July 06, 2003
What Should College Professors Be Paid?

The past is a different country. Even the relatively recent past of, say, a century ago is a very different country. In 1905 "G.H.M.", an anonymous college professor, wrote a four-page article for the Atlantic Monthly in which he pleaded for more money for college professor salaries, and claimed to be vastly underpaid. The first thing to note is the relative level of professorial salaries back then: he claimed that the "average college professorís salary"--the salary that he saw as clearly inadequate and unfairly low--"is about $2,000." Stan Lebergott's estimates in the Historical Statistics of the United States are that the average annual earnings of an employee in America in 1905 were $490 dollars if employed for the entire year--or $451 taking account of the hazards of unemployment. What G.H.M. says is the average college professor's salary is more than four times annual average earnings of the time. Today's professors don't make such large relative salaries (except in business, law, and medical schools). In order to match turn-of-the-century college professors in terms of income relative to the national average, a professor today would have to make an academic salary of roughly $250,000--a height far above any professorial average, and one...

Posted by DeLong at 04:09 PM

April 30, 2002
International Productivity Comparisons

My main point, however, is that the world is complicated, and single statistics are bound to be incomplete. Anyone who presents to you one single number for a nation--and then draws sweeping conclusions from it--is interested in driving you into the corral as if you were a panicked sheep. Don't pay attention to such people....

Posted by DeLong at 03:28 PM

February 14, 2001
A Hint of Light at the End of the Tunnel of World Development

The World's Income Distribution: Turning the Corner? Twenty five years ago you could indeed powerfully argue that on a fundamental level the world economy was not working. It was generating better technology and more output, yes, but was it making good use of that output to advance social welfare? It seemed as though the answer was no, at least not for the poorer half of the people on the globe. As time passed the world was becoming richer, but it also became a massively more unequal place. The difference in living standards, productivity levels, and life chances between rich and poor parts of the world was greater in 1975 than it had been in 1925, and vastly greater in 1975 than it had been in 1800. Since 1975, however, we have turned a very important corner. As Yale economist T. Paul Schultz was the first (to my knowledge) to point out, since 1975 global inequality in personal incomes has not been rising but falling. Since 1975 the world has not only become a richer place, but the world's poor have seen their incomes grow faster than the world's rich. From this perspective, therefore, the world economy has been performing a...

Posted by DeLong at 05:05 PM