Aug 26, 2012

"The Econometric Mafia"

In this paper we take a purely descriptive look at the relationship between becoming a Fellow of the Econometric Society and receiving the Nobel Prize in economics. We discover some interesting aspects: of all 69 Nobel Prize Laureates between 1969 and 2011, only 9 of them were not also Fellows. Moreover, the proportion of future Nobel winners among the Fellows has been quite high throughout time and a large share of researchers who became Fellows between the 1930s and 1950s became Nobel Laureates at a later stage. On average, researchers become Fellows relatively early in their career (14.9 years after their PhD) and those who were subsequently made Nobel Laureates become Fellows earlier than other researchers. Interestingly, Harvard and MIT have been the dominant PhD granting institutions to generate Fellows and Nobel Laureates in the past. 
Who are (were) not Fellows:
Elinor Ostrom (2009), Robert A. Mundell (1999), Douglass C. North (1993), Ronald H. Coase (1991), William F. Sharpe (1990), James M. Buchanan Jr. (1986), Theodore W. Schultz (1979), Sir Arthur Lewis (1979) and James E. Meade (1977). 
That is from the paper "Econometric Fellows and Nobel Laureates in Economics" by Fai Chan and Torgler
An interesting quote from the paper:
A quote by Samuelson (2004, p. 60) demonstrates that researchers are also motivated by recognition: “Let me close with a few remarks on the motivation and rewards of scientists. Scientists are as avaricious and competitive as Smithian businessmen. The coin they seek is not apples, nuts, and yachts; nor is it the coin itself, or power as that term is ordinarily used. Scholars seek fame. The fame they seek, as I noted in my 1961 American Economic Association presidential address, is fame with their peers—the other scientists whom they respect and whose respect they strive for. The sociologist Robert K. Merton has documented what I call this dirty little secret in his book The Sociology of Science. I am no exception. Abraham Lincoln’s law partner and biographer William Herndon observed that there was always a little clock of ambition ticking in the bosom of honest and whimsical Abe. No celebrity as a Newsweek columnist, no millions of clever-begotten speculative gains, no power as the Svengali or Rasputin to the prince and president could count as a pennyweight in my balance of worth against the prospect of recognition for having contributed to the empire of science”.
A graph from the paper:

The title of the post comes from this (p. 4): 
Simon (1996) also stresses that “[i]t is perhaps not too disrespectful to label the people who brought about this revolution the Econometric Mafia. Who were they? If you examine the list of Fellows of the Econometric Society in 1954, fifteen years before the first Nobel Prize in economics was awarded, you will find the names of 20 of the first 27 prizewinners.
HT: Jonas Holmstrom.

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