This Record article, which came up previously, had an interesting discussion of salaries in the economics department.

Particular fields, such as economics and computer science, also get a premium over other departments to compensate for the more favorable market conditions.

Jon Bakija, assistant professor of economics, believes part of the reason so many people are leaving the economics department is because the salary is lower than what economists could get elsewhere. In order to come to Williams, he turned down several offers, each paying much more. “I’m kind of an exception being willing to take a much lower salary to come here,” he said.

The fact that Williams did offer a higher salary than most liberal arts schools eased the choice somewhat. He said, “I think the choice would have been harder if it was between a big state university and a liberal arts college that paid a lot less.” He said the higher salaries were necessary, “or else they’re not going to have an economics department or a computer science department.”

Hmmm. I would be curious to hear other informed commentary about the economics department. Outside of Ralph Bradburd (and Morty), I do not think that there is a single (non-emeritus) professor left from back in 1988. Now, some of these departures — Steve Lewis to head Carleton; Mike McPherson to head MacCallister; Dick Sabot to live the good life after the dotcom era — are probably not connected to salaries in the economics department. Many of the professors of 20 years ago stayed but have now retired.

Is there anything to worry about here? It is certainly the case that the top dozen (50? 100?) econ Ph.D. graduates each year have very little interest in going to places like Williams, but this is more a testament to the sort of people they are and goals that they have. I don’t think that an extra 20k would change things much. A casual reading of CV’s in the department would suggest that there are a lot of accomplished economists. Indeed, I would say that, just in terms of research productivity, Economics does as well as Political Science and, from what I can tell, other departments. So, does Williams really have any more trouble hiring economists than it does junior professors in other departments?

And, of course, this article is from 5 years ago, so perhaps things have changed in the interim.

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