Academic journal article Economic Inquiry

The Effect of Gender-Sorting on Propensity to Coauthor: Implications for Academic Promotion

Academic journal article Economic Inquiry

The Effect of Gender-Sorting on Propensity to Coauthor: Implications for Academic Promotion

Article excerpt


A cohort sample of Ph.D. economists indicates a significant propensity for

researchers to select coauthors of the same sex. This gender-sorting contributes to lower

article production for women. Further, we find evidence of bias in academic promotion when

single-authored and coauthored articles carry the same weight in promotion and salary

decisions. The evidence explains, in part, why women academics wait longer for

promotion and are not as likely to be promoted as men. Among the effects of gender-sorting

is self-selection of women into larger departments where they are more likely to find

colleagues of the same sex.


A number of empirical studies have documented lower salaries, research productivity and promotion rates for women faculty members than for men.(1) For example, Cole and Cole [1973] find that women scientists produce fewer papers and are also less likely to hold the ranks of Associate or Full Professor. Hansen et al. [1978] find that women economists produce fewer publications than men.(2) Johnson and Stafford [1974] and Farber [1977] present evidence that women economists have a lower chance of promotion. Weiss and Lillard [1982] find that women on average take almost twice as long as men to attain the rank of Associate or Full Professor, and attribute this slower advancement to lower productivity.(3)

In this paper we provide a partial explanation for productivity and promotion differences based on coauthorship patterns. We find evidence, consistent with Ferber and Teiman [1980], that economists tend to work with coauthors of the same sex. Given the proportions of men and women in the profession, this raises the possibility that women have fewer opportunities to collaborate, especially if employed by small departments.

While the reasons underlying gender-sorting in publishing are not known,(4) our evidence indicates that collaboration does not lead to statistically significant increases (or decreases) in productivity if coauthored articles are discounted by the number of authors, n. In spite of this, the effect of gender-sorting on academic rank is not neutral since there appears to be a distortion in promotion decisions introduced by the lack of weighting of coauthored work.

In empirical tests of the relationship of academic rank to research output we are unable to reject the hypothesis that single-authored and coauthored publications are weighted equally. Conversely, we do reject the hypothesis that the assigned weight is 1/n, the expected weight if departments seek to maximize total research output. Therefore, gender-sorting, which reduces the opportunities of women to coauthor, is one explanation for why women academics wait longer for promotion and are promoted at lower rates than men. Our results indicate that administrative decisions on how to weight coauthored articles may work to the detriment of women, especially in disciplines like economics where the proportions of men and women are unequal.


The dataset is a cohort sample of eighty-nine men and eighty-nine women receiving Ph.D.s in economics from the top twenty institutions between 1968 and 1975.(5) The sample period is necessarily truncated at 1975 so that records and career changes could be tracked for a full ten years following receipt of the Ph.D. Thus, publication data cover the period 1969-1986. Data were collected on experience, field of specialty, dates of promotion, academic affiliation, and number of articles published. Appendix A presents definitions of the variables and identifies the data sources. Appendix B contains descriptive sample statistics for the individuals in the study.

We determined each person's publication record by reference to the American Economic Association's Index of Economic Articles. …

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