Nine Facts about Top Journals in Economics

by on January 7, 2013 at 10:33 am in Economics, Science | Permalink

That is the new paper by David Card and Stefano DellaVigna, here is the abstract:

How has publishing in top economics journals changed since 1970? Using a data set that combines information on all articles published in the top-5 journals from 1970 to 2012 with their Google Scholar citations, we identify nine key trends. First, annual submissions to the top-5 journals nearly doubled from 1990 to 2012. Second, the total number of articles published in these journals actually declined from 400 per year in the late 1970s to 300 per year most recently. As a result, the acceptance rate has fallen from 15% to 6%, with potential implications for the career progression of young scholars. Third, one journal, the American Economic Review, now accounts for 40% of top-5 publications, up from 25% in the 1970s. Fourth, recently published papers are on average 3 times longer than they were in the 1970s, contributing to the relative shortage of journal space. Fifth, the number of authors per paper has increased from 1.3 in 1970 to 2.3 in 2012, partly offsetting the fall in the number of articles per year. Sixth, citations for top-5 publications are high: among papers published in the late 1990s, the median number of Google Scholar citations is 200. Seventh, the ranking of journals by citations has remained relatively stable, with the notable exception of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, which climbed from fourth place to first place over the past three decades. Eighth, citation counts are significantly higher for longer papers and those written by more co-authors. Ninth, although the fraction of articles from different fields published in the top-5 has remained relatively stable, there are important cohort trends in the citations received by papers from different fields, with rising citations to more recent papers in Development and International, and declining citations to recent papers in Econometrics and Theory.

The paper is here, and an ungated version is here.

1 Rich Berger January 7, 2013 at 10:53 am

I am sure that this is interesting to the professional economist (academic), but how has the state of economics advanced since 1970? Do we know more than we did back then, or less? Sometimes, more is less.

2 Scott Cunningham January 7, 2013 at 11:45 am


3 Vangel January 8, 2013 at 9:30 am

I agree but the problem is that what economists now know that they did not know before is more wrong than ever. Give me the logic of the Austrian School over the make believe empiricism of modern economic theory any day.

4 Ricardo January 7, 2013 at 12:34 pm

The state of macro is good!

5 Rich Berger January 7, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Thanks for the reference – I will read it. I am wondering if it will answer the questions I have about the efficacy/usefulness of macroeconomics.

6 Steve January 7, 2013 at 10:57 am

How about a post on economic sociology? Strengths, weaknesses, how it relates to economics, trends, etc?

7 jeff January 7, 2013 at 11:55 am

Tyler, Krugman is now calling for minting the platinum coin. Can you comment on this?

8 Jonathan M.F. Catalán January 7, 2013 at 12:50 pm

I wonder how heterodox journals compare between their current status and that of the 1970s. Also, is it just me or do more people “publish” through working papers now than they used to? (And, if so, does have to do with the shortage of prime journal space, or with the internet?)

9 Millian January 7, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Internet. Nowadays, there are so many more ways than journals for other economists to read what you’ve written.

10 Greg Ransom January 7, 2013 at 12:52 pm

“Citations for top-5 publications are high: among papers published in the late 1990s, the median number of Google Scholar citations is 200.”

This seems surprising.

Anyone want to run some statistics on this?

Eg, does the rate of citations for median paper go up or down across time?

This would be one metric for determining the marginal contribution of peer review publications in the “economic science” sector of the knowledge production industry.

11 Greg Ransom January 7, 2013 at 12:53 pm

“Citations for top-5 publications are high: among papers published in the late 1990s, the median number of Google Scholar citations is 200.”

Anyone have a well supported sense of the meaning or significance of a “Google Scholar citation”?

12 Ryan Miller January 7, 2013 at 10:07 pm

It just means a citation in the ordinary sense, as tracked by (so if you’re cited in a venue not tracked by Google Scholar, it naturally won’t count that citation).

13 Bob Knaus January 7, 2013 at 1:53 pm

AARRRGH! Stating the number of items in a list does not add value! How did this awful journalistic style become so popular? As in,
“10 Things You Need to Know Today”
“5 Reasons We Will Go Over the Cliff”
“7 Facts About Lindsay Lohan”

To be specific, headlines of the form “The following list contains X items” do not summarize the article. If the article cannot be summarized in any other fashion, consider whether a list of unrelated facts really constitutes an article.

This same rule applies to papers, presentations, sales pitches, and most any other form of persuasive writing.

14 Colin January 8, 2013 at 8:06 pm

Is it my imagination, or have there been a TON of papers in this area lately? It has a kind of unseemly navel-gazey aspect to it.

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