Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I'm et and she's al 

Turns out my last name has done me well:
Faculty with earlier surname initials are significantly more likely to receive tenure at top ten economics departments, are significantly more likely to become fellows of the Econometric Society, and, to a lesser extent, are more likely to receive the Clark Medal and the Nobel Prize. These statistically significant differences remain the same even after we control for country of origin, ethnicity, religion or departmental fixed effects. All these effects gradually fade as we increase the sample to include our entire set of top 35 departments.
Why do you suppose that is? The paper explains that alphabetical ordering of authors on jointly-authored papers may be the source of this problem.
A surname with a first letter that is earlier in the alphabet is correlated with several proxies for professional success in the economics labor market. We suspect that the accepted norm in economics of alphabetical ordering of credits in collaborative work may play an important role in creating this �alphabetical discrimination.� It is essentially the only institutional structure creating asymmetries between market participants with different surname initials.

...There are several possible channels by which the alphabetical ordering norm can produce alphabetical discrimination.

First, when referring to a paper with more than two authors, it is common to mention only the first author and then to use �et al.� for the rest. Thus, the work of first authors, with surname initials earlier in the alphabet, may be easier to remember.

Second, the fact that first authors appear first on every mention of their collaborative work (even when all the coauthors are listed), as well as the fact that reference lists are normally ordered alphabetically, may draw attention to authors with lower average surnames. In fact, this sort of influence on attention appears to be heavily exploited in the realm of advertising.
Source. (h/t: Greg Mankiw.) And here I thought it was all my hard work.