Are Scholars’ Wages Correlated with their Human Capital?




Throughout our project on premodern academia, we use a heuristic human capital index to measure each scholar’s quality. This index is built by combining several statistics from individual Wikipedia and Worldcat pages. The question we address here is whether this measure is correlated with the actual wages professors received. This note is a technical appendix to our paper on the academic market (De la Croix et al. 2020) but also has an interest as a stand-alone publication.

There is considerable evidence that compensations for academic contractswentwell beyond paid salaries.1 They included payments from students, prebends,2 and many forms of in-kind benefits. Yet, it is interesting to examine the relationship between scholars’ human capital and existing data on monetary remunerations. Such remunerations have been used by Dittmar (2019) to show that professor salaries increased significantly relative to skilled wages after printing spread, with science professors benefiting from the largest salary increases. In the two sections below, we first review the available data on salaries, and argue that such data are imperfect proxies for the overall remuneration for academic services (i.e. a scholar’s market value). Keeping in mind such limitations, we then
document a positive correlation between monetary income and scholars’ human capital.