Dissertators with Distantly Related Foci Face Divergent Near-Term Outcomes
32 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2020 Last revised: 13 Jul 2022
Date Written: September 2020
Institutional leaders have long championed interdisciplinary research; however, researchers have paid relatively little attention to the people responding to such calls and their subsequent career outcomes. With the benefit of two large datasets spanning from 1986 through 2016, we show that interdisciplinary dissertations have become consistently more common in recent years as institutional leaders have highlighted the value of boundary-spanning research for solving important and emergent problems. With the benefit of survey data from a near-complete population of all dissertators in the US starting in 2001 through 2016, we observe a consistent upward trend in interdisciplinary dissertations. Unfortunately, we show that these interdisciplinary dissertators have experienced a comparably persistent penalty when considering salaries for their first year after earning the PhD. We also show that among interdisciplinary dissertators, individuals in lower-paying fields tend to earn more when choosing distantly related topic-combinations whereas researchers in higher-paying fields tend to be most rewarded for staying within relatively narrow disciplinary silos.
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