Here is an article from Slate on the fluctuating job market for academics in economics. I think the statistics would probably look the same for any field, though. It's called " What Ph.D. Students Really Have to Fear ," and it's written by Joel Waldfogel. The gist is that if you are unlucky enough to graduate in a down cycle of the job market for your field, and you are not hired by a university of the same prestige level that you could have been hired by during an upswing in the market, you can expect to stay at a lower level throughout your career. One interesting fact, though, is that the ones who were hired by more prestigious universities published more during their career. The author suggests that the better journals are more likely to publish articles from authors at prestigious universities. I'd be interested in the details of that statistic -- what I wonder is whether the more prestigious schools apply more pressure to publish in order to achieve tenure.