Sunday, September 02, 2007

Whining about faculty salaries

Summing up his total expenditures for these nine years, and in like manner his salary for the same period, [this author, a university professor] finds his expenditures have been to his salary in the ratio of 2.1 to 1.

His average annual expenditure has been [2.1 times X].

His average salary has been [X].

For the privilege of teaching he has paid the difference, of [1.1 times X] annually, from private means.

Even the unbusinesslike professor must pause before such a state of affairs, and try to fathom the reason for this discrepancy, when his firm belief is that he is living on as low a scale of economy as is possible for him in his position.

It's an American professor writing (under the pseudonym G.H.M.) about the low salaries at the turn of -- get this -- the previous century! Read Brad DeLong's fascinating post for GHM's article as well as a commentary on the economic well being of the Americans during the first decades of the twentieth century.


  1. Biswajit said...

    I think one thing Brad misses is a comparison of the income of the professor with that of his students. Did his students make ~$500 upon graduating or ~$2500?

    Regarding your earlier post on Indian professors and their pay:

    Fresh graduates from my alma mater were offered a median salary of Rs. 4.5 lakhs p.a in 2007 (with a high of ~25 lakhs p.a and a low of ~0.9 lakh p.a). Their professors take in a median salary of ~2.5-3 lakhs p.a.

    So a comparison with the take home pay of a day labourer is not the issue. The issue is: Why will the smartest students ever get into professing (unless they are not particularly practical)?


  2. Rahul said...

    Anecdotal evidence is not evidence even if it comes from 100 years ago. I'm sure we can find professors who make $200000 today who complain that they live beyond their means. G.H.M.'s description of life is interesting and all, but one should not immediately assume it is representative.

    Biswajit -- why is it "not particularly practical" to choose an academic job today? You don't make what you would in a corporate job, but you make far more than most Indians do. More to the point, it ensures a good quality of life even in the metro cities (though it helps that most top academic institutions provide housing). You won't find that particular combination of comfort and complete freedom in any other profession.

  3. Pratik . said...

    I guess Biswajit means it is "not particularly practical" from a purely financial standpoint.

    So far as the housing goes, if you join a good corporate job upon finishing your undergrad, after 6-7 years (ie when your contemporaries in academics get a steady academic job), the amount you make will be substantial to afford better housing than what universities can provide, with a better savings to boot.

    So far as making "far more than most Indians do" - well, if that argument sounds good, one might as well tell the top flight industrialists to stop minting their millions and joining a call center is a good option, since even then, they would be making "far more than what most Indians do".

    The issue is not about making more than others, but not making as much as you have the potential to make.

    My own take is that any job has two key aspects - the monetary rewards and the freedom to pursue your interests (which in turn includes job satisfaction). So it all boils down to how much one is ready to give up for his "freedom".