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Tools or Toys? The Impact of High Technology on Scholarly Productivity

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  • Daniel S. Hamermesh
  • Sharon M. Oster

Abstract

Toys. The impact of computers on productivity has been examined directly on macro data and indirectly (on wages) using microeconomic data. This study examines the direct impact on the productivity of scholarship by considering how high technology might alter patterns of coauthoring of articles in economics and their influence. Using all coauthored articles in three major economics journals from 1970-79 and 1992-96, we find: 1) Sharp growth in the percentage of distant coauthorships (those between authors who were not in the same metropolitan areas in the four years prior to publication), as the theory predicts. Contrary to the theory: 2) Lower productivity (in terms of subsequent citations) of distant than close-coauthored papers; and 3) No decline in their relative disadvantage between the 1970s and 1990s. These findings are reconciled by the argument that high-technology functions as a consumption rather than an investment good. As such, it can be welfare-increasing without increasing productivity.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6761.

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Date of creation: Oct 1998
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Publication status: published as Hamermesh, Daniel S. and Sharon M. Oster. "Tools Or Toys? The Impact Of High Technology On Scholarly Productivity," Economic Inquiry, 2002, v40(4,Oct), 539-555.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6761

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  1. Zvi Griliches, 1958. "Research Costs and Social Returns: Hybrid Corn and Related Innovations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66, pages 419.
  2. Sharon M. Oster & Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1998. "Aging And Productivity Among Economists," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(1), pages 154-156, February.
  3. Trajtenberg, Manuel, 1989. "The Welfare Analysis of Product Innovations, with an Application to Computed Tomography Scanners," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(2), pages 444-79, April.
  4. Quandt, Richard E, 1976. "Some Quantitative Aspects of the Economics Journal Literature," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages 741-55, August.
  5. Sauer, Raymond D, 1988. "Estimates of the Returns to Quality and Coauthorship in Economic Academia," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(4), pages 855-66, August.
  6. Nathalie Greenana & Jacques Mairesse, 2000. "Computers And Productivity In France: Some Evidence," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(3), pages 275-315.
  7. Edward P. Lazear, 1998. "Globalization and the Market for Teammates," NBER Working Papers 6579, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Dinardo, J.E. & Pischke, J.S., 1996. "The Returns to Computer Use Revisited: Have Pencils Changed the Wage Structure Too?," Working papers, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics 96-12, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  9. McDowell, John M & Smith, Janet Kiholm, 1992. "The Effect of Gender-Sorting on Propensity to Coauthor: Implications for Academic Promotion," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, Western Economic Association International, vol. 30(1), pages 68-82, January.
  10. Dasgupta, Partha, 1988. "Patents, Priority and Imitation or, the Economics of Races and Waiting Games," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, Royal Economic Society, vol. 98(389), pages 66-80, March.
  11. Catherine J. Morrison & Ernst R. Berndt, 1991. "Assessing the Productivity of Information Technology Equipment in U.S. Manufacturing Industries," NBER Working Papers 3582, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Doms, Mark & Dunne, Timothy & Troske, Kenneth R, 1997. "Workers, Wages, and Technology," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 253-90, February.
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Cited by:
  1. Daniel S. Hamermesh, 2005. "The Value of Peripatetic Economists: A Sesqui-Difference Evaluation of Bob Gregory," NBER Working Papers 11453, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. E. Han Kim & Adair Morse & Luigi Zingales, 2006. "Are Elite Universities Losing Their Competitive Edge?," NBER Working Papers 12245, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Sanjeev Goyal & Marco van der Leij & Jose Luis Moraga, 2004. "Economics: An Emerging Small World?," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 04-001/1, Tinbergen Institute.
  4. Daniel S. Hamermesh, 2013. "Six Decades of Top Economics Publishing: Who and How?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 51(1), pages 162-72, March.
  5. Robert J. Gordon, 2000. "Does the "New Economy" Measure up to the Great Inventions of the Past?," NBER Working Papers 7833, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Waverly W. Ding & Sharon G. Levin & Paula E. Stephan & Anne E. Winkler, 2009. "The Impact of Information Technology on Scientists' Productivity, Quality and Collaboration Patterns," NBER Working Papers 15285, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Ajay K. Agrawal & Avi Goldfarb, 2006. "Restructuring Research: Communication Costs and the Democratization of University Innovation," NBER Working Papers 12812, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Ofer H. Azar, 2005. "The Review Process in Economics: Is it Too Fast?," General Economics and Teaching, EconWPA 0503013, EconWPA.
  9. Daniel Johnson & Kristina Lybecker, 2012. "Does Distance Matter Less Now? The Changing Role of Geography in Biotechnology Innovation," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer, Springer, vol. 40(1), pages 21-35, February.
  10. Hollis, Aidan, 2001. "Co-authorship and the output of academic economists," Labour Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 8(4), pages 503-530, September.
  11. Matthias Krapf, 2012. "Age and Complementarity in Scientific Collaboration," Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics, University of Konstanz 2012-18, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz.
  12. repec:dgr:uvatin:2004001 is not listed on IDEAS

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