NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Superstar Extinction

Pierre Azoulay, Joshua S. Graff Zivin, Jialan Wang

NBER Working Paper No. 14577
Issued in December 2008
NBER Program(s):   PR

We estimate the magnitude of spillovers generated by 112 academic "superstars" who died pre- maturely and unexpectedly, thus providing an exogenous source of variation in the structure of their collaborators' coauthorship networks. Following the death of a superstar, we find that collaborators experience, on average, a lasting 5 to 8% decline in their quality-adjusted publication rates. By exploring interactions of the treatment effect with a variety of star, coauthor and star/coauthor dyad characteristics, we seek to adjudicate between plausible mechanisms that might explain this finding. Taken together, our results suggest that spillovers are circumscribed in idea space, but less so in physical or social space. In particular, superstar extinction reveals the boundaries of the scientific field to which the star contributes — the "invisible college."

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This paper was revised on December 5, 2011

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14577

Published: Pierre Azoulay & Joshua S. Graff Zivin & Jialan Wang, 2010. "Superstar Extinction," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(2), pages 549-589, May.

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