Tools or Toys? The Impact of High Technology on Scholarly Productivity
NBER Working Paper No. 6761
Toys. The impact of computers on productivity has been examined directly on macro data and indirectly (on wages) using microeconomic data. This study examines the direct impact on the productivity of scholarship by considering how high technology might alter patterns of coauthoring of articles in economics and their influence. Using all coauthored articles in three major economics journals from 1970-79 and 1992-96, we find: 1) Sharp growth in the percentage of distant coauthorships (those between authors who were not in the same metropolitan areas in the four years prior to publication), as the theory predicts. Contrary to the theory: 2) Lower productivity (in terms of subsequent citations) of distant than close-coauthored papers; and 3) No decline in their relative disadvantage between the 1970s and 1990s. These findings are reconciled by the argument that high-technology functions as a consumption rather than an investment good. As such, it can be welfare-increasing without increasing productivity.
Published: Hamermesh, Daniel S. and Sharon M. Oster. "Tools Or Toys? The Impact Of High Technology On Scholarly Productivity," Economic Inquiry, 2002, v40(4,Oct), 539-555.