Please update your browser

You're using a version of Internet Explorer that isn't supported by Questia.
To get a better experience, go to one of these sites and get the latest
version of your preferred browser:

What Economists Do: Trends in Economic Research

By Eisenhauer, Joseph G. | Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research, January 2004 | Go to article overview

What Economists Do: Trends in Economic Research


Eisenhauer, Joseph G., Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research


ABSTRACT

This paper integrates and extends the literature on research trends in economics. Differences in the research interests of graduate students and senior scholars are examined, as are dynamic changes in research agendas over time. Significant and persistent differences in the topical distributions of books and dissertations in economics are found; but even so, regression results suggest that graduate students are influenced by the distribution of current research across fields as well as employment opportunities when selecting thesis topics. Economists appear to be influenced by external events in selecting research subjects, and exhibit a life-cycle pattern in which they move from narrower specialties to broader, more historical subjects over time.

INTRODUCTION

Like the scholarship in every academic profession, economic research defines the boundaries of the discipline. In Jacob Viner's famous phrase, "Economics is what economists do" (as quoted by Robbins (1981), Hansen (1991), and Heck and Zaleski (1991)). Of course, as Lionel Robbins (1981, p. 1) pointed out, Viner's quip "only shifts the question one stage further: What is it that they do? What is the object of their investigations?" This, clearly, is a positive question, inviting empirical examination. It is rather surprising, therefore, that historians of thought have paid so little attention to the subject matter of economic research, while other aspects of the professional literature have been widely investigated. Kenneth Button (1981, p. 36) observed more than two decades ago, "A major new interest has grown amongst academic economists in recent years, the study of the professional literature in economics." While this has included numerous citation rankings of individuals, departments, and journals, scarcely any of the work has investigated the topical content of the literature. Indeed, given the general consensus that economics is, as Robbins (1935, p.16) put it, the study of the allocation of "scarce means which have alternative uses", it is ironic that economists should largely neglect to study the allocation of their own research effort among alternative fields of specialization. This point is made forcefully in Henry Villard's (1966) discussion of Bronfenbrenner's (1966) study. Villard also notes (p. 555) that "what we teach is directly related to what we research", which reinforces the notion that 'what economists do' is well captured by an examination of economic research. The value of such work is suggested by Heck and Zaleski (1991, p. 27), who note that "Knowledge of research emphasis and topical trends in the literature serves a range of researcher needs, from providing a sense of where future research is likely headed to simply satisfying a general curiosity."

Due to its brevity, the existing literature can be summarized succinctly. Stigler (1965) documented changes in the distribution of articles across fields in five leading journals for six decades up to 1953. Bronfenbrenner (1966) undertook a broader examination of articles through 1963 and a more careful study of doctoral dissertations by field from 1960 through 1965. Coats (1971) then replicated these studies using a group of five premier journals similar to Stigler's set. (Stigler (1965), Coats (1971) and Laband and Wells (1998) all examined the American Economic Review, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, and the Journal of Political Economy. Stigler also included the Review of Economics and Statistics and Econometrica, whereas Coats included Economic Journal and Economica.) Two decades later, Heck and Zaleski (1991) documented trends in journal articles by field from 1969 to 1989, just prior to the reclassification system adopted by the American Economic Association (AEA) in 1991. Diamond and Haurin (1995) considered changes in the relative importance of fields from 1927 to 1988 by examining self-reported classifications of AEA members rather than publication listings.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

What Economists Do: Trends in Economic Research
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.