Thursday, April 13, 2006

Alphabetic Discrimination

I may be the only one interested in this, but two of my TFs from first year, Liran Einav and Leeat Yariv, have written a paper documenting that economists whose last names are towards the end of the alphabet are less likely to be tenured at top departments, are less likely to be members of the econometrics society, and are less likely to write multi-authored papers. I have long wondered about this stuff (and I figured that someone must have written about it). In economics, the convention is to list authors alphabetically. This means that those of us at the end are frequently not tied to our work (lost into the "et al." abyss or, at the least, an after thought). Interestingly, in psychology, where alphabetical listing is not the convention, they do not find a last name effect.

You're not the only one interested in this, although I can't complain as an "E." I wonder if there's a difference between two-author and more authors. With two authors, the second name is more likely to stick around.

I wouldn't be surprised if - in addition to the et al abyss - there's a slight discounting of contribution. Since really good RAs will get their names tacked on at the end (out of alphabetical order), having your name at the end carries a small probability that you contributed less. In expectation, that should hurt you.
Of course, they can't rule out that people whose last names begin with X or Z simply aren't as smart...
We should be able to test the last name hypothesis. We could look at ec10 (or PhD general) exam scores for lots of years and see if there is a name effect.
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