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Monday, January 8, 2007
What do grad school grades mean?
Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution points to a paper by an all-star team of economists who have done a rigorous study of what the grades of first-year graduate school students actually predict at the nation's top economics programs. (Similar studies at undergraduate programs have found, to my knowledge, that freshman grades predict quite a bit, including final transcripts and job market success.)
One result: "Students who attended elite undergraduate universities and liberal arts colleges are more likely to be placed in top ranked academic jobs." This is not surprising and squares with the anecdotal experience of my friends and acquaintances in grad school. (They all seem to hate it, by the way, as Josh apparently did.) Another principal result, as Cowen highlights:
[W]e find that first-year Micro and Macro grades are statistically significant predictors of student job placement, even conditional on Ph.D. completion. Conditional on first-year grades, GRE scores, foreign citizenship, sex, and having a prior Masters degree do not predict job placement.
I'd call the second sentence of that the most interesting. A lot of factors there are overshadowed by first-year grades. That GRE scores say little is surprising to me. Maybe having a knack for graduate school is a more specialized skill.