanks Stephen, I followed your advice and it seems to be working.