Stay or leave? Optimal career strategies in academia

Andrea Seidl, Vienna University of Technology
Fouad El Ouardighi, École Supérieure des Sciences Économiques et Commerciales (ESSEC)
Gustav Feichtinger, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU), Vienna Institute of Demography/Austrian Academy of Science
Stefan Wrzaczek, Vienna University of Technology

Some areas of science face the problem that the best people leave academia for the private sector. The present paper investigates by means of an optimal control model how the reward of competencies in research and teaching in the private sector affects investments into these skills as well as the decision on whether and when to optimally leave academia. We show that if competencies are well paid in the private sector, the most competent people will leave academia. We find scenarios in which a scholar will first try to improve his or her skills before leaving academia and scenarios in which it is optimal to become lazy and not put much effort into work. Even if professors are highly skilled and motivated to stay, if poor working conditions do not support knowledge acquisition, competencies will inevitabely fall and academia will only consist of mediocre people in the long run.

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Presented in Session 99: Economics, human capital and labour markets