Heidi Skovgaard Pedersen

Empirical Essays on the Labor Market Outcomes of PhD Graduates

During the past decade, policy makers have accentuated the need for more PhDs to drive innovation and use their research skills to push the technological frontier. The public sector in Denmark has financially supported a doubling of the number of enrolled PhD students based on a strong belief that PhDs accelerate growth. A major objective has been to direct more PhDs to the industry to use their skills to monetize knowledge. However, we have limited evidence on how PhDs are absorbed into the labor market, how the market values PhD labor, and how PhDs value the possibility to work in the private sector.

The dissertation investigates determinants of labor market decisions among recent cohorts of PhDs in Denmark to assess how the increasing number of PhDs is absorbed into the economy. Based on econometric models, it examines what factors trigger individual career decisions and supply and demand considerations. New evidence on how career decisions are formed based on early career trajectories may help in addressing the effects of the massive investments in training more PhDs. The dissertation is a first attempt to quantify how the growing numbers of PhDs affect their own employment opportunities. The researcher career path has surely evolved as society’s visions for PhDs’ utility in the search for knowledge, and this has led to more diverse career paths. The dissertation sheds light on how career choices are formed in the current labor market structure that new PhDs encounter early in their career.

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