Why Context Matters

pp 119-140

Academic Employment Networks and Departmental Prestige

  • Debra HevenstoneAffiliated withUSA & ETH Zurich, University of Michigan


Research has found a correlation between academic departments’ rank and their centrality in academic hiring networks. This correlation results from the fact that highly ranked schools train more PhDs, their graduates are more likely to find first jobs in academia, and that they have more faculty. This study is the first to consider this correlation independent of training and department size. One expects no correlation because mid-career academics move between institutions for a variety of reasons such as wages, location, and specialty areas. Nevertheless, this study finds that the correlation persists; suggesting individuals are more willing to make career switches to top departments or between them. This gives top departments a competitive advantage and positive returns to their rank, with their faculty disproportionately linked to institutions and researchers at other departments. This could be one reason for the stagnancy of academic rankings.