Carpe Diem

Faculty salary differentials by academic discipline reflect the economic concept of ‘opportunity cost’

Academic Discipline Average FAculty Salaries (All Ranks) at uS Public Universities, 2012-2013
Business and Management $104,141
Economics $92,070
Computer Science $88,704
Health and Medical Administration Services $79,292
Natural Resources and Conservation $78,711
Engineering $78,357
Political Science $76,349
Area, Ethnic, Cultural, Gender and Group Studies $75,919
Physics $73,987
Average $73,838
Psychology $72,274
Mathematics $72,116
Nursing $71,508
History $71,197
Foreign Languages $69,549
Education $68,349
English Language $67,542
Philosophy $66,114
Chemistry $65,794
Biology $65,075
Rehabilitation and Therapeutic Services $64,736
Sociology $64,434
Social Work $62,728
Communication and Media Studies $59,244
Theater Arts $58,332
Music $57,120
Fine and Studio Art $56,526

In a post last Friday, I linked to a WSJ blog post “Should colleges charge engineering students more?” which summarized the results of a recent working paper titled “Differential Pricing in Undergraduate Education: Effects on Degree Production by Field.” The author of the paper, Kevin M. Stange from Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy investigated 50 large public universities that adopted higher tuition for their engineering, business, or nursing programs between 1990 and 2010, partly to align tuition with the higher instructional costs of those programs.

In a comment on the CD post, Morganovich asks another interesting question: should universities pay their engineering professors more than English professors? Based on the concept of opportunity cost (non-academic career alternatives available to professors with doctoral degrees), the answer would be clearly yes, and the data do confirm that reality.

To investigate further the issue of faculty salary differentials by academic discipline, the table above shows average faculty salaries for 26 academic disciplines, based on data reported by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) for the 2012-2013 academic year. Faculty salaries are the average for all ranks (full, associate, and assistant professors) as reported to CUPA-HR by 407 public, 4-year institutions for almost 47,000 professors. Here are some observations:

1. Engineering professors do make 16% (and almost $11,000) more than English professor, on average.

2. Engineering professors only make 2.6% more than professors of political science, and only 3.2% more than professors of “Area, Ethnic, Cultural, Gender, and Group Studies.”

3. It’s interesting that English professors make 2.65% more on average than chemistry professors and 3.80% more than biology professors. It’s also interesting that biology and chemistry professors make about $8,000 to $9,000 less than average.

4. It’s also interesting that nursing professors make 3.2% less than average, suggesting that instructional costs for a nursing program would be less than average, although some professors may be part of the higher-paid faculty category “Health and Medical Administration Services.”

5. It’s interesting that there’s almost a 2:1 ratio between the average salaries for the highest paid professors (business) and the lowest paid professors (fine and studio art) by academic discipline.

Bottom Line: In general, full-time tenured or tenure-track college professors have terminal/doctoral degrees and therefore have academic credentials that are roughly equivalent. But because the non-academic career options for professors vary greatly by academic discipline, the faculty salary differentials in the table above generally reflect the opportunity costs of those alternative career opportunities “outside of the academy.” Professors with degrees in business, economics, and computer science have the highest-valued non-academic career opportunities and command faculty salaries far above average. Professors with degrees in theater arts, music, and fine arts must have very few non-teaching career opportunities, and therefore have salaries far below average. Faculty salary differentials by academic discipline is a good example of opportunity cost in action.

69 thoughts on “Faculty salary differentials by academic discipline reflect the economic concept of ‘opportunity cost’

  1. in order to approach this honestly -you’d have to separate the colleges that are purely private from the ones that are publically-funded as the publically-funded are not operating on any rational market principle.

    second, how do you decide the marginal worth of a college professor for a private college?

  2. That reminds me of something I heard on the radio. It’s acceptable, and even expected, that an economics professor drives a very nice car. However, it’s acceptable for an english professor to drive a cheap beat up old wreck (can you imagine an economics professor driving a dumpy car?).

    • with all the discussion about what the marginal value is of people who are central to the debate about minimum wage, it’s amusing to think about what a taxpayer-funded college professor of economics who espouses libertarian principles is “worth”.

      he essentially argues that govt employees are overpaid and underworked… right?

      • Well, it seems, an Austrian economist should drive a better car than a NeoClassical or NeoKeynesian economist, because they seem to believe in only free markets, including exploiting as much as possible :)

          • And an Austrian economist will tell you the english professor is overpaid, even if he can’t complete english sentences :)

          • “And an Austrian economist will tell you the english professor is overpaid, even if he can’t complete english sentence”

            and this is just moronic.

            so, if i am a brilliant german economist, i cannot assess the value of an english teacher just because i speak the language poorly?

            i realize you are making an attempt at humor, but mostly you are just making a fool of yourself.

          • how can any employee of the govt know what the right answer is?

            by definition – you guys say that govt employees – including college professors lack the perspective..right?

            or are you going to pick and choose the ones you like?

          • peak-

            “Morganovich, you’re a pre-20th century “stick-in-the-mud,” who believes feasts and famines and heat waves and cold spells are better economic conditions, although the data completely contradict your belief.”

            wow. absolutely none of that is true.

            the data show that when we get the Keynesians in change (30′s,. now) we get depressions.

            there is literally ZERO evidence that price fixing and top down economic management works, because it doesn’t.

            government stimulus is a long term negative as it crowds out more investment than it creates, and thet’s BEFORE you have to pay for it.

            we’re in the process of proving that again right now.

            QE has drained, not added liquidity because guys like you and ben insist on using 1930′s samuelson monetarist doctrine that missed where most modern credit comes from and as a result has sucked $10 trillion of out the swaps market.

            it’s ironic that you accuse others of “pre 20th century thinking”, because that is precisely what you are doing. you are a luddite and don’t even know it. it’s called projection.

            again, you clowns should be paying restitution.

          • Morganovich, you’re in complete denial. Do I need to bring up the mountain of data again to prove you wrong again.

          • “Morganovich, you’re in complete denial. Do I need to bring up the mountain of data again to prove you wrong again.”

            do these false claims of past proof actually work on anyone peak?

            this is just more of your typical playbook.

            get creamed on the facts, slink off, then pop up later pretending you won.

          • Morganovich, you’re not only in denial, you’re delusional. Let’s start with some basic data:

            Before the Fed, per capita real GDP growth averaged 1.36% a year from 1814-1910, and after the Fed, it averaged 2.13% per year from 1914-2010.

            And

            At the height of the Industrial Revolution, from 1871-1914, per capita real GDP growth was 1.56% a year, and at the height of the Information Revolution, from 1982-07, per capita real GDP growth was 2.22% per year.

            Note, per capita real growth was stronger under the Fed, which includes the 1930s and the prevention of another depression in the 1970s, similar to the Long Depression in the 1870s.

            However, the U.S. was on the gold standard in the 1930s and the Fed had to tighten the money supply to prevent foreign gold outflows, which worsened the Great Depression.

            Anyway, this is just the tip of the iceberg that reflects the enormous added value of Classical and Keynesian economics to the U.S. economy in the 20th century.

          • Comparing similar years of per capita real GDP growth in the Industrial and Information Revolutions:

            1882-1907: 1.57%
            1982-2007: 2.22%

            I’m sure, you at least understand the power of compound interest.

          • peak-

            what a preposterously foolish argument.

            so the ONLY thing that changed in that time was the fed?

            coincidence in one cherry pick scenario equals causality and no other factors are involved?

            if we look at periods of heavily interventionist government and monetary policy (2008-now, the 1930′s) we see far less growth than we saw in periods when government stayed out of the way.

            further, you are making a bad comparison, and you know it.

            regardless of what one thinks the correct method of measuring inflation is, the fact that this method was dramatically changed in the 90′s is a simple, provable fact.

            the current method yields lower reported inflation for any given state of the world. this flows through to higher reported real gdp.

            direct comparisons of inflation pre and post the addition of hedonics and geometric weighting is apples and oranges.

            if your goal is to demonstrate a complete lack of basic statistics, then you have succeeded.

            i realize there’s no much point in debunking your nonsense as you will just pop up again later claiming you have proven that which it has just been clearly shown that you did not, but hope springs eternal i guess.

          • Morganovich, you seem to believe the Fed had nothing to do with smoothing-out business cycles, which moved the economy away from suboptimal growth and towards optimal growth.

            I guess, it was just a coincidence the U.S. went from inefficient economic boom/bust cycles to smoother, and faster, economic growth when the Fed was created.

            Also, you seem to believe there were no improvements in microeconomics and international trade (trade deficits subtract from GDP) by the same type of economists who improved macroeconomics and monetary policy.

          • Morg thinks that every single country with a central bank and Monetary policies are morons…

            and it goes downhill from there…

          • peak-

            you truly are king of the straw men.

            a central bank can be a good and useful tool. at many times in the past, our has been. but like many things, too much is bad.

            we saw this in the 30′s and we have been seeing it since the late 90′s. (we also saw the disastrous effects of burns etc in the 70′s)

            the fed has changed the way it operated.

            volcker saved it and got it onto the right footing, but a dual mandate fed never works. it gets politicized, as it is now.

            greenspan set off a chain of bubbles and then bailed out when he saw the 2nd one ready to pop. ben inherited it and has tried to re-inflate it into the largest yet with dire consequences for the economy.

            it’s not the existence of a fed that i take issue with. a rules based (taylor rule, etc) or single mandate fed (bundesbank) is a fine thing. it’s the current fed mission that you erroneously believe to work and seem to want to increase that’s the problem.

        • “And an Austrian economist will tell you the english professor is overpaid, even if he can’t complete english sentence”

          that’s funny, it seems to me that it’s the Keynesian/statist school (that you so frequently misdescribe as neoclassical) that claims to know what what everyone should be paid. higher minimum wage, less ceo pay, and upward sloping demand curves for everyone! the austrians do not make such claims. talk about projecting your own flaws onto others…

          fwiw, paying a Keynesian/statist economist even a dollar is too much. they should be paying restitution to the rest of us for all the damage they have done with their ill conceived policy.

          • Morganovich, you’re a pre-20th century “stick-in-the-mud,” who believes feasts and famines and heat waves and cold spells are better economic conditions, although the data completely contradict your belief.

          • logical fallacy Peak… appeal to practice… bad bad…

            you know that Morg has created this embargo list for those who disagree with Morg…

            ;-)

          • Maybe, Morganovich is having a tough time finding a decent job in this depression.

            He doesn’t understand Peak Oil is a constraint on economic growth.

            Also, he doesn’t understand Congress created the housing boom, and if Congress began tightening lending standards when the Fed began tightening the money supply, 10 years ago, the recession may have been avoided.

            Moreover, he doesn’t understand what was needed in the recession was a $5,000 per worker tax cut to jolt the economy into a virtuous cycle of consumption-employment.

            With a stronger recovery, the Fed would be tightening the money supply, to slow the expansion, and government would be collecting more tax revenue, to reduce budget deficits.

          • wow peak, more sad attempts at ad hominem (and fwiw, this has been a very profitable time for me, thanks for your concern)

            you then go on to disprove your own arguments.

            so congress made this mess and if it had only acted differently things might have been better and the fed was on top of the ball?

            no way. the fed missed this entirely. they were still back slapping one another about the boom and predicting a soft landing right up until we blew up and their loose money was a big part of the bubble. a 1% fed funds rate in 2005 was WAY too low.

            this is the classic command and control statist apologia. well, we got it wrong last time, but THIS time we’ll get it right in spite of the overwhelming evidence that the track record is awful.

            for someone so against drugs, you sure are a stimulus and control addict.

            we just pumped the most aggressive stimulus (between federal money, low rates, asset purchases, and tax cuts to fica) in history. it failed. growth is punk. we are in the weakest recovery since the depression, the last time this sort of nonsense was tried.

            talk about denial.

            we are currently in the third massive bubble in 15 years and your beloved fed and statist politicians have painted us into an even worse corner.

            the internet bubble was easy to clean up. you just had to let it happen. equity funded bubble is productive assets are easy to deal with. instead, we inflated another, a debt funded bubble in non productive assets, which is the hard kind to clean up, and to try to get out of that, we have inflated a federal debt bubble and swelled the fed balance sheets by TRILLIONS.

            there is no easy way out of this one.

            look back at history. see if you can find even 1 example of a 15 year period that was constantly in bubbles and busts. bet you can’t.

            this is what adherents to your Keynesian philosophy have done. consumer spending uber alles! if they don’t want to spend, make them! we know best…

            this is a disaster, and if you think the last bust sucked, wait a few years…

          • I guess, you believe the Fed should’ve ordered Congress to change its laws.

            Also, the Fed Funds Rate wasn’t 1% in 2005. The Fed raised the Fed Funds Rate from 1% to 5 1/4% from 2004 to 2006, which resulted in a restrictive monetary stance that initially caused the recession in Dec 2007.

            The Bush tax cuts in early 2008 gave the Fed time to catch-up easing the money supply. However, when Lehman failed in Sep 2008, the country fell into a deep recession, which eventually required quantitative easing.

          • Moreover, asset booms and busts aren’t important. What’s important is sustainable economic growth (of goods & services).

            Those asset bubble reflect a period of greater prosperity, thanks in part to the Fed. Between 1982-07, the U.S. had one moderate recession, in 1990-91, and one mild recession, in 2001 (so mild that per capita real GDP didn’t fall in 2001).

            I explained, in detail, many times before how the recession could’ve been milder and the recovery stronger, and we’d be in a sustainable expansion now. It’s ridiculous to blame the Fed for this train wreck.

          • “Moreover, asset booms and busts aren’t important. What’s important is sustainable economic growth (of goods & services). ”

            spoken like a true, kool aid drinking bubble baby.

            seriously, you do not think these things are related? what, the RE bubble bursting did not affect the economy?

            what color is the sky on your world?

            this is a whole new chapter for “peakonomics”. bubbles are not important. love it.

            keep it up, i think i can sell this idea to the onion.

            “The Bush tax cuts in early 2008 gave the Fed time to catch-up easing the money supply. However, when Lehman failed in Sep 2008, the country fell into a deep recession, which eventually required quantitative easing.”

            god, what nonsense. QE does not work. only someone who missed the last 30 years of evolution in the finance markets would expect it to.

            it inflates a bond and trued to re inflate the mortage bubble while sucking 2-3 times that much money out of the repo market and crushing revenue from fixed income.

            for a guy who likes to accuse others of using old theries, you sure seem to be a financial Luddite.

            do you even understand how swap rehypothecation works?

            qe hinders sustainable recovery. the “pump priming” it purport to be is really jamming the pump with mud over any but the shortest term.

          • Morganovich, perhaps, someday, you’ll understand how the real economy works. The Fed lowered interest rates for households and firms, and created a wealth effect, to facilitate economic growth (there’s a difference between assets and goods & services). I’ve explained all this in detail to you before, and yet you remain in denial.

          • peak-

            does this “i proved it before” lie every get old for you? seriously, does this work on anyone?

            you trot out absurd statistical claims (like the fed is the only difference in the economy since 100 years ago) and monstrously oversimplified views on monetary policy (like lower rates ONLY affect borrowing and not income and the QE has not crushed many credit markets and sucked over $10 trillion of credit of of the system)

            you just fixate on one part of a complex system and pretend to understand.

            you are just embarrassing yourself and do not even seem to realize it.

  3. I gotta say, as an econ major who just went through a career change, most people don’t give a crap about an Econ degree. It isn’t business/finance, it isn’t mathematics – it is just this awkward theoretical liberal arts degree based on mass assumptions that trains you for very little in the real word (no accounting, no analysis, no Excel, etc)

    • RF, if your plan was to be an economist, you need grad econ. Most people who are econ majors aren’t economists. Instead, they typically become successful in everything else they do, and some become very successful.

      Also, at the grad level, you’ll do plenty of math, including deriving the models you learned in undergrad econ.

      Of course, econ does something students hate – it teaches them how to think beyond their capacity to think, to increase their capacity.

      • Sure, but that is the same argument people would present for any liberal arts degree. ” My {blank degree} is a liberal arts degree that has taught me to think beyond my capacity and make connections I previously wouldn’t have”.

        To be frank, I have mostly found this logic and reasoning to be more focused on selling diplomas and making people feel warm inside than actually reflecting reality. I realize not all econ departments are created equally, not are all universities, but when I see an undergrad econ major about to graduate I cant help but think, “what are you going to do”? There is no direct career path and few become successful and influence economists such as Dr. Perry. The vast majority end up having to learn to an entirely new skill set on the job that they most likely could have picked up in college. In my case it was learning accounting, Excel, and financial analysis on the job ASAP.

        I think econ can be a powerful tool, but my advice is to pair it with a more practical degree, such as math or business.

        • If your goal was to work as an economist, there are hardly any jobs in that specific field, although more in teaching and government, which typically require a grad degree.

          Also, econ is practical too, e.g. making a firm more competitive or improving an individual’s financial position.

          • No, I cant say that was ever my goal. I am just reflecting on my own work experience thus far and am realizing I hardly ever use my econ degree. The general theories are certainly helpful, but I find it would be much more significant to employers if econ students learned how to do simple business tasks, such as analyze financial statements, do break-even analysis, build company projections, understand valuation, etc. I realize this is more finance based, but I have run into these concepts much more frequently than I have situations where I am tasked with quickly determining the steady state of capital or the optimal level of capital and labor via the Lagrange method.

            I suppose macroeconomics was helpful while trading for big picture stuff, but it is always nice to have valuation knowledge for when you get more specific.

            Anyway, just one man’s thoughts….

      • Actually, modern day economics courses are progressive education camps, disdainful of the free market and enamored with government solutions. The TOOLS of economics can be useful, but much is liberal propaganda with little counterbalance.

        When I speak to a college economics (or political science) class, I tell them that it’s likely I’ll be the only free market, limited government proponent they will hear as a speaker in their entire college experience. Both the students and the professors generally (though often reluctantly) agree that I am correct.

        • the “study” of economics ought not to be what the professor believes (or not) – but rather a survey of the various theories – but more importantly – speaking of how it works in the real world and why it does not “religiously” conform to theory.

          No economist working for a private sector company would be tolerated for letting his personal views affect his professional responsibilities but in college, economic professors – as a group – seem to not be able to maintain an objective perspective -and I say this about both (many?) camps as you have an example right here of an Economics professor who clearly leans in particular directions and not that often really provides both sides of an issue.

          • Agreed. I also favor world peace. But neither ideal is the reality we live in.

            What “ought” to be taught in college econ classes and HOW it should be taught is quite different than what IS taught, and how it is taught.

            To the extent that free market economics is presented, it is set up as straw men for the professors to then knock over. Government policies are extolled and — to the degree that the professors acknowledge adverse results — the professors proclaim that these central planning failures are due to INSUFFICIENT government intervention. More is always better.

          • well no.. not world peace.. just the same way that differential equations or mechanical engineering is taught – the fundamentals.. the pros and cons…etc… not a particular professors personal beliefs – or even that is okay as an ADDITIONAL thing that he DOES DISCLOSE!

            there are professors on both sides of the spectrum. Prof Perry here is on the libertarian side. I really don’t care what they themselves believe as long as they lay out the generic fundamentals and let the student decide what they themselves might lean.

            but if Prof Perry teaches his classes like he runs this blog – you can be well assured he’s not teaching favorable views of the govt in economics!!!

            People that teach differential equations or mechanical engineering don’t see to have the same issues.

          • Oh my!! Have you BEEN in a college classroom in the last 20 years? I have — scores of classrooms in a number of colleges, plus participated in economics debates on campus. What you describe is pretty much a complete fiction.

            Yes, there are “professors on both sides of the spectrum.” But the ratio is 90-10, and I don’t have to point out which group has the 90%.

            Well, upon reflection, I guess, in your case Larry, I DO have to point it out. The 90% are firmly entrenched left of center progressives. Those not Democrats are likely Greens and even Socialists.

            Shucks, the head of one college econ department I spoke and debated at was a proudly avowed Marxist, and didn’t equivocate in the matter. The college’s only free market professor retired years ago, and was replaced by an advocate for European socialism.

            How many libertarian economics professors will the average college student encounter? Hint — less than one.

            Unlike private sector employers, college professors pick their colleagues and their successors. As a result of this inbreeding, no more than one right of center econ professor is usually allowed in any modern econ department. Often less than one.

            Of course, that wouldn’t matter if the professors were impartial wise, evenhanded educators you’ve conjured up. Few such creatures exist on a modern day campus.

          • re: ” Yes, there are “professors on both sides of the spectrum.” But the ratio is 90-10, and I don’t have to point out which group has the 90%.”

            how do you know that?

            “Well, upon reflection, I guess, in your case Larry, I DO have to point it out. The 90% are firmly entrenched left of center progressives. Those not Democrats are likely Greens and even Socialists.”

            the one’s I’ve run into have “religious” type beliefs – on both sides… unlike the guy that teaches differential equations and the like.

            “Shucks, the head of one college econ department I spoke and debated at was a proudly avowed Marxist, and didn’t equivocate in the matter. The college’s only free market professor retired years ago, and was replaced by an advocate for European socialism.”

            and I’ve met the opposite…

            How many libertarian economics professors will the average college student encounter? Hint — less than one.

            got two right here.. Mr. Perry and Mr. Don Boudreaux who teaches at the Mercatus Center at GWU – which has dozens of like-minded faculty:

            http://mercatus.org/all-people/1286

            then you have the Chicago school of economics…

            I’d give the link but two links in this blog sends it to moderation.

            so just GOOGLE “Chicago school of economics”.

            then we have the Mises Institute in Alabama…

            can you name similar type universities that go the other way – that advertise that they are the opposite?

            Unlike private sector employers, college professors pick their colleagues and their successors. As a result of this inbreeding, no more than one right of center econ professor is usually allowed in any modern econ department. Often less than one.

            did you see the list above?

            Of course, that wouldn’t matter if the professors were impartial wise, evenhanded educators you’ve conjured up. Few such creatures exist on a modern day campus.

            oh there are.. just not in economics.. there are no zealots in the Mechanical Engineering dept.

  4. Let me get this straight: Econ profs have more market value than engineers, and poli sci profs are more valuable than physics profs, out in the open market?

    Dr. Perry has single-handedly, and in one fell swoop, completely destroyed the efficient market theory and any rationale for free markets.

    If what Dr. Perry says is true, I prefer another type of economic system. Bring on a beneficent dictator.

    • actually benji, that’s completely wrong.

      you do realize that price is set by both supply and demand, yes?

      thus, even if there is less demand for an econ phd than an engineering one, that does not tell us what the price will be.

      it also fails to take into account the rest of the resume.

      many who teach econ and or business/management have also worked in the private sector and have not been academics for their whole career. such people are sought after to bring their hands on perspective.

      i’m not sure to what extent this is true in computers or engineering, but perhaps it’s less.

      this also leaves out some key forms of compensation. econ and business professors do not have costly labs and or get grants through the university to pursue projects the way that engineers do.

      i think the free market theory is safe.

    • Just how big of a demand do you think there is for physics PhD’s? And unless you haven’t noticed, nearly $4,000,000,000,000 gets dumped into federal politicians laps every year, making polisci seriously attractive to many people as employers.

      That you think you know what is efficient is laughable. That you merely assume that physicists are more valuable than polisci majors is just sad.

      If what Dr. Perry says is true, I prefer another type of economic system.

      How about a free market system, rather than one in which federal politicians vacuum up $4,000,000,000,000 every year, distorting pretty much every market?

      • arguing that professors salaries who are paid for with tax dollars are determined by the “market” is laughable.

        It’s like arguing that economists that are hired by the govt have salaries determined by the “market”.

        but the bigger deal here is contrasting this discussion with one about minimum wage where the argument is made that people are not worth more than the market demand…

        College professors are not subject to the same real world economics that those in the lower employment tiers are.

        we begrudge someone on the lower margins making $1200 more a year while taxpayers pay for economics professors 10 times as much salary – and the question is – how do you REALLY ascertain the WORTH the VALUE of an economics professor directly in the same kind of economic calculation?

        what exactly is an economics professor contributing to the real economy – to people who work in the real economy?

        Most economic theories do not work as proffered because the real world free-market is not the idealistic theoretical one that is taught to students as some respondents here have noted.

        then beyond that – you have different “schools” of economics which these days border on almost religious beliefs – ideologies – on how the economy “should work”.

        some economists who lean libertarian actually say that elected governance and majority vote are wrong – that a “proper” economy requires someone who knows what is right and to dictate that to others – as if the study of economics is not about human behavior in commerce to start with.

        a diamond is worth more than a rock only because a human values it .. not because economic theory says so.

        yet once the human values it economic theory presumes to tell humans how supply/demand for it should work and, for instance, “blood diamonds” don’t mean anything to economic theory but it does to people.

        • arguing that professors salaries who are paid for with tax dollars are determined by the “market” is laughable.

          Why? Are you really stupid enough to think that universities don’t compete with private enterprises and adjust their compensation accordingly?

          College professors are not subject to the same real world economics that those in the lower employment tiers are.

          Why do you assume that economists and physicists are exclusively or even mostly employed by colleges and universities? Of course, by simple math, it’s easy to see that the majority of economists and physicists are employed in the private sector. That you think the compensatation packages of physicists and economists are set exclusively by government fiat does explain a lot of your stupidity and complete misunderstanding of markets.

          • re: ” Why? Are you really stupid enough to think that universities don’t compete with private enterprises and adjust their compensation accordingly?”

            what would happen to the price of economics professors if they were not hired by taxpayers?

            “Why do you assume that economists and physicists are exclusively or even mostly employed by colleges and universities?”

            simple observation about how many public colleges there are vs private.

            “Of course, by simple math, it’s easy to see that the majority of economists and physicists are employed in the private sector.”

            are you equating an economist with a physicist?

            ” That you think the compensatation packages of physicists and economists are set exclusively by government fiat does explain a lot of your stupidity and complete misunderstanding of markets.”

            not really dumbass..

            we’re talking about taxpayer-funded college professors – not private sector economist or physicists.

            what is the market for economics college professors if public sector colleges don’t hire them?

            what value do they actually provide to taxpayers?

            how do you calculate that value?

            Isn’t that something that people should pay for themselves instead of taxpayers?

            Aren’t the “economics” of taxpayer-funded economics professors far less transparent than even minimum wage issues?

            how come we hammer people for 25 cents an hour because of “productivity” and “supply and demand” and then ignore that issue for other occupations – like college professors?

            If taxpayers stopped funding economics college professors – what would be their value in a private-sector only college environment – the same as now?

            and Ken.. STFU you idiot.

          • what would happen to the price of economics professors if they were not hired by taxpayers?

            Again, you’re idiotically claiming the all economists have to be professors, which of course is stupid.

            simple observation about how many public colleges there are vs private.

            I see you’ve forgotten marketing, finance, consulting and the other tens of thousands of ways economists can be employed. Universities, both private and “public”, have to compete with all of them as well, not just each other.

            are you equating an economist with a physicist?

            This entire thread is about the relative value of different professions. You really have no attention span. That’s bad, when paired with your stupidity.

            we’re talking about taxpayer-funded college professors – not private sector economist or physicists.

            Of course, tax payer funded institutions also compete with non-taxpayer funded institutions, which is the entire point of Mark’s post, not just this thread.

            what is the market for economics college professors if public sector colleges don’t hire them?

            If a college wants to hire an economist for anything, the college has to offer a compensation package equivalent to what the economist could get elsewhere. Otherwise, the economist would work else where.

            how do you calculate that value?

            As with the value of anything, markets determine value.

            Aren’t the “economics” of taxpayer-funded economics professors far less transparent than even minimum wage issues?

            No. And neither is opaque.

            how come we hammer people for 25 cents an hour because of “productivity” and “supply and demand” and then ignore that issue for other occupations – like college professors?

            It isn’t ignored. You simply, as always, don’t know what you’re talking about.

            STFU you idiot.

            And the sign off of the truly defeated.

          • what would happen to the price of economics professors if they were not hired by taxpayers?

            Again, you’re idiotically claiming the all economists have to be professors, which of course is stupid.

            no I’m not. I’m asking SPECIFICALLY about economics professors fool.

            simple observation about how many public colleges there are vs private.

            I see you’ve forgotten marketing, finance, consulting and the other tens of thousands of ways economists can be employed. Universities, both private and “public”, have to compete with all of them as well, not just each other.

            really? how does that work weasel?

            are you equating an economist with a physicist?

            This entire thread is about the relative value of different professions. You really have no attention span. That’s bad, when paired with your stupidity.

            really? how would you know fool?

            we’re talking about taxpayer-funded college professors – not private sector economist or physicists.

            Of course, tax payer funded institutions also compete with non-taxpayer funded institutions, which is the entire point of Mark’s post, not just this thread.

            no they don”t – not if they decide they don’t need to make taxpayers pay for things in low demand …

            what is the market for economics college professors if public sector colleges don’t hire them?

            If a college wants to hire an economist for anything, the college has to offer a compensation package equivalent to what the economist could get elsewhere. Otherwise, the economist would work else where.

            they can choose not to hire in areas that they do not feel are worth it.

            how do you calculate that value?

            As with the value of anything, markets determine value.

            pretending that publicly-financed colleges are a “market” is like pretending that any govt job is a “market”, right fool?

            Aren’t the “economics” of taxpayer-funded economics professors far less transparent than even minimum wage issues?

            No. And neither is opaque.

            how come we hammer people for 25 cents an hour because of “productivity” and “supply and demand” and then ignore that issue for other occupations – like college professors?

            It isn’t ignored. You simply, as always, don’t know what you’re talking about.

            STFU you idiot.

            And the sign off of the truly defeated.

            how about this: STFU you little weasel… better?

          • Are you really stupid enough to think that universities don’t compete with private enterprises and adjust their compensation accordingly?

            Yes.

        • the bigger deal here is contrasting this discussion with one about minimum wage where the argument is made that people are not worth more than the market demand…

          we begrudge someone on the lower margins making $1200 more a year

          Minimum wages do not increase people’s yearly wages. If I earn $7.25/hour working 20 hours per week, how much do I earn per year? If the minimum wage is increased to $12/hour and my employer let’s me go, how much do I earn per year? That’s just a simple example. There are far more complex interactions that damage low skill, low productive workers’ job prospects and income. The argument against the minimum wage that is made on this site is that the hurt low skilled not that anyone “begrudges” them earning more.

          No one on this site begrudges anyone making more in a free market. That you would lie and say that people do only shows what a snake you are.

          • re: ” There are far more complex interactions that damage low skill, low productive workers’ job prospects and income. The argument against the minimum wage that is made on this site is that the hurt low skilled not that anyone “begrudges” them earning more.”

            and you judge the productivity of economics college professors – HOW?

            “No one on this site begrudges anyone making more in a free market. That you would lie and say that people do only shows what a snake you are.”

            Do you have a real free market in economics professors when you have taxpayer-funded economics professors?

            would you say that about other govt employees fool?

          • re: ” There are far more complex interactions that damage low skill, low productive workers’ job prospects and income. The argument against the minimum wage that is made on this site is that the hurt low skilled not that anyone “begrudges” them earning more.”

            and you judge the productivity of economics college professors – HOW?

            “No one on this site begrudges anyone making more in a free market. That you would lie and say that people do only shows what a snake you are.”

            Do you have a real free market in economics professors when you have taxpayer-funded economics professors?

            would you say that about other govt employees fool?

          • and you judge the productivity of economics college professors – HOW?

            I don’t judge their productivity. I don’t hire, nor manage a single person, much less an economist. Nor do you. And that is the point. I’m not making any judgement. You are. You are the one claiming you know what people’s values are and that economists and low wage workers are getting paid all wrong. I understand that I am not in a position to judge anyone for hiring anyone for any price. You are the one assuming you can be the judge of everyone else’s productivity.

            Do you have a real free market in economics professors when you have taxpayer-funded economics professors?

            Mostly yes.

            would you say that about other govt employees fool?

            Fool? You are the one accusing me of making false judgements when it is you.

            And yes, when there is a lot of competition from private sectors, I am confident that gov employees are mostly paid according to market values, i.e., by their value added work.

          • re: ” I am confident that gov employees are mostly paid according to market values, i.e., by their value added work.”

            seriously weasel?

  5. Excellent study to consider, but I think it UNDERSTATES the salary differential that would exist in a free market.

    Apparently colleges are paying enough to acquire the STEM professors. But they are paying too much for the liberal arts professors — when setting these academics’ salaries, supply and demand is simply not considered in these fields.

    Even with today’s DE FACTO “PC” hiring practices (basically all but banning any non-progressive professors), the colleges still have far more qualified applicants for each liberal arts opening than they do for the STEM positions. THAT is the data that should be looked at — the number of qualified applicants.

    The other data to consider is the professor TURNOVER. Especially the turnover leaving colleges for NON-academic employment. I’d guess that, within the liberal arts fields, such “loss” is all but nonexistent for those who achieve tenured professor status.

    • I still think a better way to assess the “worth” of college professors is to look at non-public schools where tuition is what pays for faculty and not taxpayers.

      I bet there is a huge difference.

      • There is almost no difference. Both public and private colleges are competing for the same pool of faculty candidates. And public support for many large “public Ivys” like University of Michigan is almost negligible, e.g. 5% of its operating budge, so they operate almost like private institutions. I would expect that there is almost no difference in faculty salaries between UC-Berkeley, UM-Ann Arbor and Harvard and Princeton, etc.

        • re: public vs private.

          still would be useful to look…

          and also how many …

          many private schools are not going to have the number that public schools likely will have.

          but the bigger point here is that there are many professions, including this one, where the “value” of the work is not reduced to a pure free market as are minimum wage jobs, etc.

          no one talks about how less students will attend college because economics professors get paid more than some minimum wage… or that the price of tuition would go up if some wage limit were set…

          tenured professors are a lot like union jobs.. in some respects…also…

        • so here’s a (some would say bizarre) hypothetical question.

          what harm would be done to the country – if no public college professors of economics existed?

          what is the specific value of economics professors that people could not learn by looking at videos?

      • Your comment may or may not be true, but it ignores the issue — supply and demand. The MERITS of the field are not germane — only the supply and demand for professors in such fields.

  6. If you want to see what the free market price is for professors (at least at the undergraduate level), consider the average college salary for “instructors.”

    Sometimes derisively labeled “freeway professors” because they often teach at two or more colleges, these salaries are not subject to labor union pressures. Colleges make more rational choices in this field of hiring — trying to spend as little as possible (as any rational employers would) to get the job done competently.

    Indeed, arguably freeway professors are better classroom teachers than the tenured academics, who feel no pressure to deliver quality instruction to their students. Instructors have no tenure, and are let go if subpar, or if needs shift, or if a better instructor comes along.

    Last time I checked, a California college instructor teaching a full five course load made about $40,000 — less than half a full tenured professor. More important for instructors, there’s no pension, and often no health care.

    And yet, there are a plenty of qualified instructors out there competing for these low-pay positions. Supply and demand seem to approach equilibrium.

    BTW, in my 30+ years of being a guest speaker in scores of political science and economics college classrooms, my anecdotal experience is that the instructors work harder and prepare better than the average tenured professor.

    • what’s even more ironic and amusing is to have a public-college Professor of Economics – arguing Libertarian market principles in his blog…

      ;-)

  7. My experience is otherwise. In CA community colleges, MOST undergrad courses are taught by “instructors.” The colleges have moved away from hiring many “professors” with the literal TRIPLING of classroom teaching cost (counting benefits).

    So in CA, many of the instructors are well past age 40. Some teach part-time to supplement their income.

    Two full-time instructors who had used me as a speaker in their classes for years retired at 60+ within the last two years. Each had a PhD in their field, and were well respected by both fellow faculty and the students.

    Even if there is some age difference (which is likely), it hardly justifies the fact that college professors cost triple what instructors cost. Believe me, on average, these (formerly) pipe smiling prefessors ain’t worth the delta.

  8. Richard Rider says: “Modern day economics courses are progressive education camps, disdainful of the free market and enamored with government solutions.”

    That may be true of most instructors, at least at CU-Boulder, but not true of the actual work.

    Sometimes, less government is better, and there are many solutions that exclude government.

    “Non-progressives” generally have nothing better, at least, that can supported by reality.

  9. The amount of money fed into a technical professor’s salary is often totally disconnected from the amount of money spent by students. A chemistry professor that has $2,000,000 to $5,000,000 in research money is entirely different from an english or education professor that has little to no grant money.

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