I keep getting emails from people regarding the much-discussed Simkovic/McIntyre paper, so I thought it would be worth reiterating a few basic points: ...
(1) Over the time period covered by the authors’ study, their data
indicate that earnings for all law degree holders have remained flat,
while the cost of law school has risen sharply. This means that, per
their analysis, the value of a law degree has declined significantly in absolute terms during the time period covered by their study,
even if one assumes that recent graduates will not suffer any decline
in their career earnings relative to older graduates (This latter
assumption, again, is simply a methodological axiom the authors adopt,
rather than a conclusion supported by any data).
(2) Recent law graduates have in fact suffered a sharp decline in
their earnings at the beginning of their careers, relative to the
initial career earnings of older law graduates.
(3) Law schools continue to graduate two JD holders for every available legal job.
So law students are paying vastly higher prices to get much-lower
paying jobs, assuming they get jobs at all (19% of the class of 2012 did
not have reported employment of any kind nine months after graduation,
and only slightly more than half the class has a legal job, loosely
In response to these grim facts, Simkovic and McIntyre enhance their
data with the methodological magic of synthetic work-life earnings,
thereby suggesting strongly that, back in the day, law school was quite a
But the problem with back in the day is that it was back in the day.