I think something missing from all of these comments is a lack of consideration for the odds of getting these positions. R1 jobs are few and far between and it seems that about 1 in 10 or less of graduates will get those jobs. Lots of reports like from the Chronicle of Higher Ed, and the journal Science show that the number of tenure track jobs of any kind (let alone R1) are on the decline, precisely at a time when the number of PhDs is on the rise.
These are the facts according to reports like these:
-Within 5 years of getting your PhD your odds of getting a Tenure rack job are about 1 in 4.
-More and more are doing post-docs but the number of post-docs has not kept pass with the number of new PhD graduates. So Post-docs are not super easy either, and the evidence that they would improve your odds of getting an R1 job is lacking. I have seen so many comments on here and elsewhere where a post-doc or even a second post-doc did not help a person in the end. I know in saying that that some one will post an anecdotal example that counters this point; kudos to that lucky person, but as people who like to use data, I think we should apply this to our own career plans and job prospects as well.
-The percent of tenure track jobs is on the decline. As of a few years ago (per-recession), 2/3 of all teaching jobs at universities and colleges across the country were filled by adjunct faculty, who made on average $2300 per class and had not benefits. These are certainly poverty wages and seem out of place for people who when to school for so long and who earned a doctorate degree. More than 1 in 3 PhD graduates were still working as an adjunct within 5 years of graduating with their PhD.
In Light of these facts, an applied job that would pay well and provide benefits and is more abundant, sounds like a better prospect on many accounts. Also, think about the impact you could have with an applied job compared to academic. In academia you may publish and your work will sit largely unread and unused. If you are lucky, a handful of people will site your work, half of whom will be trying to disprove it. But in an applied research position, people will be using your work right away to inform their approach, to advocate for effective policies, and to evaluate and possibly tweak their intervention programs. That certainly sounds like fulfilling work to me and it sure beats living in poverty for 5 years or more after your graduate, waiting around for the chance to get a tenure track job somewhere and maybe do some fun research when you are not too busy teaching.