Saturday, February 23, 2013

The graying of economics publishing

Table 1 Age distributions of authors in top US economics journals, 1963-2011
Year of
Age (percentage distributions)

Two things are noticeable from the table:
  • First, it is clear that through the 1990s top-level economic research was very much a young person’s game – almost nobody over age 50 published a paper in these premier outlets;
  • Second, this fact has changed in the last 15 years;
...the percentage of ‘old’ (ages 51 years old and above) authors has increased from 5% to nearly 20%. Why? ...

I believe the answer lies in the changing nature of technology in the profession, a slowdown in the expansion of the technological frontier. The training in a top-notch PhD programme today is not that qualitatively different from what I received in the late 1960s (I was born in 1943); my training then would in every respect have been unintelligible to an economist trained in the early 1920s. In some fields the slowdown in technology is obvious. In my own field of labour economics, for example, there has, if anything, been technological regress.

What does this discussion tell us about the economics profession? There’s hope for us older economists – the slowdown in technological advances has made the profession less like pure mathematics, more like a humanistic field. Old folks are demonstrably more able to compete at the frontiers of research than before. For younger economists, it might be a bit depressing. They no longer have the same advantage of the novelty of their skills as my generation did – the earlier unlikelihood that an ‘old guy’ would be intellectually readily substitutable for them.
--Daniel Hamermesh, Vox, on another reason why young economist CVs are shorter than before