Sunday, September 29, 2013

Some Econ Grad School Advice

Miles Kimball (Michigan) and Noah Smith (a recent Michigan PhD who's at Stony Brook) offer a useful "complete guide to getting into an Economics PhD program."  Michigan's Jeff Smith comments on it.  I generally concur, though like J. Smith, I have a slight disagreement with their emphasis on being a research assistant - I definitely think it can be useful, but programs aren't going to require applicants to have this experience.

My own advice is here.  I haven't updated it in a while, but I don't think much has changed.

When I next revise it, I might add some information from the NSF's survey of earned doctorates.  Of 1124 new PhDs from US institutions in 2011, 656 had definite employment, 90 were going on to postgraduate study, 218 were seeking employment and 23 were "other" (apparently not everyone completed that survey question).  I think that might give a misleadingly negative impression the job market for economists - while it may be that quite a few PhDs weren't employed when they completed the survey, economics PhDs generally are able to get jobs.  Of those with employment, 56.3% were going into academe, 14.9% to government and 16.8% to business, with the rest going to nonprofits (6.6%) and other/unknown (5.5%).  The cohort was 34.4% female and 38.2% were US citizens.  The median age of a PhD was 31.4 and the median time to completion was 7 years.

The American Economic Association also has some useful resources about Econ PhD programs.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Publishing Game

Although I generally feel quite fortunate to be an academic economist, in my grumpier moods I might complain that the business of getting papers published in academic journals (which is the basis for how we're judged as scholars) can feel like a bit of a game (and frustrating one at that).

Now, it is a game.  The folks at Research Papers in Eonomics (RePEc) propose to bring us a "fantasy league" for armchair department chairs:
The IDEAS fantasy league allows you to pretend you are at the helm of an economics department. Your goal is to improve its ranking relative to other departments in the league. You can do this by trading economists and by choosing which ones to activate in your roster. 
In a blog post, Christian Zimmerman explains that it started as an April fools' joke.  At this point, it is still a proposal.

I would think that those who would play this game would be well-advised that their time might be better spent working on their research papers.  Of course, the same might be said of blogging.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

On the Yellen Bandwagon

The quasi-campaign for the next Federal Reserve chair continues... Heidi Hartmann and Joyce Jacobsen (my office neighbor) have organized an open letter from economists in support of Janet Yellen, which concludes:
[W]e believe that Janet Yellen is an extremely effective leader who has demonstrated her capacity to work with the other FRB governors and to bring important perspectives of the American people to her leadership and decisions.  In our opinion, she is the best possible leader for the Federal Reserve Board at this critical time in our nation’s history.
The whole thing can be read here, and there is a link for economists who wish to add their names.

The letter has already been successful in attracting quite a few signatories, including some big names, like Michael Woodford (who Richard Clarida called "the leading monetary theorist on the planet right now" in this Bloomberg profile), Alan Blinder, Christina Romer, David Romer, Robert Shiller, Maurice Obstfeld, James Hamilton (who endorsed Yellen at Econbrowser), Mark Gertler, Menzie Chinn and Charles Engel.

In addition to having the support of economists, Yellen has also been endorsed by The Economist.

There has been quite an outpouring of commentary on this, though I don't think any of it has fundamentally changed the preference for Yellen over Summers I expressed in July after Ezra Klein's initial report that Summers was the front-runner (was that the worst trial balloon ever?).  However, Jared Bernstein, who worked with him in the White House, did argue persuasively that some of the vilification of Summers as a Wall Street stooge is off-base.  This story by Zachary Goldfarb details how and why President Obama became so enamored of Summers.  But as Steven Pearlstein argued (and so did Felix Salmon) that very closeness to the President is problematic from the standpoint of central bank independence.

One of the things I like about Yellen is that she appears to represent stylistic continuity with Bernanke, who has tried to de-personalize the making of monetary policy.  However, I think an argument could be made for a regime change in substance - a shift to a new monetary rule, like nominal GDP targeting as Christina Romer called for (and Scott Sumner persistently evangelizes for), or Laurence Ball's suggestion of a higher inflation target (which I also raised back in 2008), or Ken Rogoff's "sustained burst of moderate inflation."  A Fed chair openly advocating such a fundamental policy shift does not appear to be in the cards - certainly it would be problematic in the confirmation process, and there is no guarantee that the FOMC could be brought along anyway.  Of the options that are on the table now, Janet Yellen clearly seems the best to me.