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Critical mass in the production of Ph.D.s: a multi-disciplinary study


Economics of Education Review Volume 21, Number 1 ISSN 0272-7757 Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


Doctoral education in the US, while produced by not-for-profit institutions, is nonetheless carried out in a very competitive environment. We use survivor analysis to evaluate critical mass and minimum efficient scale in the production of Ph.D.s. We use data from the National Research Council's Survey of Earned Doctorates to study four academic disciplines: economics, history, physics, and psychology. We find that in economics, small programs are viable but intermediate sized programs are the norm. In history, a large number of very small programs exist, producing less than five Ph.D.s per year. Physics is characterized by somewhat larger scale production, which is not surprising given the nature of the production process in physics. Psychology seems to lend itself to large-scale production to a degree not evident in the other three disciplines. Size and quality ranking are positively correlated in economics, history, and physics, but no such relationship is apparent in psychology.


Scott, F. & Anstine, J. Critical mass in the production of Ph.D.s: a multi-disciplinary study. Economics of Education Review, 21(1), 29-42. Elsevier Ltd. Retrieved January 26, 2020 from .

This record was imported from Economics of Education Review on January 28, 2019. Economics of Education Review is a publication of Elsevier.

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