“Overproduction of PhDs” is a demonstrably false claim:
The unemployment rate for PhDs in 2011 was 2.5%, and the median weekly earnings were $1551 (> $80,000 per year). This is much greater than any other level of educational attainment other than professional degrees (law, medicine, etc). There is only “overproduction of PhDs” if you assume that PhDs are only being produced to become faculty members who go on to train additional PhDs.
If there was “overproduction of PhDs”, then PhDs wouldn’t be making so much more money than almost anyone else. And considering that in the natural sciences, you get your PhD for free–and even get paid while doing so–it is an excellent deal. [snip]
...The fact that many institutions are cutting back their production of PhDs for fiscal reasons is far from salutary, and in the long run is going to severely harm the competitiveness of the US economy as compared to other advanced and developing economies whose politics aren’t grossly distorted by deranged racist misogynist white jeezus-freak lunatics.MikeTheMadBiologist rightly responds that medical scientist (entry-level degree: Ph.D.) supply is growing, but their median earnings are not (from 2000-2011.)
In my other wanderings on the internet, it seems that Comrade Physioprof's response is a fairly common response from those who are academically connected: the college wage premium continues to justify going to college. But as the financial industry likes to remind me when I'm signing checks over for my Roth IRA, past performance is not indicative of future results. CPP is pointing to all employed Ph.D.s and attempting to use those numbers to argue about the most recent cohorts.
Overproduction is best indicated by salary trends and not by single data points; I am unmoved by Comrade Physioprof's reasoning.
(In case people are wondering -- what are the salary trends for chemists? From Bethany Halford's invaluable article in 2011 C&EN, "Doctoral Dilemma":
To get a sense of demand, Swift suggests looking at chemists’ wages over a decade or so to see whether they’ve kept pace with inflation. Such an examination, however, gives mixed results. From 1998 to 2009, the inflation-adjusted salaries for industry- and government-employed Ph.D. chemists went up 12% and 19%, respectively. On the other hand, salaries of academic chemists dipped about 1% over the same period. Doing the same exercise for starting salaries of Ph.D. chemists “may be more sensitive to changes in demand for chemists as well as supply,” Swift notes. Those data indicate that inflation-adjusted starting salaries for Ph.D.s are down by about 1%, data that Swift says “are suggestive of oversupply in some sectors.”Well, that's certainly not good news.)