The Life Cycle of Scholars and Papers in Economics -- the "Citation Death Tax"
The information content of academic citations is subject to debate. This paper views premature death as a tragic "natural experiment," outlining a methodology identifying the "citation death tax" -- the impact of death of productive economists on the patterns of their citations. We rely on a sample of 428 papers written by 16 well known economists who died well before retirement, during the period of 1975- 97. The news is mixed: for half of the sample, we identify a large and significant "citation death tax" for the average paper written by these scholars. For these authors, the estimated average missing citations per paper attributed to premature death ranges from 40% to 140% (the overall average is about 90%), and the annual costs of lost citations per paper are in the range 3% and 14%. Hence, a paper written ten years before the author's death avoids a citation cost that varies between 30% and 140%. For the other half of the sample, there is no citation death tax; and for two Nobel Prize-caliber scholars in this second group, Black and Tversky, citations took off overtime, reflecting the growing recognitions of their seminal works.
We would like to thank Yi Sun for excellent and dedicated research assistance. Useful comments by the seminar participants at UCSC are gratefully acknowledged. Any errors are ours. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Joshua Aizenman & Kenneth Kletzer, 2011. "The life cycle of scholars and papers in economics - the 'citation death tax'," Applied Economics, Taylor and Francis Journals, vol. 43(27), pages 4135-4148. citation courtesy of