Academic journal article Economic Inquiry

Reputational Capital and Academic Pay

Academic journal article Economic Inquiry

Reputational Capital and Academic Pay

Article excerpt



Economists continue to have a Strong interest in academic labor markets, as the steady stream of earnings studies over the past several decades readily attests. The academic labor market draws the attention of economists not only because it is a topic of direct personal interest, but also because it presents an opportunity to examine general theories of labor markets in a context with which the researcher has intimate experience. Nonetheless, important questions about how the market values research, teaching, and service remain unanswered. To what extent does the market reward quality versus quantity of published research or team production in the form of co-authorship? Furthermore, how durable is reputational capital for individuals whose research productivity diminishes during their career? Ultimately, these questions relate in one way or another to the nature of the incentive structure faced by academic economists.

We provide new evidence concerning the role of research quality, co-authorship, administrative service, and teaching performance in the production of reputational capital. In addition, we explore the question of the durability of reputational capital once some of these activities cease. We assume that the quantity and quality of published research largely determines an individual's reputational capital in the external market. To help us sort out the separate effects on reputational capital of both the quality and quantity of research activity, we measure research quality by both journal quality and career citations, employing an interactive quantity-quality term.

A related question concerns the role of team production in building an individual's reputational capital. Do individuals receive differential returns to publishing single-authored versus co-authored research papers? This is an interesting question in light of the substantial increase in co-authorship over the last few decades. (1) One explanation of this trend is that the academic market has presented scholars with increasing opportunities for specialization in the production of knowledge and that team production involves the combination of complementary-skilled researchers. If team production reflects complementarities in the production of research, we should observe little difference in the returns to single- versus co-authored work. Another explanation is that co-authorship involves the combination of substitute-skilled researchers so that co-authorship presents a way for individuals to reduce their research efforts without reducing their individual measured research output. To the extent that co-authorshi p represents such substitution, the market should fully discount the returns to multiple-authored papers.

In this article we also move beyond identifying the factors that enhance an individual's reputation in the market to study the question of the durability of reputational capital. Some individuals quit publishing once they are tenured or promoted while others experience lengthy but temporary breaks in their flow of research output. We examine the potential penalties associated with gaps in research output, providing the first empirical evidence concerning the durability of reputational capital for academic economists.

In order to ensure that our analysis deals with these issues in a way that is most relevant to a large portion of the market for academic economists, we use data from several research universities, but restrict the sample frame to a single discipline: economics. Much of the previous work estimating how publications or other factors affect academic salaries typically use data from a single university, with earnings equations estimated across disciplines. Restricting the sample to a single discipline has the additional advantage of reducing potential heterogeneity problems associated with measuring productivity across disciplines. In addition, our data enable us more thoroughly to explore the empirical issues in the debate, since they permit more precise measures of the past and current productivity of individuals engaged in comparable work. …

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