Rising economics departments and skills
Eric, a loyal MR reader, puts forward a request:
1) Your assessment of rising and falling economics departments (in terms of research productivity, prestige, etc)
2) Your assessment of skills/focus areas associated with success in the academic economists job market.
The big change in the former has been the rise of economics departments around the world in virtually all developed countries (though not Italy). It's now quite easy to encounter a place you have heard of — yet never really thought of — and find they have a bunch of young faculty with articles in tier one journals. In essence the standards are now so high in terms of skills and data sets and thoroughness that it is mainly the young and ambitious who publish in tier one journals. Those people are found around the world.
The 44-year-old tenured Princeton economist isn't so much in the AER as in times past. The incentive, relative to the required work, has changed dramatically. Note also that consulting returns, or public intellectual returns, are more lucrative today than they were twenty or thirty years ago.
Empirical work usually has a shorter shelf life and top producers cash in earlier than before. So the top six schools have a smaller intellectual edge than was once the case. Many mid-tier U.S. schools are lower on the totem pole, or simply stuck in a thick mix of numerous global competitors, without in any way being noticeably worse but no longer having privileged third-tier positions either.
That's the big recent change as I see it.