Why europe based economists prefer to study/work in US?

Guy Sorman has written a nice article on Europe based economists (HT: MR and Economix).  It discusses why large number of Europe based economists moves to US to study and prefer to stay in US after their studies as well.

Some facts:

One-third of the faculty of Harvard University’s economics department hails from Europe. At the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, half of the finance department’s faculty is European. And these schools aren’t alone: European economists are overrepresented at all first-tier American universities and have had a huge influence on economic thinking, doing cutting-edge research in areas ranging from modeling financial markets to assessing risk.


These academics—most of them young rising stars escaping the mediocrity and politicization of economics departments in their countries of origin—see top American schools as the best places to study and teach. “When one wants to become a real economist, to accumulate knowledge and recognition, one has no choice but the United States,” says Chicago’s Luigi Zingales, an Italian who is a leader in the hot field of financial regulation. He’s right—for the time being, anyway.

Why moved to US to study?

Many of the Europeans first came to the U.S. as graduate students, frustrated by the limited options offered by European universities. “I was initially trained at Brussels Free University,” says Zingales’s colleague Marianne Bertrand, who has been at the Booth School since 2000. “But when I decided to go for a Ph.D. in the 1990s”—she earned hers from Harvard in 1998—“the U.S. was the only sensible destination.” Getting a doctorate in her native Belgium was unappealing, she explains, because students were left on their own, with little academic support or oversight; many Ph.D. candidates she knew became discouraged after a few years and gave up.

Thirty years ago, when he was an undergraduate studying economics at Milan’s prestigious Bocconi University, “nobody even knew what an economics Ph.D. was,” recalls Alberto Alesina, who earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard in the mid-eighties and today is a tenured professor there, an expert in macroeconomic theory. …..Christian Hellwig, a young German economist at UCLA, “no German university was delivering an internationally recognized Ph.D. in economics.” (Hellwig did his graduate work not in the U.S., however, but at the London School of Economics.)

Why stayed on in US after completing their studies?

Nor did Europe offer much appeal once the doctorate was in hand. Zingales tried to return to Italy in 1984, after completing his degree at MIT, but the best job offer he could get was a mediocre research assistantship at a second-rate university. Twenty years later, he might have won tenure at the school, he says, but only if he had the right connections. Even the best Italian universities—and this was true of European schools in general—were dominated by autocratic and hierarchical traditions. Without belonging to the right academic network and having the right sponsors, career progress was difficult, if not impossible.

Obsolete and disproved Marxist and socialist thinking also remained strong within European universities, including in economics departments. Many young economists, scientifically oriented and so recognizing the superiority of free markets, found the climate intellectually stultifying. It remains the case that most French and Italian universities teach economics as a philosophical subject—with opinions mattering as much as facts—not a scientific subject. A Keynesian, statist perspective still dominates most European curricula: free-market professors are an embattled minority.

Interesting throughout. Though, times are changing and European univs are waking up. Some economists have moved back to Europe. Some univs in Asia especially China and Korea are also trying.  But all still far off from what US offers. What could be a better fitting to this article than the Bernancer Prize. Just like Clark Medal, it is awarded to europe based economists under age of 40. If you look at the list of winners so far all based in US univs barring Philip Lane.  

As showed in this superb paper flow of economic thought moved from Netherlands/Europe to US in quick time. US dominates everything when it comes to economics- studying, teaching, research work etc. Even doing research on US economy gives your paper higher chances of being published.

4 Responses to “Why europe based economists prefer to study/work in US?”

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  4. xyz Says:

    Why is there not much research from economists in India? Or maybe it is not highlighted well enough.

    You had a post about Rakesh Mohan’s website. From there I came upon TCA Srinivasa Raghavan. A google search led me to a very interesting study on the economics of reservation policy in engineering colleges in India. It’s an excellent study. But I was disappointed when I found out that the Indian sounding authors were actually Indian-Americans. Good on them but why can’t we come up with good research ourselves?

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