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Economics: An Emerging Small World?

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  • Sanjeev Goyal
  • Marco van der Leij
  • José Luis Moraga Gonzales

Abstract

This paper examines the small world hypothesis. The first part of the paper presents empirical evidence on the evolution of a particular world: the world of journal publishing economists during the period 1970-2000. We find that in the 1970's the world of economics was a collection of islands, with the largest island having about 15% of the population. Two decades later, in the 1990's, the world of economics was much more integrated, with the largest island covering close to half the population. At the same time, the distance between individuals on the largest island had fallen significantly. Thus we believe that economics is an emerging small world. What is it about the network structure that makes the world small? An exploration of the micro aspects of the network yields three findings: one, the average number of co-authors is very small but increasing; two, the distribution of co-authors is very unequal; and three, there exist a number of ‘stars’, individuals who have a large number of co-authors (25 times the average number) most of whom do not write with each other. Thus the economics world is a set of inter-connected stars. We take the view that individuals decide on whether to work alone or with others; this means that individual incentives should help us understand why the economics world has the structure it does. The second part of the paper develops a simple theoretical model of co-authorship. The main finding of the model is that in the presence of productivity differentials and a shortage of high-productivity individuals, inter-connected stars will arise naturally in equilibrium. Falling costs of communication and increasing credit for joint research leads to greater co-authorship and this is consistent with the growth in the size of the giant component.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 1287.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_1287

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  1. Rachel E. Kranton & Deborah F. Minehart, 2001. "A Theory of Buyer-Seller Networks," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 485-508, June.
  2. Glenn Ellison, 2000. "Evolving Standards for Academic Publishing: A q-r Theory," NBER Working Papers 7805, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Matthew O. Jackson, 2003. "A survey of models of network formation: Stability and efficiency," Working Papers 1161, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  4. Ellison, Glenn & Fudenberg, Drew, 1993. "Rules of Thumb for Social Learning," Scholarly Articles 3196332, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  7. Rosenblat, Tanya & Mobius, Markus, 2010. "Getting Closer or Drifting Apart?," Staff General Research Papers 32113, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  8. David N. Laband & Robert D. Tollison, 2000. "Intellectual Collaboration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(3), pages 632-661, June.
  9. Eshel, I. & Samuelson, L. & Shaked, A., 1996. "Altruists, Egoists and Hooligans in a Local Interaction Model," Working papers 9612r, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  10. Barabási, Albert-László & Albert, Réka & Jeong, Hawoong, 1999. "Mean-field theory for scale-free random networks," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 272(1), pages 173-187.
  11. Bala, Venkatesh & Goyal, Sanjeev, 1998. "Learning from Neighbours," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(3), pages 595-621, July.
  12. Kaivan Munshi, 2003. "Networks In The Modern Economy: Mexican Migrants In The U.S. Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(2), pages 549-599, May.
  13. Franklin Allen & Douglas Gale, 1998. "Financial Contagion Journal of Political Economy," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 98-31, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
  14. McDowell, John M & Melvin, Michael, 1983. "The Determinants of Co-Authorship: An Analysis of the Economics Literature," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 65(1), pages 155-60, February.
  15. John Hudson, 1996. "Trends in Multi-authored Papers in Economics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 153-158, Summer.
  16. Venkatesh Bala & Sanjeev Goyal, 2000. "A Noncooperative Model of Network Formation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1181-1230, September.
  17. Sanjeev Goyal, 2003. "Learning in Networks: a survey," Economics Discussion Papers 563, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
  18. Glenn Ellison, 2000. "The Slowdown of the Economics Publishing Process," NBER Working Papers 7804, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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