In AlJazeera English, Sarah Kendzior writes about a $22,000 internship at the U.N. No, they aren't paying interns $22,000. The intern pays the U.N. $22,000 to “gain inside knowledge of just how the UN really operates.”
Pacific-Standard reports on a study that examined economists' desire to publish in highly prestigious journals. No academic journal pays its authors for their work, but there is a pecking order among these journals for prestige. They sent a questionnaire to fellow economists and asked them, " If a medicine existed that would give them a day-long surge in brainpower—enough to formulate an article good enough for one of four major journals—would they take it? If so, would they still do so if they knew it would slightly reduce their lifespan?"
Yes, economists would shorten their lifespans, if they would be guaranteed an article in a top-tier journal. They would be willing to shorten their lifespans by nearly a year for that money-less honor. Of course, there are indirect monetary benefits from publishing in a prestigious journal. You can bumped up the academic payscale with a promotion, but the types of people who get published in those journals are already at the top of the pay scale and have tenure.
I have not necessarily made the best career decisions over my lifetime. I always seem to lean towards jobs that provide prestige and not so much money. With all my career fluctuations, I'm stuck in the "paying dues" job phase and never made it to the "gravy train" phase. So, I understand the need for low paying, prestigious work, but I'm trying very hard to be more rational about my work efforts.
Some of these unpaid internships and honorific jobs are a result of the crappy economy. Post-college kids need to get something on their resume, other than their summer job at Wendy's. But the economists in the Pacific-Standard story aren't suffering like that. Where's the rational actor in all this?