Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Learning to Lose a Leg: Casualties of PhD Economics Training in Stockholm

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The Swedish Economist Assar Lindbeck has recently expressed concern that PhD programs are not educating enough “two-legged” economists. We surveyed all PhD students enrolled at Stockholm University and the Stockholm School of Economics—strong European graduate programs that have adopted the US-style curriculum. The survey response rate was 73 percent, so we place great confidence in the admittedly limited information that the survey does provide: Students enter with a relatively broad academic background, an interest in the social sciences, and a desire to serve the community. They do not enter graduate school with a primary interest in statistics or mathematical work. They find that incentives within the program do not encourage participation in the policy debate. To the extent that new PhDs are “one-legged” economists, it is not because they entered graduate school that way. Our results are remarkably similar to the results of the 1985 survey conducted by David Colander and Arjo Klamer. We consider the possibility that in each case the process that generates expectations of those entering had not caught up to the changes, resulting in palpable dissatisfaction among the currently enrolled students.