A Survey of Economics PhD Programs in the US Sunbelt

 

 

Lijun Chen

 

Henry Thompson

 

 

This is a report on an email survey of PhD programs sent in January 2004 to directors of graduate programs at 36 economics departments in the “South.”  A summary of the 19 responses follows.

 

Subject: Informal Survey of PhD Programs in the “South”
To: Directors of Graduate Studies
From:         Henry Thompson, Economics Professor, Auburn University, thomph1@auburn.edu
          Please answer the following questions for an informal survey we are conducting of regional economics PhD programs.  The purpose is to help us plan our applied PhD program at Auburn and apply for funding.  We will email you the complete results including individual responses as well as the statistics.  Departments we are contacting are from the website www.albany.edu/econ/eco_phds.html.

Please provide your “best guess” answers to the following questions without feeling obliged to consult records for exact answers.  Use your estimate of averages for the past 5 years.  If some Masters students transfer to PhD, include them when appropriate.  Please email responses by Reply.   


These are the 19 responding departments:

Alabama                                 Auburn                          Emory                           Georgia State                   

Houston                                  Kentucky                       LSU ag econ                  Miami                            

Middle TN State                     Mississippi                    NC State                        New Orleans                        

Oklahoma                              South Carolina             Tennessee                     Texas A&M                   

Texas Tech                              Virginia                         VA Tech                         VA Tech ag econ
                            

The departments that did not respond are:

          Arkansas                                 Clemson                        Florida                           Florida International               

Florida State                          George Mason              Georgia                         LSU econ

Maryland                                Mississippi State           UNC                               OK State

Rice                                         SMU                              Texas                             Tulane

Vanderbilt

 

The questions and the means of their answers across the 19 respondents are in Table 1 with summary statistics in Table 2. 


Table 1.  Questions and mean responses

 

1. How many total full time PhD students are in your PhD program?

37

2. How many full time first year PhD students are in your typical cohort?

11

3. What % of PhD applicants that qualify at the university level does your department admit?

40%

4.  What is the yearly in-state tuition at your university?

$7,590

5.  What is the yearly out-of-state tuition at your university?

$13,770

6.  How much does your department pay first year PhD students on full assistantship?

$14,250

7.  How much do PhD students on full assistantship pay in tuition per year?

$804

8.  What % of accepted PhD students does your program fund fully?

68%

9.  What % of PhD student stipends are paid with university research assistantships?

22%

10.  What % of PhD funding is paid by external grants?

22%

11.  What % of PhD students are on teaching assistantships?

35%

12.  What % of these PhD students on teaching assistantships teach their own course?

37%

13.  What % of PhD students are on foreign student visas?

62%

14.  What % of PhD students pass all prelims on their first attempt?

60%

15.  How many fields (a year of related courses) does your PhD program offer?

5.2

16.  How many field exams does your PhD program require?

1.9

17.  How many electives does your PhD program offer?

6.7

18.  How many PhD degrees does your Department award per year?

3.9

19.  What is the average length of years (full time) to completion of the PhD?

4.8

20.  What % of your PhD graduates go into academic or research positions?

74%

 


Table 2.  Descriptive statistics of responses

 

Question #

Mean

Std dev

Min

Max

Skewness

Kurtosis

1. students

37.1

28.9

7

107

1.41

1.34

2. cohort

10.8

9.4

2

41

1.81

6.15

3. % admit

40%

30%

3%

100%

0.41

1.81

4. tuition-in

$7,590

$6,630

$2,000

$27,000

2.18

6.43

5. tuition-out

$13,770

$5,430

$6,000

$27,000

0.94

3.37

6. stipend

$14,250

$6,030

$7,250

$36,000

2.38

9.15

7. tuition-disc

$804

$1,637

$0

$5,100

2.13

3.55

8. % full fund

68%

32%

10%

100%

-0.60

1.87

9. % research

22%

25%

0%

80%

1.23

3.36

10. % external

22%

28%

0%

100%

1.72

4.98

11. % teach

35%

17%

0%

100%

0.58

-0.43

12. own course

37%

35%

0%

100%

0.94

2.40

13. % foreign

62%

17%

16%

85%

-1.09

1.81

14. pass 1st

60%

18%

25%

83%

-0.67

2.42

15. fields

5.2

3.1

2

15

1.7

5.70

16. field exams

1.9

1.5

0

6

0.89

3.95

17. electives

6.7

6.7

0

30

2.22

8.19

18. degrees

3.9

2.3

1

10

1.01

3.67

19. years

4.8

0.7

3.75

6

0.05

1.99

20. % aca-res

74%

25%

5%

100%

-1.20

2.98

 

The programs are not small, with an average size of 37 and cohort size of 11, but there is a high degree of variation in size.  Some programs are much more selective in admission, and universities vary somewhat as well.  There is high variation in tuition with a few outliers.  Graduate stipends also have high variation with a few outliers.  Tuition discounts vary across departments.  About 1/3 of the graduate students are on teaching assistantships and about 1/3 of those teach their own courses.  The rest of their funding is about evenly divided between external, research, and presumably internal funding.

Well over half of all the PhD students are foreign but there is a high degree of variation across departments.  Most students pass their first attempt at prelim exams but there is high variation across departments here also.  The average number of fields is 5 and 2 field exams are required, although there is variation.  There is high variation in the number of electives across departments with a few outliers.  Students finish after an average of just under 5 years.  About ¾ of the students go into academics or research, perhaps a measure of success of the programs, but there is high variation here as well.

          Table 3 reports faculty salary and department ranking.  Faculty salary is the average salary of full professors across all departments.  The ranking variable is from Tom Coupé’s webpage of worldwide economics departments based on an average of 11 publication ranking schemes, and a lower number means a higher ranked department. 

 


Table 3.  Faculty salary and ranking

 

 

Mean

Std dev

Min

Max

Skewness

Kurtosis

Fac salary

$87,850

$3,675

$56,600

$121,800

0.22

0.15

Ranking

122

55

39

201

2.13

3.55

 

Table 4 presents correlations across key variables.  Tuition is the average of in state and out of state tuition.  The correlations are typically weak and fail to suggest any variables that would explain rank of the department or success of the PhD program.  

 


Table 4.  Correlations

 

 

 

size

teach

foreign

success

rank

cost

tuition

fac sal

size

1

0.310

-0.096

-0.258

-0.586

-0.191

0.009

0.550

teach

 

1

0.161

-0.333

0.056

-0.366

-0.356

0.123

foreign

 

 

1

-0.102

0.244

0.391

-0.537

-0.329

success

 

 

 

1

0.453

0.206

0.301

0.017

rank

 

 

 

 

1

-0.043

-0.099

-0.515

cost

 

 

 

 

 

1

-0.302

-0.308

tuition

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

0.559

fac sal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

          Multiple regression analysis fails to uncover any significant influence on rank except size of the PhD program and faculty salary.  If the success of a PhD program is placing graduates in academic or research positions as in question #20, none of the survey responses has any detected effect in multiple regression analysis.  There are no variables explaining department rank.