19 May 2010  Working Papers

The Job Market for New Economists: A Market Design Perspective

Executive Summary — How should the most appropriate employers and job candidates find each other? Newly minted economists typically send applications to an average of 80 potential employers, and as a result, many employers receive hundreds of applications. It is extremely time-consuming to sort through all the applications, and as the process unfolds, there is a risk of coordination failure, in which employers and candidates who would be well-suited do not manage to create a match. In this paper, HBS professors Peter A. Coles and Alvin E. Roth and colleagues provide an overview of the market for new PhD economists and describe new mechanisms to improve the matching process. They conclude by discussing the emergence of platforms for transmitting job market information, and other design issues that may arise in the market for new economists. Key concepts include:

  • Practical market design is often a response to particular problems. A new market design often leads the way to developing new knowledge.
  • Two new mechanisms have facilitated matches. The first, a signaling service, allows job candidates to express interest to a limited number to potential employers prior to interviews at association meetings. The second mechanism, a web-based "scramble," reduces search costs and "thickens" the late part of the job market for candidates and employers still seeking a match.

 

Author Abstract

This paper provides an overview of the market for new Ph.D. economists. It describes the role of the American Economic Association (AEA) in the market and focuses in particular on two mechanisms adopted in recent years at the suggestion of our committee. First, job market applicants now have a signaling service to send an expression of special interest to up to two employers prior to interviews at the January Allied Social Science Associations (ASSA) meetings. Second, the AEA now invites candidates who are still on the market, and employers whose positions are still vacant, to participate in a web-based "scramble" to reduce search costs and thicken the late part of the job market. We present statistics on the activity in these market mechanisms and present survey evidence that both mechanisms have facilitated matches. The paper concludes by discussing the emergence of platforms for transmitting job market information.

Paper Information