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Academic Labor Markets and Careers.

The last few years have witnessed an increasing interest in the academic labor market. The William G. Bowen and Julia A. Sosa book is a broad demand and supply study. It is a sophisticated analysis, incorporating enrollment projections, student-faculty ratios, the number of new doctorate holders, and faculty retirement and other departure rates. Unfortunately, the book lacks an index.

The authors have projected that during the 1997-2002 period, the demand for faculty in the arts and sciences will exceed the supply, especially in the humanities and social sciences. This projection is, however, premised upon certain debatable assumptions - a decline in total student enrollment well into the 1990's, no change in the number of U.S. residents securing doctorates, and a declining proportion of doctorate holders seeking faculty positions.

College enrollments have not declined despite predictions to the contrary. Moreover, the number of foreign students is increasing, but was not included in the enrollment calculations. If an improved academic labor market materialized, the number of doctorates awarded and those doctorate holders seeking academic positions may then be expected to increase rapidly, as in the 1960's. Two other significant factors were omitted from the author's calculations: (1)thousands of doctorate holders who left academia in the 1970's and 1980's and may want to return to it, and (2) that in many disciplines, the academic labor market is increasingly global. Because of global excesses in numerous disciplines, any potential American shortages can be easily corrected. For these reasons, it is highly doubtful that there will be any significant faculty shortages in the near future.

Dolores L. Burke's A New Academic Marketplace has replicated The Academic Marketplace (1958), by Theodore Caplow and Reece J. McGee. Burke's book is based on a study of 304 personnel decisions at six major research universities during the 1983-85 period. Methodology and data comparisons of the two studies appear in the appendix.

Burke found that the faculty job search process is more open now that available positions are advertised, at least for the junior ranks. At the senior level, persons are sought through personal contacts. What has not changed is that the prestige of the applicant's doctoral institution plays a determining role in securing one's first position. More emphasis is placed on research and national departmental rankings than in earlier years. Despite closer examination of applicants' credentials, 25.7 percent were denied tenure. The percentage of those leaving academia is higher than in earlier years and also higher than in comparable professions. While some explanations have been provided, further research is needed.

A major weakness of the book is that it fails to discuss supply and demand in the academic labor market. This leads to the misconception that the large number of applicants for advertised positions is more a function of open listing of positions than their numbers would indicate. Actually, there has been an ample supply of qualified applicants since the late 1960's, with, with multiple effects upon recruitment and retention of faculty.

Academic Labor Markets and Careers, edited by David W. Breneman and Ted I. K. Youn, contains Youn's review of the various approaches to studying the academic labor market. He shows that there are multiple academic labor markets within a highly differentiated system of institutions - from graduate schools to community colleges.

In their study of biochemists, Robert McGinnis and J. Scott Long have supported Burke's findings that the prestige of the applicant's doctoral institution is of great importance in securing one's first position. One's research productivity has little or no effect on securing the first position although it may be the best predictor of future productivity.

In their chapter, Rachel A. Rosenfeld and Jo Ann Jones concluded that when one leaves academia, it is rare to return to it. Because the academic labor market has been depressed for some time, there are important implications for former and potential academics. Howard P. Tuckman and Karen L. Pickerill reveal that temporary and part-time academic employment rarely leads to permanent positions. Because such employment is chosen by many who cannot find permanent positions, individual and socio-economic implications are significant here as well.

The Breneman and Youn work is uneven, partly because it is loosely edited. The editors' aim of integrating economic and sociological perspectives was not followed by the contributors, in that they did not coauthor their chapters from multidisciplinary perspectives. The volume also includes three previously published articles and one conference paper. The irregular format for chapter references, misspellings, and the repetition of an author's name in the index are in sharp contrast to Burke's book, which is free of these kinds of errors. Although, on pp. 40 and 104, "social studies" is incorrectly used when "social sciences" is meant.

The Breneman and Youn volume also fails to discuss the supply of and demand for academics. All three works, however, give a realistic picture of how the academic labor market functions, its imperfections, and some of the potential implications for those within and outside academia. These books are of special interest to educational policymakers, academics, and potential academics.
COPYRIGHT 1991 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Dreijmanis, John
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Feb 1, 1991
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