Does tenure encourage risk-taking?

It seems not, here is the new paper from Brogaard, Engelberg and van Wesep:

Using a sample of all academics that pass through top 50 economics and finance departments between 1996 and 2014, we study whether the granting of tenure leads faculty to pursue riskier ideas. We use the extreme tails of ex-post citations as our measure of risk and find that both the number of publications and the portion that are “home runs” peak at tenure and fall steadily for a decade thereafter. Similar patterns holds for elite (top 10) institutions, for faculty with longer tenure cycles, and for promotion to Full Professorship. We find the opposite pattern among poorly-cited publications: their numbers steadily rise after tenure. The decline in both the quantity and quality of publications points to tenure incentivizing less effort in publishing rather than more risk-taking.

I am not surprised to read this result.  I consider the “wasting of tenure” to be one of the aesthetic crimes one can commit with a wealthy life, and yet I see it all the time.

For the pointer I thank the excellent — and untenured — Kevin Lewis.

Addendum: Kevin comments.


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