Socioeconomic Diversity of US Economics PhDs

(with Robert Schultz)

It is well documented that women and racial and ethnic minorities are underrepresented in the economics profession, relative to both the general population and many other academic disciplines. Less is known about the socioeconomic diversity of the profession. In this paper, we use data from the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates to examine the socioeconomic background of US economics PhD recipients as compared with US PhD recipients in other disciplines, proxying for socioeconomic background using PhD recipients’ parents’ educational attainment. We find that economics PhD recipients are substantially more likely to have highly educated parents, and less likely to have parents without a college degree, than PhD recipients in other disciplines. This is true both for US-born and non-US-born PhD recipients, but the gap between economics and other disciplines is starker for those born in the United States. The gap in socioeconomic diversity between economics and other PhD disciplines has increased over the last two decades.

Other useful links: