Where does it pay to be an academic?

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In a survey of academic salaries in 15 countries around the world, Canada came out on top, with an average monthly salary of $4,856 per month (in PPP dollars), and China came last with a monthly salary of $1,182. This is according to data collected by the Boston College Center for International Higher Education and reported in the most recent edition of International Higher Education. In general, academics in developing countries have lower salaries than their counterparts in the developed world.

Given these huge differentials, one might expect even more of a brain drain from places like China to Canada than is currently taking place. Of course, government barriers to movement of labor might play a part, and differences in the quality of faculty might also be part of the puzzle. But I don't think that this can fully explain how Canadian salaries are more than four times that in China. There is at least one missing piece that explains this puzzle.

While academics in developing countries had lower wages than their counterparts abroad, they still had salaries that were much larger than the average GDP per capita in their home countries. Faculty in India make 8.7 times more than the average GDP per capita, while that figure is 5.8 and 5.4 for South Africa and Colombia, respectively. In contrast, academics in countries like the United States and Germany earn only between 1.4 and 2.2 times the GDP per capita. In other words, it looks plausible that some academics don't care just about their level of absolute wealth - their wealth relative to the rest of society must be bringing them some utility as well.


Ryan Hahn

Operations Officer

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