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One additional channel that might be worth considering is the "brain drain" caused by Wall Street in the past two decades.

Is there an inverse correlation between the size of the financial sector (measured as a GDP proportional ratio) and the size of economics academia (economic publications per capita)?

If yes then that would support a view that the brain-drain to Wall Street is 'hiding' and 'inhibiting' useful economic research.

Prospective youngsters might be lured to Wall Street after just 1-2 good articles, and there they shut up: there they might be writing internal research articles or client advisories - but not something that results in peer review and an academic publication. Or they might be twiddling models to gain another +1% for the bank's prop trading line.

This might be a 'tragedy of the commons' kind of moment, the same which plagues the pharma industry: huge but isolated mega-corporations are each funding their own research departments - and are keeping the results secret and the researchers isolated.

The researchers themselves are paid pretty well so they are not complaining, but the general effect on society is very negative: instead of a common, shared pool of scientific talent everyone reinvents the wheel in their own microcosmos, and often poorly so.

Also note how patents are making this situation even worse: they are reward research done in secret and scientists not talking to others about their ideas - which is the anti-thesis of good science ...

The results are awful to human civilization: too big to fail banks that are not robust enough, and huge pharma companies that in the past 20 years have not produced a single drug against illnesses that kill tens of millions every year while having "invented" 10 different types of painkillers and are milking the patent monopoly protection racket for 17+ years ...

Can something be done against this harmful trend?

Did they leave out New Zealand? I get the impression sometimes that every second Kiwi is an economist.

One thing I forgot to mention is that the GDP proportional size of the financial industry of most European countries is smaller than that of the US so the 'brain drain' from academia into the financial sector is weaker.

(Maybe instead of pure 'size' of the financial industry a general population proportional headcount of the financial sector would be more accurate. For example in Ireland the financial industry is huge - but most of it is caused by shell companies avoiding US corporate taxes and the headcount itself is low so the brain-drain for economists is relatively low as well. (cheating corporate taxes does not employ economists, it employs accountants and lobbyists))

Nick, no NZ. Canada's percentage share of articles in incumbent journals went from 6.57 in 1991-5 to 4.79 in 2006, while our share of articles in top journals went from 5.96 to 2.86. For Australia the comparable numbers are a slight rise in articles in incumbent journals from 3.26 to 3.39 (so the fall in AUS in the Figure shown is mostly due to a rise in population rather than a fall in publications). Australia also had a slight fall in articles in top journals from 0.93 to 0.43. Oceania's share of articles in incumbent journals in 2006 was 3.52, so you can ballpark the NZ share from Oceania minus Austalia, (3.52 in 2006 less 3.39 in 2002-6) and then figure out how their populations compare. But you didn't really want to know, did you?

White Rabbit - could be, I hadn't thought of that explanation. At the same time, London is a huge financial center, and GBR's publication rates increased quite a bit during this time period.

White Rabbit - and finance doesn't explain the Canadian decline. Though it is true that real academic salaries declined in Canada throughout the 1980s and 1990s (see my research with Casey Warman and Chris Worswick) so there might have been some change in the average ability level of people entering the profession.

There's also been some increase in the % of women of the econ profession in both Canada and the US, which may or may not have had an effect on professors' allocation of effort between research, teaching and administration. On the other hand, I would have thought this data wouldn't be recent enough and the effects wouldn't be large enough to explain these trends.

Personally I would start out by looking for demographic explanations of the American decline - as professors age, their rate of publication slows. Remember that the US doesn't have a standard retirement age, and tenure + no standard retirement age is, in my own personal opinion, a deadly combination. Something else that's happened in the US is that there's been a shift towards more use of non-tenured, contract employees, and those employees aren't expected to allocate as much of their time and effort to research as tenured and tenure-track faculty.

"So what's with Canada, eh? I can think of any number of explanations: an aging professoriate"

I suspect this is it. When I was an undergrad at UWO in the mid 90s, it seemed that every professor I had was hired in the early 1970s and was roughly 60 years old. Actually other than Jeff Smith and Al Slivinski, I think they all were: Burgess, Laidler, Leith, Fried, Palmer, Whalley, Boyer and Ron Wintrobe.

Not sure if that was the experience at other schools, but that's what UWO was like in the mid 90s.

I have observed this phenomenon for some time. I attribute much of it to the improved availability of data through the Internet that allows replication of empirical studies originally based on U.S. data. An easy way to get published in a European journal is to take a classic American study and use European data to either confirm the original results or find interesting differences.

It would be nice to see Germany finally pulling its own weight in the economic literature. For too long, there's been a gaping hole in the economics literature where Germany should be. It would be nice to see that void replaced by some research.

I have a post on my blog which responds to your own: http://ww2db.com/mansal/?p=33

Mansal D: Thanks for your link, you make a very interesting observation:

"During the Communist era education was highly restricted, but most of central and eastern Europe reversed the trend as soon as it was possible. Today, in fact, there are some of the highest number of unemployed or underemployed graduates in Poland due to the high rate of university graduation. Such a drastic change in almost half of Europe has certainly led to an increase in publications. I would argue it has had more of an impact than the British or German reforms or even the social mobility allowed by EU integration."

The only Warsaw Pact country that Cardoso et al provide any data on is Germany, and that's only partially Warsaw Pact of course. Reunification happened in 1990, so changes in former East German universities might explain some of the rise in German publications per capita, and perhaps also Germany's relatively low initial ranking. Cardoso et al don't provide data on any other Warsaw Pact country, however, for (probably) the same reason that there isn't data for New Zealand, there just aren't enough publications.

I would suspect that the impact of increased intellectual freedom would be felt more slowly in Economics than in other disciplines such as Medicine, because of the massive amount of intellectual re-tooling involved for Communist-trained economists - input/output models not being a major feature of mainstream econ these days...

Fascinating. The most interesting and potentially instructive case is Norway. Why the radical improvement in performance?

As for Canada, perhaps Canadian academia is sensitive to the commodity boom? Why go into academia when there is so much money to be made in some resource sector or other? Educational enrollment rates apparently suffer in western Canada during commodity-driven booms. Actually, I am not so sure that graduate students are as sensitive to labour market opportunities as high school and technical college students.

If Canada lifted any and all foreign-hiring restriction for academics, would per capita publications go up?

westslope - given the size of the country, the Norway numbers could be driven by just a few people who happened to have really good years in 2002-6.

In point of fact, in economics there are very few effective foreign hiring restrictions for academics. At small schools, perhaps, but not at big ones - just go to the U of T web site and look at where the Assistant Professors received their undergrad degrees (go to the faculty listing and click on the professors' c.v.s): Puerto Rico, U Chicago, Prague, Indian Statistical Institute - I couldn't be bothered to go through the rest of the list. Carleton is no different.

Now perhaps the effect of increased foreign hiring hadn't kicked in in 2002-6 - that's entirely possible - and I think Canada's performance could look quite different with 2006-10 data, but much of that would be the result of the average age of the economics professors in Canada falling substantially with the big hiring boom over the past 10 years.

It may be, too, that economics is particularly odd as a discipline - kids who self-identify as smart in high school often tend to take the math/science, elite humanities or engineering/business routes. Those who become economists often just stumble on the subject serendipitously.

Frances: Norway passed a university reform act ("The Quality Reform") in 2001 which was implement in 2003 A key aspect of the reform was linking higher education funding with the number of publications, with more points given for publications in prestigious journals. As you'd expect, this lead to a huge increase in publications. When your department's funding and your own prospects for salary increase depends on publications, it's really remarkable how productive even stodgy academics get.

I'm with Aslak. 60 per million instead of 40 works out to 300 papers instead of 200 for a population of 5 million. If those publications were independent events the total would have a standard deviation of sqrt(200)=14. So 300 would be a 7 standard deviation event.

Aslak, K, I did spend a bit of time looking for more details about the regime shift in European universities, but it's not easy to find out about things like university funding formulas, especially when you don't speak the language and don't know what you're looking for.

So thanks very much for providing this additional information about Norway.

It certainly fits with the European cultural revolution thesis.

What about the role of language? Most of the countries in the high-performing group in 1991 were English-speaking countries (the US, UK, Canada and Australia) or have a large number of English speakers (Israel). Since the creation of the EU, however, the number of English speakers has increased considerably in much of Europe. Even if many European academics were already fluent in English, it takes more than fluency to write an article that can survive peer review.

What would the impact of increased proficiency in English for European scholars be?

Firstly, you may note that almost all of the journals listed by the working paper are English. European scholars may have submitted to different journals before that fell under the radar of this paper.

Secondly, part of the high publication rate for Canada and the US may have been linked to a premium on being native English speakers. More proficient English speakers would diminish the English effect.

Thirdly, it may also have changed the book-article tradeoff. If I am a unilingual German economist a journal in the top national journal is as prestigious as it gets. I may be able to make a far bigger splash with a book. On the other hand, if I could write in English, I could publish in internationally prestigious journals, which may count about as much as a book.

Hosertohoosier: certainly English language proficiency is a good predictor of publication in Econlit, as I noted in the post: "Das, Do, Shaines and Srinivasan argue that the US is not an outlier in terms of the production of economic research. They find, as do studies of other fields, that variables such as overall per capita GDP, governance, and English-language usage, largely explain publications per capita."

Language proficiency would explain part of the high performance of Norway, where English-language fluency is generally very high.

Part of the cultural revolution that's happening in European universities is greater cross-border flow of academics, so my grad school buddy Andrew Clark (happiness literature fame) is working in France, Ray Rees is working in Germany, etc., and also European universities are recruiting from a pool of (mostly Europeans, true) grad students trained at US schools.

That is partly a result of a European Union policy which eliminated differential fees for European students - so when I was a grad student at the LSE, there were very few native British students, most of the PhD class was composed of other Europeans. With the rise of these pan-European intellectual centres, academic discourse will tend to become concentrated in a few languages - so people will have a need to become fluent in English or whatever the lingua franca happens to be.

Language proficiency would tend to have historically predicted a fairly low publication rate for Canada, given that 1/3 to 1/4 of the country is Francophone, and Quebec government policies are directed towards preserving the French language.

But like I said earlier, a large percentage of new hires in Canada are not native English speakers. Just over the past few days I've taken a look at a couple of colleagues' work to check over the English before the papers are submitted to journals. That actually might explain some of the change in publication rates here.

Maybe the European University system has become worse, focused on journal publications for the sake of publication with no care about quality or longer books?

Miep - this series of posts has been motivated by discussions with a former colleague who is doing some work right now on directions for reform of the Canadian/Ontario university system.

I don't know if focusing on journal publications rather than books is a bad thing - I've bought a couple of books recently which were basically just expanded versions of an essay published in the New York Times magazine, and I've wondered if I wouldn't have just been better off reading the essay and forgetting about the books.

But you raise an extremely good point: perhaps the EU system has become worse.

Professors do three things: research, teach and administrate. Many people find research more intrinsically rewarding than teaching in any event, partly because it can be done at home, drinking a cup of coffee, at a leisurely pace. (see every insightful http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1412)

Throw in stronger incentives to do research, and teaching effort is likely to be seriously compromised. I know someone (not an economist) who is a 'star' in the British university system. Right now a university is paying him a large salary in exchange for his c.v. - he rarely actually goes to that university, he just hangs out in London, publishes papers, and lives the good life.

As for convincing someone to do administration - good luck.

Frances: "A key aspect of the reform was linking higher education funding with the number of publications, with more points given for publications in prestigious journals. As you'd expect, this lead to a huge increase in publications. When your department's funding and your own prospects for salary increase depends on publications, it's really remarkable how productive even stodgy academics get."

Hold on a second, are you telling me that academics respond to financial incentives? Don't tell that to the BC teacher's union.

"Professors do three things: research, teach and administrate....Throw in stronger incentives to do research, and teaching effort is likely to be seriously compromised."

Implicit in that statement is the assumption that professors are operating at the boundary of their production possibility frontier, so that devoting more time to research neccesarily involves sacrificing teaching. I'm sure we can all think of a few academics for whom that isn't the case.

In the late 90s/ early 2000s, top US research universities benefited from endowment and revenue booms, and both hired and raised salaries considerably above trend. Through the same years, the loonie fell against the dollar, down to just over 60 cents in 2002. (It's over parity now.) The preference for Canadians in hiring in Canadian higher education peaked in the mid-to-late 90s. And Canada's second-largest province had a long tuition freeze and hiring freeze along with an exodus of Anglophone faculty associated with the 1995 referendum.

So if we're comparing 1991-95 with 2002-06 I think the obvious answer is "talent mobility"-- economists getting poached from Canadian to American universities, Canadian universities being less competitive for the strongest entry-level hires, Canadian universities taking themselves out of the running for some strong hires because they're not Canadians, some strong economists leaving Quebec as the universities got starved and PQ xenophobia seemed to kick in, etc. Canadian higher education is more sensitive to conditions in the US, and relative comparisons with the US, than is any European country's system.

All of that would affect all of academia, not just economics, but I have the impression that the takeoff in academic salaries in the US was more pronounced in economics than in most disciplines.

Note that most of those forces pushing against Canadian higher education have been reversed-- strong loonie, weakened rules on preferential hiring, steep declines in endowments and revenue in the US in the last 3 years, etc. So if I'm right, repeating the study in ten years should show a Canadian rebound.

Jacob - on the talent mobility - yup, the list of born-in-Canada economists at top US or European schools is long and growing - I may not be right on all of the following because I don't have time to look people up, but I'm thinking David Card, Janet Currie, Nathan Nunn, Peter Kuhn, Bentley MacLeod, Myrna Wooders, Martin Browning (o.k., not born in Canada), Margaret Slade, Robert Allen etc etc etc. Stephen Gordon can probably add to your points on Quebec.

I agree that if you repeated the study for 2011-16 Canada would look much better.

But I suspect the decreased average age of the professoriate has been relatively more important than the exit of people to the US and elsewhere - replace 10 people who no longer publish with 10 people who are really active and it will make a *big* difference to a department.

Bob: "more time to research necessarily involves sacrificing teaching"

An academic can allocate time to four activities: research, teaching, administration, and leisure. For most of my academic career, leisure has meant taking kids to activities, cooking dinner, exercising, or fulfilling family obligations. Not easy to cut into those things. And there's not much time available there.

Teaching time, however, can easily be reduced very substantially - evaluate your students using only multiple choice questions, marked through Scantron, 40% midterm, 60% final, use exactly the same lecture notes year after year. If I did that, I could probably get my total teaching time (prep + marking + lectures) to about 5 hours or less per week per course (that includes 3 hours of lectures).

Quebec salaries - with the exception of McGill - are lower than in the ROC, so that's the big story here; probably more than language. 15-20 years ago, UdeM built up a world-class group of econometricians, but they couldn't match the outside offers they inevitably received. They've since all moved on. Those of us who are left have strong attachments to the place.

I'd discount the political stuff; I can't think of an occasion in the 19 years I've been here where it came up.

Stephen, but we've got no data to work with here that separate Quebec from ROC, and mobility from Quebec to ROC wouldn't account for national-level changes. I'm suggesting mobility from all of Canada to the US in the relevant timeframe. Quebec is specially relevant only because it's a large fraction of Canada overall and because it had some especially strong push-- partly those low salaries.

I certainly know anglophone academics who say they left Quebec, whether for ROC or for the US, because of the threat of secession or because of the general politics of Quebec nationalism, assuming that's what you mean by "the political stuff." And I thought it was generally accepted that the long-term absolute shrinkage of the anglophone population in Montreal and Quebec had a lot to do with "the political stuff."

Okay. All I can speak to is my own experience, and life as a Quebec City anglo is definitely different than life in Montreal.

Interesting. Does this increased European participation herald a weakening of neoliberal/Chicago School influence? Will the post-crisis consensus be more to the left?

Bye bye American universities...bye bye american economists....bye bye voodoo economics...bye bye!

Kaieda - that's an interesting thought. Unfortunately the authors didn't give trends by field so I don't know if the European participation is stronger in micro/macro/theory..? But it would probably be easy enough to look at that with their data.

Jacob Levy:
While it" is generally accepted" by the Gazette as an article of faith, the anglos didn't leave because they fled the rise of the natives. Mobility data from the census and family allowances clearly show that by the late 50's early 60's, young anglos gradually stopped comiing to Québec but Quebec anglos did not increase their emigration rate. At the same time, francophones stopped moving out but ROC francos kept coming in at the same rate. The country as a whole became more divided linguistically.
In my course on the Quebec economy, I argue that the anglos did not fled the rise of the francos but the reverse. Economic expansion in TO and Calgary increased opportunities for anglos but not for francos. The void left space for the franco to expand, economically and politically.

I studied in the most nationalist period. Our books and other reading were mostly American and still are. You can't study in a french university without being bilingual. It is not a requirement , just an accepted fact. We sometimes discussed in english and our english proficiency was far above the french proficiency of our english friends. Still today, half my teaching load is in english. ( my cegep is bilingual).

The economic aspect were treated by Pierre Fortin in his Presidential adrees at the May 1996 CEA meeting, reprinted in the CEJ November issue

Please leave the "PQ xenophobia" meme to the Gazette,Globe&Mail or Macleans editorial pages where it belong.

Jacques: Well, if the perceived threat did not directly motivate anglo-québécois to leave, it indirectly encouraged them to leave by increasing the cost of capital. Though what I recall of the mood at the time leaves me to think that plain discomfort drove many away.

Under the leadership of the PQ, at one point, the State--all levels of government--controlled over 60% of the economy. That doesn't bother me but I can readily see how it discourages others. Even today a slight Québec discount persists in the market even though a few classes of equity investors may regard Québec as one of the best places to invest in all of Canada.

Over the years, I've met a few québécois males with insecure, xenophobic, nationalist attitudes. I keep hearing the odd anecdote that they still exist. Plus anecdotal evidence of anglo-Canadian academics working in Québec who would prefer to leave.

It is fine by me. My wife and I would like to go back to Québec! I'll take the odd sectarian silliness over the brazen racism and violence that characterizes far too much of British Columbia.

The state in Québec did not control "over 60% of the economy". I don't recall grocery stores being nationalized...
Some anglos surely felt discomfort but in this cold and cruel world, data are your only friends ( and ratios will break your heart). In the aggegate, remember that the Quebec economy was catching up since the 50's and a lot of old textile plants were closing, just because they were old, not because of the politics. Same dynamics that Fortin covered in his paper I referenced before. A lot of older Anglos were reaching retirement age and went to their grand-children, born to those who had been attracted to TO in the late 50's.

Yes there is a Québec discount. It was infinite in Toronto in the early 60's when the Liberal wanted to borrow to nationalize the electric power companies and 0 in New York where they didn't care who you were as long as you had a good business plan.

Early 80's, I was an economic counselor for the Provincial Liberals at the National Assembly. With a group of mostly anglo MNAs, I was visiting a large foreign-owned mining operation. Bill 101 was still fresh and my primos wanted desperately to gather evidence that the natives were frightening the bwanas, sorry the investors. The american in charge finally looked at them in annoyance and said: "In Brazil, we speak Portuguese. I don't care which language is used in the plant as long as I speak English.And no we have no intention of leaving". The funny part was the look on the face of his ROC subordinates. Felt betrayed I guess.

You're right that sophisticated equity investors, mostly from outside the ROC, consider Quebec stocks as amongst the best. It was a weird experience during the 95 referendum to see some TO investment adviser or columnist recommending Hong Kong ( soon to be taken over by Red China) or,one I remember, the Baltic states...

I also met some anglos that I would not call xenophobic. I remember one scene: January 1979, my first business meeting as a young professionnal. At the reception desk of a very large downton MTL hotel named for some foreign sovereign, the clerk looked at my Amex card ( at the time a rather exclusive token of middle-class membership, two others "members" had to sign your application) and said "If you're rich enough to have an American Express, you're rich enough to speak english." At least, she didn't say "to speak white" as was still sometimes done at the time... It was not xenophobia or racism, just a gentle reminder not to waste my life on the wrong side if I had the chance to "pass". ( I learned english young and one could pretend I have a rather charming British accent, dare I say.)

This being said, it is way better to be an anglo in Québec or even a franco in Ontario than to be whatever in B.C. Just wish The Gazette-G&M-Macleans noticed it once in a while.

Feel free to come back. In the small mostly-french town where I teach macro and micro to a class of 6 anglos ( my other groups of 30 are franco), thoughtful bilingual economists are scarce and welcome...

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