Date of Award

Summer 8-7-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Paula Stephan

Second Advisor

Rachana Bhatt

Third Advisor

Barry Hirsch

Fourth Advisor

Robert Toutkoushian


This dissertation focuses on the production of knowledge that contributes to economic growth through the accumulation of human capital and technological change. More specifically, I look at the proclivity and effectiveness of different types of universities and colleges to send individuals on to pursue a doctoral degree in science or engineering (S&E) and how PhD attainment relates to characteristics of students who attend these institutions and the faculty who teach at these institutions.

A tobit estimation is employed to test for institution effects, the effect of student and faculty characteristics, and also the impact of economic factors. To partially control for selection, survey results from the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) are used to determine students’ desire for a PhD when entering and exiting college.

I find that student and faculty characteristics matter, as do economic variables. Unobservable and/or un-measureable characteristics affecting PhD output, which differ systematically by type of institution, however, remain even after controlling for the aforementioned variables. Based on the analysis in this dissertation, I conclude that much of what are typically regarded as tier effects on PhD output are in fact due to the selective matching between students and their undergraduate institutions.

By adding measures for selective matching and proxies for individual opportunities, we see that ability, faculty characteristics and accomplishments, and peer effects maintain significant, positive effects on rates of PhD output. Finally, rates vary not only by institution type, but also by field.