The importance of poetry for economics

Hugo Mialon writes:

Is economics an art?  I address this old, but important, question empirically by examining the impact of rhetorical features of the titles of published economics articles on the ultimate success of these articles, as measured by their cumulative citations over the six-year period following their publication.  Twenty-eight percent of articles in the sample have a fresh figure of speech in their title.  Surprisingly, adding a rhetorical device to the title of an empirical article adds more than four citations to the article’s "lifetime" count, which represents about twenty percent of the lifetime citations of the average empirical article.  This result testifies to the continuing power of rhetoric and poetry in economics science.

Here is the paper.  To be sure, quality of author and article are elusive variables, especially since we cannot assess them by citation counts (here the dependent variable).  Smart authors might write better papers and come up with better and more poetic titles; maybe the poetry is not what matters.

Nonetheless this paper has many fun facts.  Poetry in the title doesn’t help theoretical papers.  Coming from a top school boosts the cites for empirical work more than theory.  Having a research assistant, or a math appendix, correlates negatively with the number of cites for a theory paper.  It is easier for an empiricist at a non-top school to get into the top journals than for a theorist; the latter market shows greater presence of "superstars" in the Sherwin Rosen sense.


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