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Thread: US News and World Report 2017 Economics Rankings

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    Re: US News and World Report 2017 Economics Rankings

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    Quote Originally Posted by Erin View Post
    Tough crowd. =|
    Indeed. Imagine what the reaction would have been if I had said something that was not carefully qualified! :-/

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    Re: US News and World Report 2017 Economics Rankings

    Quote Originally Posted by upwardly mobile View Post
    An utterly ridiculous statement; the hubris is astounding.
    My hubris is based on experience. It's not clear to me that I made the right call attending a program in that third tier even though I have a TT position at an R1 school now. I got pretty lucky given the outcomes of typical students from Tier 3 schools.

    Moreover, the statement was pretty mild - students who attend a school below the top 50 should only do so if they have a very good reason to. That isn't really that strong of a claim against attending.

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    Re: US News and World Report 2017 Economics Rankings

    Quote Originally Posted by hkke View Post
    This is good advice for steady state but one needs to be careful when there is a structural change. The placements are mainly a function of the advisor, not of the program one is graduating from. In steady state, they are correlated but when there is a structural change, one needs to know how the job market works to be able to make counterfactual predictions.

    As the DGS of Rice, I started getting phone calls from good schools (e.g. University of Chicago, UPenn, Penn State, etc.) inquiring whether I could recommend any of our Rice students to tenure track positions at those schools as soon as I arrived at Rice 3 years ago. Of course I will not risk my reputation and make such recommendations when they are not warranted, but my prediction is that we will be able to make them in about 3-4 years.

    In general, I recommend looking at the placement records of the faculty in trying to make predictions about future placements.
    With respect, I disagree with your overall message. Things are done quite differently at Rice and I imagine the boost you expect to see to your students outcomes will be due to the careful and exhaustive selection of "diamonds in the rough." That is, without the level of effort you guys are putting into selecting a cohort, outcomes at Rice would be the same as schools of similar rank. Even with the exhaustive process, I would be very impressed if you can send a graduating student to a top 10 program even once within the next 10 years.

    At most schools, they aren't putting in that effort. Moreover, the best advisors attract the best students within each cohort: it's not clear it's an advisor-driven rather than selection effect. Most likely it's a little of both, but my casual empirical observation is that it is mainly selection. That is, if the best advisor in a given school retired, and all else remained equal, outcomes would change imperceptibly.
    Last edited by tm_member; 03-16-2017 at 11:40 AM.

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    Re: US News and World Report 2017 Economics Rankings

    Quote Originally Posted by behavingmyself View Post
    A couple of points where I disagree:

    1) The divisions between tiers are not clear, and there are exceptions to picking a school in one tier over a school in another. I would for sure take a funded Northwestern offer over an unfunded Chicago offer, for example. Students with strong field preferences may also not want to follow the tier strategy, e.g. a student who is certain of wanting to do macro should pick BC over Caltech.

    Perhaps an easier rule of thumb is that you need a strong rationale for picking a school more than 5 ranks below your highest-ranked admit in the US News rankings, and an exceptional rationale for picking a school more than 10 ranks below your highest-ranked admit. (These numbers might expand from 5 and 10 to 10 and 20 once you get to outside the top 50.)

    2) I don't think it's not worth it to attend a PhD for students outside the top 50. I teach in a department outside the top 50 and I think most of our students are making a perfectly reasonable life choice. The point is just that those students need to be aware of what their likely job market outcomes would be, and not go into a PhD if they would only accept working at a research university.
    The divisions are clear enough for the purposes of choosing a program. Is there overlap at the margins? Sure. The point is that the overlap region is small enough and murky enough so that choosing a school at the bottom of tier 2 over a high ranked tier 3 school really doesn't matter much. My overall message (which you have clearly understood) is that 5-10 places in the rankings really won't matter much outside of the very top (as in, moving up the rankings from NYU or UCLA to MIT).

    It also should go without saying among economists, but my "decision rules" assume all else equal. To make it even clearer, if you don't get funding, you should not attend any PhD program. There are exceptions to that rule for those with other sources of income but for most folks, waiting a year, working a job, improving their profile, and applying to slightly lower ranker schools will be more sensible.

    Again, I didn't say it's not worth it to go to those programs: I said that it's tough to recommend attending them unless there are good reasons. Students who are in a program outside the top 50 might either have already heeded this advice (they are the ones who have a very good reason to pursue that route and know the consequences). Revealed preference suggests you are right, they are not making unreasonable life choices. However, you are inferring their utility for them.

    At the same time, looking only at those who are attending programs outside the top 50 is not really a test of my claim. My claim was that students who are admitted to these kinds of programs should only attend if they have a good reason to do so, have no better options, have a fairly low opportunity cost, and know the likely outcomes. Looking only at those who do ultimately choose to attend those programs is not a valid test of my claim.

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    Re: US News and World Report 2017 Economics Rankings

    Agreed, selection matters, but when discussing which school to attend, the decision is conditional on being admitted to schools at various ranks.

    Conditional on the quality of the student, having a caring and available advisor who is active in research is key to having a high quality dissertation.

    And conditional on the quality of the student and the quality of the dissertation, having a proactive advisor who is active and respected in research is the key for good placements. Otherwise, it is easy to be overlooked when the recruiting officer in one department calls up the placement officer in another department and asks "who is your best student on the market this year" or "who is your best student in such and such field".

    I am being a bit vague in saying "active in research" -- I would not attempt it to quantify it precisely but it includes regularly publishing in top journals, being invited to talks, holding editorial positions in reputable journals, etc. etc.








    Quote Originally Posted by tm_member View Post
    With respect, I disagree with your overall message. Things are done quite differently at Rice and I imagine the boost you expect to see to your students outcomes will be due to the careful and exhaustive selection of "diamonds in the rough." That is, without the level of effort you guys are putting into selecting a cohort, outcomes at Rice would be the same as schools of similar rank. Even with the exhaustive process, I would be very impressed if you can send a graduating student to a top 10 program even once within the next 10 years.

    At most schools, they aren't putting in that effort. Moreover, the best advisors attract the best students within each cohort: it's not clear it's an advisor-driven rather than selection effect. Most likely it's a little of both, but my casual empirical observation is that it is mainly selection. That is, if the best advisor in a given school retired, and all else remained equal, outcomes would change imperceptibly.

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    Re: US News and World Report 2017 Economics Rankings

    Quote Originally Posted by tm_member View Post
    Indeed. Imagine what the reaction would have been if I had said something that was not carefully qualified! :-/
    Exactly! With those qualifiers, it'd be hard to disagree.

    I understand the sentiment, but IMHO it was a bit unwarranted.
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    Re: US News and World Report 2017 Economics Rankings

    I don't understand why tm_member's claims are so controversial. The decision to attend a PhD highly depends on one's preferences and opportunity costs / outside options. Program rank is simply a heuristic for the quality of placements at those programs. Of course, prospective matriculants should carefully study placements, acknowledging the entire distribution of outcomes, accounting for attrition rates as well, and then make a decision based on the outcome of this analysis.

    Fact of the matter is that few people become productive researchers in the end, even those graduating from the most prestigious programs. Coupled with the stress of a PhD program, the opportunity costs of losing out on work experience, and pursuing other graduate school options, such as business school, applicants should rigorously ask themselves why they should enroll in any program, and not why they shouldn't.

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    Re: US News and World Report 2017 Economics Rankings

    I mean, that user created a user-name called "upwardly mobile" (two days before tm_member made that comment), it's not hard to see why he was pissed about those statements.

    Across the whole undergrad demographic in the U.S. and internationally, there are a lot of very talented students who have aspirations of moving upward in ranking during the PhD application process and further upward in the academic job market, and they tend to attribute all evidence/advice to the contrary as examples of elitism. It's hard to accept that for the vast majority of PhD applicants, your undergrad institution is usually the most prestigious institution you'll ever be in.

    These sentiments from younger posters are understandable, and there's nothing much we can do aside from developing a thick skin and continuing to give sincere advice like tm_member has been doing in this thread.

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    Re: US News and World Report 2017 Economics Rankings

    Quote Originally Posted by tm_member View Post
    My claim was that students who are admitted to these kinds of programs should only attend if they have a good reason to do so, have no better options, have a fairly low opportunity cost, and know the likely outcomes. Looking only at those who do ultimately choose to attend those programs is not a valid test of my claim.
    In what sense would you say that's different from people considering attending a program inside the top 50?

    I would agree with statements like that the quality of training becomes noticeably worse shortly outside the top 50, and that the quality of the inside option falls more quickly than the quality of the outside option for the average student who is capable of gaining admission to a PhD program. But the thing of needing very specific reasons to attend a PhD applies to everyone.

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    Re: US News and World Report 2017 Economics Rankings

    Quote Originally Posted by behavingmyself View Post
    In what sense would you say that's different from people considering attending a program inside the top 50?

    I would agree with statements like that the quality of training becomes noticeably worse shortly outside the top 50, and that the quality of the inside option falls more quickly than the quality of the outside option for the average student who is capable of gaining admission to a PhD program. But the thing of needing very specific reasons to attend a PhD applies to everyone.
    Just inside the top 50, not so different. Top 10, different.

    The only reason PhD programs exist is to prepare students for a career in research. They might not always succeed. Outside the top 50-ish, they succeed only very rarely.

    Given that, unless you specifically want to work with one professor on a niche topic and you understand the risks, it becomes very hard to recommend them. The same is definitely not true for students admitted to Top 10 programs. As you say, as you move down the rankings the advice to be very cautious and as informed as possible becomes relevant.

    Overall message: there are three tiers of PhD programs. Rankings within those tiers are less relevant than the differences between the tiers. The cut-off points are arguable when comparing two schools. When it is arguable, pretend like they are in the same tier for your decision. Below tier 3 is a risk only a very informed student should take.

    Broader point that we all understand? The world is better characterized by continuity rather than discontinuity.

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