NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Publishing and Promotion in Economics: The Tyranny of the Top Five

James J. Heckman, Sidharth Moktan

NBER Working Paper No. 25093
Issued in September 2018
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies, Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

This paper examines the relationship between placement of publications in Top Five (T5) journals and receipt of tenure in academic economics departments. Analyzing the job histories of tenure-track economists hired by the top 35 U.S. economics departments, we find that T5 publications have a powerful influence on tenure decisions and rates of transition to tenure. A survey of the perceptions of young economists supports the formal statistical analysis. Pursuit of T5 publications has become the obsession of the next generation of economists. However, the T5 screen is far from reliable. A substantial share of influential publications appear in non-T5 outlets. Reliance on the T5 to screen talent incentivizes careerism over creativity.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25093

 
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