Arnold Kling  

Japanese Central Planners at Work

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From Nature:


Of all the countries in which to graduate with a science PhD, Japan is arguably one of the worst. In the 1990s, the government set a policy to triple the number of postdocs to 10,000, and stepped up PhD recruitment to meet that goal. The policy was meant to bring Japan's science capacity up to match that of the West -- but is now much criticized because, although it quickly succeeded, it gave little thought to where all those postdocs were going to end up.

Academia doesn't want them: the number of 18-year-olds entering higher education has been dropping, so universities don't need the staff. Neither does Japanese industry, which has traditionally preferred young, fresh bachelor's graduates who can be trained on the job.

Read the whole article, which also points to an excess supply of Ph.D's in the U.S. Pointer from Timothy Taylor, who already is nearly as indispensable as Mark Thoma.


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COMMENTS (2 to date)
Shangwen writes:

This isn't surprising, and it confirms my own belief that, factoring in all lifetime costs and benefits, a master's degree is the highest most people should go, if that. I know some of these people. Indeed, a colleague of mine just hired an early-30s PhD with 2 post-docs...for $40,000/yr.

The matter is somewhat complex.

Whether science doctorates in Japan or high fructose corn syrup in the USA, government incentives are problematic on any level, from any perspective. So, there is that.

Over 200 years ago, explaining the consequences of subsidy, Adam Smith pointed out that doctors and lawyers go into professions that pay, while other degrees qualify you for poverty.

Whether and to what extent education is job training is a different question entirely. Astronaut Story Musgrave has seven graduate degrees in math, computers, chemistry, medicine, physiology, literature and psychology. (His MD is from Columbia.) He liked college more than he liked high school because he quit to join the Marines.

It all depends on the individual.

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