Friday, March 30, 2007

in surf city it was two girls for every boy; in soc city it's three retirees for every new ph.d.

The big annual meeting of demographers is going on in New York City, and even though I'm not able to attend, I thought I could at least write a demographically-minded post. The new issue of Footnotes, the newsletter of the American Sociological Association, has an article titled "Too Few Ph.D.'s" that makes the following observation:
"Since 1993, the 'replacement rate'--the ratio of the annual number of new PhDs awarded to the number of PhDs retiring--has steadily declined in all social science disciplines. Figure 1 shows the replacement rate between 1993 and 2003 for these disciplines. ... By 2003 (the last year for which data were available), there were two-thirds of a new psychology PhD for every PhD psychology retiree. In contrast, there was less than one third (.29) of a new PhD for every one PhD retiree in sociology."
Among other things, this observation would seem to explain:

1. My sense that, in certain institutional respects, the experience of my broad cohort in sociology has resembled that of a game of musical chairs, only except instead removing chairs, removing people.

2. The increasing difficulties editors report in finding people to peer review articles.


Corey said...

One would think that this structural situation makes for an attractive job market for young scholars in the social sciences. However, many institutions are not replacing retirees at a 1 to 1 ratio. My current institution, for instance, went from 15 tenure track sociologists in the late 1980s to 9 today. Despite the evidence that we are carrying a heavier load than many other departments, it's hard to get tenure lines out of the central administraiton.

Did the Footnotes article touch on this tendency at all (e.g., the increasing use of adjunct or otherwise non-tenure track labor to replace retirees?) I would go read it myself, but I let my membership lapse and am trying to decide if it's worth the dues this year. [The ASA's dues fee structure is a whole other issue].

Ang said...

...I came here to post, but Corey answered my question. And, uh, scared the daylights out of me.

Anonymous said...

The world is your oyster.

Corey said...

Sorry... didn't mean to scare anyone. If my cohort is any indicator, people are getting jobs. I just wondered if the Footnotes piece was painting too rosy of a picture. [Having not read the article at all, I may have misread Jeremy's point].

Incidently, if anyone on the market does law and society type stuff, we're (West Virginia) recruiting. You can drop me a line if interested.

Drek said...

Hell, if my cohort is an answer, then finding a job is a little like capturing a Yeti. Difficult, time-consuming, and fraught with the suspicion that your prey is a myth.

Ang said...

Corey, I'm just being dramatic. I like to worry about the job market and the adjunct problem generally, almost as if it were a hobby.

Anonymous said...

"I just wondered if the Footnotes piece was painting too rosy of a picture."

Footnotes...rosy picture...that'd be a first! But seriously...they go out of their way to do just the opposite. hand-wringing about teh "unemployment" of Ph.D.s as if they had serious numbers.

Anonymous said...

What do sociologists DO?

Tom Volscho said...

At my university there was a downsizing wave in 2002-04 where they gave some of the older faculty "sweet deal" retirement packages and then filled the labor gaps by increasing the teaching burdens of graduate students and hiring adjuncts.

The money does not flow like it used to from the university, so as many readers of this blog know, grant-getters are in high demand. The last three hires at my school were proficient grant-getters.

I know a lot of the people being recruited to run public universities are coming out of the corporate sector, MBA, etc. As we all know, they really do try to point the universities into more of a market orientation (even with decades of structural and path dependence). This means that some people have to make intellectual compromises.