Publishing and Promotion in Economics: The Tyranny of the Top Five

Resource Type
Dataset : other, survey data
  • Heckman, James J. (The University of Chicago)
  • Moktan, Sidharth (London School of Economics)
Publication Date
Funding Reference
  • Institute for New Economic Thinking
    • Award Number: INO17-00009
Free Keywords
tenure and promotion practices; career concerns; economics publishing; citations
  • Abstract

    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.
  • Technical Information

    Response Rates: This applies to the survey portion of the study. Out of the universe of tenure-track faculty surveyed in the Top 50 Economics departments in the US, the overall response rate was 40% (N=308) across all 50 departments, with response rates of 44% (N=210) for assistant professors and 34% (N=97) for associate professors. The overall response rate was highest for departments ranked 41–50 (43%), and lowest for the top 10 departments (37%). Assistant professors had higher response rates than associate professors across all department rank groups except the top 10 departments, for which the response rate was 37% in both groups. Position- and department rank-specific response rates are reported in Online Appendix Figure O-A29
Temporal Coverage
  • 1990-01-01 / 2017-12-31
    Time Period: Mon Jan 01 00:00:00 EST 1990--Sun Dec 31 00:00:00 EST 2017
  • 2017-01-01 / 2018-03-31
    Collection Date(s): Sun Jan 01 00:00:00 EST 2017--Sat Mar 31 00:00:00 EDT 2018
Geographic Coverage
  • United States of America
Sampled Universe
Top 50 Economics Departments in the United States, tenure track hires, publication and citation histories, economics journals publication data.
The survey invited the entire population of tenure-track faculty hired by the Top 50 Economics departments in the US during the year 2018. 

The non-survey portion of the analysis collects work-history and publications/citations data for tenure-track faculty hired by the Top 35 departments between 1996-2010.
Collection Mode
  • web scraping; web-based survey;

    This archive contains pre-processed non-survey data that is ready for analysis. Raw data files are not provided for two reasons. First, the raw files identify author name, alma mater and institutional affiliation—we have de-identified these fields in the replication files. Second, the raw files contain relatively large extracts of citation and publications data obtained from sources such as and EconLit under the University of Chicago’s institutional subscription to these services. Due to data use agreements, these files can only be shared to specific parties upon written request to and explicit written approval from the data providers as outlined below.

  • Is previous version of
    DOI: 10.3886/E118326V2

Update Metadata: 2020-05-18 | Issue Number: 3 | Registration Date: 2020-04-15