Research in Higher Education

, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 24–46 | Cite as

Are You Satisfied? PhD Education and Faculty Taste for Prestige: Limits of the Prestige Value System

  • Emory Morrison
  • Elizabeth Rudd
  • Joseph Picciano
  • Maresi Nerad


This paper empirically evaluates Caplow and McGee’s (The academic marketplace, 1958) model of academia as a prestige value system (PVS) by testing several hypotheses about the relationship between prestige of faculty appointment and job satisfaction. Using logistic regression models to predict satisfaction with several job domains in a sample of more than 1,000 recent social science PhD graduates who hold tenure-track or tenured faculty positions, we find that the relationship between prestige of faculty appointment and job satisfaction is modified by PhD program prestige. Graduates of high prestige PhD programs value prestige more highly and graduates of low prestige programs value salary more highly. We explain our findings by incorporating reference group theory and a theory of taste formation into our model of the academic PVS, which identifies PhD programs as sites of socialization to different tastes for prestige (a process of cultural transmission) in addition to their well recognized role in transmission of human and social capital. We discuss practical and theoretical implications of our findings in relation to efforts to measure PhD program quality and to understand the structure of academic labor markets.


Faculty careers Academic labor market Job satisfaction Prestige value system Reference group theory Status systems Doctoral education PhD programs Social science PhD 



The authors wish to thank the Ford Foundation for their support of this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emory Morrison
    • 1
  • Elizabeth Rudd
    • 2
  • Joseph Picciano
    • 2
  • Maresi Nerad
    • 2
  1. 1.Mississippi State UniversityMississippi StateUSA
  2. 2.Center for Innovation and Research in Graduate EducationUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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