Sunday, October 18, 2009

How things changed: in the 1970's no one really smart wanted to go into banking

Krugman in his post on October 15 says the following:

"Smart guys and Wall Street
I’m a little late on this great Calvin Trillin piece, but it accords with my own more specialized memories from grad school. The year I got my PhD (1977), there was a very clear ranking of desirable career paths. The best economics grad students went into academic jobs; the middle went to the Fed or the IMF; the bottom went, poor souls, to Wall Street.

Even then this meant an inverse relationship between academic ranking and income, since new assistant professors were paid only around $15,000, equivalent to a bit more than 50K today. But the prestige differences more than offset the pay differentials, at least as we saw it then. And one thing that’s hard to convey is how boring business seemed in the 1960s and 1970s. (”I’ve got just one word for you: plastics.”)

But even a decade later, it was the guys who went off to investment banks who were buying the third homes, while the top students were trying to eke out their incomes with an occasional consulting gig. And it wasn’t just the money: business stopped being so boring, and was even getting to be fun for some people. The old conviction that the academic life was the ideal definitely began to fray at the edges"

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