There’s a new study about the diminishing returns available to those of us brainiacs who went out and earned ourselves a Ph.D.–

Here’s a new angle on the jobs crisis facing people with Ph.D.’s.

The economics blogger Mike Mandel was curious about the role that various credentials play in the U.S. economy….perhaps people should flee the Ph.D. path, given another figure Mandel uncovered. While the inflation-adusted earnings of workers with bachelor’s or masters degrees have increased very slightly since 1999–a rise of one percent or less–the story was quite different for the doctorate. Employees with Ph.D.’s can expect to earn 10 percent less, in real dollars, than they would have a decade ago. “Yowza,” Mandel writes.

There’s a nifty graph over at the original post, for the visual learners among you.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading Trollope for the first time. I can’t believe no one ever suggested I should read Trollope before. Barchester Towers (1857) is hilariously funny. But the following passage, introducing Mr. Arabin, strikes me as most apposite to the statistics above. Mr. Arabin is a clergyman, who had while a student been a Tractarian, and had since cloistered himself at Oxford to fight doctrinal and institutional battles with the Evangelicals, represented in the novel by the slimy Mr. Slope. Here’s is Arabin’s arrival in Barchester, where as a forty year old bachelor he takes up a church living there worth ₤300 per annum.

It did not occur to Mr. Arabin that he was spoken of at all. It seemed to him, when he compared himself with his host, that he was a person of so little consequence to any, that he was worth no one’s words or thoughts. He was utterly alone in the world as regarded domestic ties and those inner familiar relations which are hardly possible between others than husbands and wives, parents and children, or brothers and sisters. He had often discussed with himself the necessity of such bonds for a man’s happiness in this world, and had generally satisfied himself with the answer that happiness in this world is not a necessity. Herein he deceived himself, or rather tried to do so. He, like others, yearned for the enjoyment of whatever he saw enjoyable, and though he attempted, with the modern stoicism of so many Christians, to make himself believe that joy and sorrow were matters which here should be held as perfectly indifferent, these things were not indifferent to him. He was tired of his Oxford rooms and his college life. He regarded the wife and children of his friend with something like envy; he all but coveted the pleasant drawing-room, with its pretty windows opening on to lawns and flower-beds, the apparel of the comfortable house, and—above all—the air of home which encompassed it all.

It will be said that no time can have been so fitted for such desires on his part as this, when he had just possessed himself of a country parish, of a living among fields and gardens, of a house which a wife would grace. It is true there was a difference between the opulence of Plumstead and the modest economy of St. Ewold, but surely Mr. Arabin was not a man to sigh after wealth! Of all men, his friends would have unanimously declared he was the last to do so. But how little our friends know us! In his period of stoical rejection of this world’s happiness, he had cast from him as utter dross all anxiety as to fortune. He had, as it were, proclaimed himself to be indifferent to promotion, and those who chiefly admired his talents, and would mainly have exerted themselves to secure to them their deserved reward, had taken him at his word. And now, if the truth must out, he felt himself disappointed—disappointed not by them but by himself. The daydream of his youth was over, and at the age of forty he felt that he was not fit to work in the spirit of an apostle. He had mistaken himself, and learned his mistake when it was past remedy. He had professed himself indifferent to mitres and diaconal residences, to rich livings and pleasant glebes, and now he had to own to himself that he was sighing for the good things of other men on whom, in his pride, he had ventured to look down.

Not for wealth, in its vulgar sense, had he ever sighed; not for the enjoyment of rich things had he ever longed; but for the allotted share of worldly bliss which a wife, and children, and happy home could give him, for that usual amount of comfort which he had ventured to reject as unnecessary for him, he did now feel that he would have been wiser to have searched.

He knew that his talents, his position, and his friends would have won for him promotion, had he put himself in the way of winning it. Instead of doing so, he had allowed himself to be persuaded to accept a living which would give him an income of some £300 a year should he, by marrying, throw up his fellowship. Such, at the age of forty, was the worldly result of labour which the world had chosen to regard as successful. The world also thought that Mr. Arabin was, in his own estimation, sufficiently paid. Alas! Alas! The world was mistaken, and Mr. Arabin was beginning to ascertain that such was the case.

And here may I beg the reader not to be hard in his judgement upon this man. Is not the state at which he has arrived the natural result of efforts to reach that which is not the condition of humanity? Is not modern stoicism, built though it be on Christianity, as great an outrage on human nature as was the stoicism of the ancients? The philosophy of Zeno was built on true laws, but on true laws misunderstood and therefore misapplied. It is the same with our Stoics here, who would teach us that wealth and worldly comfort and happiness on earth are not worth the search. Alas, for a doctrine which can find no believing pupils and no true teachers!

Poor Arabin! If we recall that Oxford fellows at the time were clergy, the comparison between Arabin and the professoriate gets pretty uncomfortable. Even Trollope can’t satirize this guy without feeling a little chagrin, as evidenced above all by that last paragraph, and by his various interjections of pity throughout.

I immediately reread this passage with growing melancholy. I don’t think I’m alone among professors in sighing just like Arabin, and sometimes feeling that “that usual amount of comfort which he had ventured to reject as unnecessary for him, he did now feel that he would have been wiser to have searched.”

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