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[Excerpt] The study of academic labor markets by economists goes back at least to Adam Smith’s suggestion in The Wealth of Nations that a professor’s compensation be tied to the number of students that enrolled in his classes. This article focuses on three academic labor market issues that students at Cornell and I are currently addressing: the declining salaries of faculty employed at public colleges and universities relative to the salaries of their counterparts employed at private higher education institutions, the growing dispersion of average faculty salaries across academic institutions within both the public and private sectors, and the impact of the growing importance and costs of science on the academic labor market and universities. To introduce these topics, I first briefly survey the reawakening of economists’ interest in academic labor markets, which lay dormant for almost 2 centuries after Smith.


Suggested Citation
Ehrenberg, R. G. (2003). Studying ourselves: The academic labor market (Presidential address to the Society of Labor Economists, Baltimore, May 3, 2002) [Electronic version]. Journal of Labor Economics 21(2), 267-287.

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© University of Chicago Press. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.