By Arnold Kling
While many academics have accepted the inevitability of the differences, others believe that salaries in professional schools are out of control. Critics worry that not only money, but attention and a sense of importance, is being diverted from core academic disciplines to the professional programs.
…But fighting the markets is just what Mr. Johnson thinks universities should be doing, not encouraging such disproportionate pay scales.
In my view, many more people believe that they are unfairly underpaid than that they are unfairly overpaid. I think we tend to be very selective about the comparisons that we make. In a corporation, when you compare your pay to that of people higher on the ladder, you tend to pick out the laziest, least competent executives and say, “I am worth as much as they are.”
In reading the article, what surprised me was not how low the salaries were for professors in humanities, but how high they were, given that the opportunity cost for someone with a degree in literature has to be pretty low. Maybe that explains the excess supply of Ph.D’s in those fields: for someone whose skills are not quantitative, it may make sense to try for a high-paying job, even though you have only a 50 percent probability of getting it. As an economist, I am tempted to blame the Ph.D glut on excessive salaries.
For Discussion. Are academic salaries too responsive to the market, or not responsive enough?