An economic explanation.
Can vouch that as an undergrad at Reed about fifteen years ago, I watched this very drama play out on campus. I came in watching the tail end of a second failed faculty search for an Economics professor where Reed tried to maintain equal faculty pay across all disciplines, and after receiving feedback from the candidates that declined the position who said they were offered more $$ elsewhere, they began a third search with a substantially higher salary offer, much to the immense and vocal displeasure of several of my professors in the Sciences (and I imagine other disciplines as well…).
I think it's very weird for sociologists or liberal arts professors to fixate on economics professors' salaries when lots of other fields get higher average & median salaries. The argument (see https://twitter.com/JessicaCalarco/status/1704894737172627659 for example) that it's all about economists' government positions and status seems very odd to me when you look at all the other disciplines that also get paid more. I don't think "accountant" is a super prestigious title--the field is (unfairly) a shorthand for a boring, soulless job--but professors of accounting make substantially more than most economics professors.
Some of the responses and alternative explanations sound more like cope than a serious attempt at explaining wage differentials, which is also slightly odd because I don't think most sociologists secretly wish they were working at Amazon or an investment bank, so "economists have outside options at <insert evil firm here>" seems like it would satisfy a lot of people's egos, but I guess not in the way they wanted?
"you have to take more math classes (which Americans hate)"
Rather than a "compensating differential", why not just view math talent as scarce. That is, it's not that people need to get paid to endure dull classes, it's that there are fewer people making it through the classes and hence a supply shortage and higher prices.
This is a quite interesting column. But I think on the sociologist side of the argument there may be something to elite perspective or prejudice. Economists get paid more than sociologists or English professors because those in charge believe they add more value. They may be right or wrong.
I can add a personal story. I began a career as an archivist in the mid 1970's. After about a decade I switched to corporate records management and in the last decade of my career(I retired about 6 years ago) corporate records management mostly functioned as ediscovery support. My salary shot upward way beyond what I ever expected to earn. This mostly related to panic surrounding e-discovery and corporations and often law firms being unprepared to address (see https://cloudnine.com/ediscoverydaily/case-law/ediscovery-history-a-look-back-at-zubulake/)
The panic drove salaries upward. My key skill was not really a command of IT needed to meet ediscovery requirements but to know just enough of the legal and IT world to act as a translator between folks who had great difficulty understanding one another. By the end of my career I was in the same job classification as attorneys. It was quite a ride.
Because we economists are smarter than sociologists! sorry, a brief undergraduate flirtation with sociology has left me jaundiced about sociology.
From the perspective of a non-scientist in either field, I view Economists as those studying the monetary value/implications of society's choices, and sociologists as merely concerning themselves with the personal or group results of those choices. Sociologists to me are the lesser value as their 'product' has no obvious measurable enhancements to society, whereas an economist may produce actual recommendations for greater prosperity - and in our highly materialistic society we want measurable & monetarily beneficial ideas ! IOW I care much less what a sociologist may say than what an economist may say ! Sorry sociologists !
TL/DR: Economics is seen as useful by the private sector, sociology isn't, thus, economists make more.
If sociologists want to make more money, produce something companies will pay for.
Same reason for any wage differential
Too long. We, economists are reductionists. We try to generate social phenomena from individual level behaviour.
That is scientific explanation, anything else is (more or less fantastic) literature. Now, some sociologists and other social scientists do the same, so they are “honorary economists”, the rest are outside mainstream science, because the core of science is reduction.
Now do the one where you explain why economics professors earn more than statistics professors.
The demand-side explanation is pretty compelling. Take a look at what medical school and law school professors make. Higher-paying non-academic alternatives are substantially greater for economists than sociologists.
It is really silly to make this so theoretical. The answer is that economists get paid a lot more outside of academia and thus are hard to recruit because of large demand. Same for engineers, business school professors, doctors, etc. Sociologists, historians, and English lit PhDs have very few other options, and most pay less, not more. So the only demand is created by academia itself, and academia produces more graduates in these fields than positions for them to take.
Or just possibly there is a large market for telling rich people what they want to hear.
People choose to pursue certain fields for a variety of factors, some personal. When I was thirteen my mother gave me a book entitled Mathematics from the Time-Life Science Series. I fell in love. I found my calling. I am amazed that I sometimes meet people who believe that I hate math as much as they do and that I became a mathematician only because I thought it would lead to a lucrative career (or to meet men).
I’d say supply for sociology prof jobs might start off near horizontal at a fairly high number and then kink up (supply Dems d curve for liberal arts academia more like a “T” than an “X”.)The fundamental issue is that econ profs can get real jobs and sociology profs can’t. I know people who would gladly take that sociology professor job for $50k just for the prestige and the ability to indoctrinate.
This is an interesting column but on the sociologists side there is something about elite perspectives or prejudices. Perhaps economists are paid more because those at the top think they add more value and deserve more. Here is something from my personal experience. I began a career as an archivist in the mid 1970s and within a decade switched to corporate records management. By the last decade of my career (retired in 2017) I mostly functioned in an ediscovery support function. My salary zoomed upward as management panicked over the inability of internal and external legal teams to comply with legal requirements applicable to information stored on computers -- see (https://cloudnine.com/ediscoverydaily/case-law/ediscovery-history-a-look-back-at-zubulake/
By the time I retired I was in the same job classification as attorneys. This was considerably more money than I ever expected to earn and I see more as a matter of luck than anything else.
My super power really wasnt understanding tools to harvest and preserve information required by courts and regulators as much as to serve as a translator between IT and Legal who had great difficulty communicating with one another.
The opportunity cost is higher for the economists. An economist can go work in the private sector more easily, which pays more, and that’s why universities have to attract them with higher salaries