After reading Walter Block’s excellent defense of economic freedom indices, I made a wish that he would spend “more time doing creative empirical work, and a lot less defending Austrian economic theory against all challengers.”  Thanks to David Henderson, I just discovered another Blockian empirical gem that predates my wish: a careful but inspiring piece on the labor economics of the econ Ph.D.

It’s full of useful information and debunks many misconceptions about the “plight” of the econ Ph.D.  The highlight, though, comes in its wise, self-aware conclusion.  Walter didn’t get tenure until he was 60, but prefers aggregate data to personal anecdote:

[M]y story is one
of the worst that I know about, of all my colleagues. Many of them
are they who obtained their Ph.D. without too much trouble, landed
an acceptable academic job, and were awarded tenure after six years
of satisfactory service. Also, there are many non-Austrian, non-libertarians
who had more than an aliquot share of disappointment. No, everything
is not wonderful in academia; but, in the business world, no one
at all has anything like tenure; you can be let go on a few hours
notice. In the university, contracts are typically for an entire
year. And, how many lawyers failed to make partner in their law
firms, and had to seek employment elsewhere?

In any case,
there is a happy end to my oft-times bumpy career. I now have wonderful
colleagues. I am publishing up a storm. My teaching load is three
courses per year… At an approximate salary of $150k, that means for each
class hour, where I plunk myself down and talk about things I love
dearly, I earn a truly amazing (at least to me) $1,111.11. And that
ignores a sabbatical every seven years. Wow. Sometimes I have to
pinch myself to ensure myself that this is all real.

Me too.