Graduate School

Well I am, at least for the moment, back on the grad school train. Which is to say I’m working out a plan to apply to PhD programs in economics for fall 2018. I’ve had a longstanding ambivalence about grad school, but I do have a book coming out this month, and my co-author urged me strongly to take advantage of the moment and apply to schools. My father has long advocated for me to try for a PhD as well, and so I’ve begun the process. I have to take the GRE sometime this fall, and figure out where I want to apply and so on. Already I feel doubtful.

There are two major reasons why I won’t go to a PhD program. The first is that I have not taken real analysis (whatever that is). My math is not strong – it’s, you know, halfway decent, but Markov chains and Euler functions are quite beyond me. In any event, I’d have to find a way to do another couple years of math classes (with what time? with what money?) to get myself through real analysis, but since I’m trying to do this now, it’s not a possibility. The irony, of course, is that you don’t even really need real analysis to do good economics, it’s just a filter that economics programs use to separate the wheat from the chaff.

The second reason is because my partner is a committed farmer. Going to graduate school means being separated from my family. Which is why the only way I can go at all is if the program is just right. If they give me money to go and the program means I can get a better paying job when I’m done.

The flipside of this is, of course, doing a PhD is very compelling for me. I enjoy research and writing, and being back at school would mean more of both of those things. And, more generally, it would mean being around a university again. Although ultimately what I really want is to be on the other side of that salary and benefits package divide. It feels just out of reach for me.

So, basically, I’m going to apply to graduate school, but I’m assuming I won’t get in, or at least won’t get the kind of opportunity I’d need to rationalize leaving my current situation. But once that’s done, I’ll be able to put this whole thing to bed.

Published by samuelbarbour

Besides writing a blog, I also teach, farm, cook, and play music. I live in the Illinois River Valley with my partner, Molly Breslin, who sometimes posts stuff at

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