Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Benefits of Being Economics Professor A (and Not Z or even E)

This is a general academic post but is an issue that crops up in economics (and of course environmental economics) from time to time. As the paper states, the economics profession tends to order co-authors alphabetically. This keeps things simple and friendly.

However, there are costs (and benefits?) to those further down the alphabet.

This paper seems to suggest that those with names beginning with a letter nearer to A will experience a faster growth rate in publications as a result of higher visibility and reputation. I think there is something in this. However, on the downside higher visibility might result in more papers to referee and more reports to write (less fun). When it comes to internal University politics it can often be beneficial to have a higher reputation and visibility when it comes to pay bargaining and even getting outside offers.

In theory I was dealt a good card with E. Unfortunately my three main co-authors were dealt A, B and C. That is either bad luck or careful planning :-)

A related question therefore is why does an individual choose to enter academia?

Is it for money? Certainly not in economics where the outside job opportunities pay considerably more and where our undergraduates starting salaries are close to our wages after 10 years of dragging ourselves us the greasy pole or indeed for many staying at the bottom of the pole.

Is it for glory? Some may wish to maximise ego rents but this can surely only apply to a few - although there do seem to be an increasing number of "pop" economists out there. Where does blogging fit in? As Mankiw has pointed out in his own blog, starting one is not a good career move (although obviously not in his case).

Is it to be able to teach the next generation all about supply and demand? This should be part of it but I suspect not as great a motivating force as it should be. We could after all have become teachers.

Is it for pure intellectual pursuit reasons and the quest for knowledge? In the main I suspect this is what motivates many an individual to go into academia. This final reason holds whatever letter your surname begins with. In fact, avoiding the trappings of "visibility" may even help in this endeavor. Are economists more or less driven by this argument that academics from other subjects? As individuals we should be maximising our own utility where hard cash is only a bit part player so perhaps the answer is yes.

"The Benefits of Being Economics Professor A (and Not Z)"
IZA Discussion Paper No. 2673

University of Amsterdam - Department of Economics,
Tinbergen Institute, Institute for the Study of
Labor (IZA)
Email: C.M.vanPraag@uva.nl
Auth-Page: http://ssrn.com/author=245853

Co-Author: B.M.S. VAN PRAAG
University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Economics &
Econometrics (FEE), Institute for the Study of
Labor (IZA), Tinbergen Institute in Amsterdam,
CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo
Institute for Economic Research)
Email: b.m.s.vanpraag@uva.nl
Auth-Page: http://ssrn.com/author=246066

Full Text: http://ssrn.com/abstract=977540

ABSTRACT: Alphabetic name ordering on multi-authored academic
papers, which is the convention in the economics discipline and
various other disciplines, is to the advantage of people whose
last name initials are placed early in the alphabet. As it turns
out, Professor A, who has been a first author more often than
Professor Z, will have published more articles and experienced a
faster growth rate over the course of her career as a result of
reputation and visibility. Moreover, authors know that name
ordering matters and indeed take ordering seriously: Several
characteristics of an author group composition determine the
decision to deviate from the default alphabetic name order to a
significant extent.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

there is a similar problem with books with several papers, where the credits go to the editor or to the organiser, whose names appear on the cover.