Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics
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Department of Economics, Aarhus School of Business, University of Aarhus Working Papers, Department of Economics, Aarhus School of Business, University of Aarhus

No 04-4:
Are There Fast Tracks in Economic Departments? Evidence from a Sample of Top Economists

Valerie Smeets ()

Abstract: In this paper, we analyze the timing of promotions in academic departments. Contrary to previous attempts in the empirical literature, we test

alternative theories of fast tracks by adding a measure of performance in

our analysis. We find that learning from past performance is an important

factor to explain the time spent as assistant and associate professor. In

addition, our analysis shows the existence of a handicapping policy: individuals who had a fast promotion in the past are less likely to be promoted

quickly again. We also find that the handicap is relative, that it does not

survive the whole career and that it is possible for these individuals to

beat it if they achieve a given level of productivity. We interpret our find-

ings as evidence that incentives and sorting matter in academia and that

using relative handicaps can help to balance these two concerns. Finally,

we look at the productivity pattern of individuals with different career

profiles and find that fast tracks are always more productive than their

pairs, even after the last promotion, what suggests an effective selection


Keywords: Fast track; Incentives; Sorting; Productivity; Economic departments; (follow links to similar papers)

JEL-Codes: J41; M51; (follow links to similar papers)

28 pages, May 26, 2004

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