Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

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

No 03-16: Incentives, Sorting and Productivity along the Career: Evidence from a Sample of Top Economists

Tom Coupé (), Valérie Smeets and Frédéric Warzynski
Additional contact information
Tom Coupé: Department of Economics, Aarhus School of Business, Postal: The Aarhus School of Business, Prismet, Silkeborgvej 2, DK 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
Valérie Smeets: Department of Economics, Aarhus School of Business, Postal: The Aarhus School of Business, Prismet, Silkeborgvej 2, DK 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
Frédéric Warzynski: Department of Economics, Aarhus School of Business, Postal: The Aarhus School of Business, Prismet, Silkeborgvej 2, DK 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark

Abstract: In this paper we study empirically the labor market of economists. We look at the mobility and promotion patterns of a sample of 1,000 top economists over thirty years and link it to their productivity and other personal characteristics. We find that the probability of promotion and of upward mobility is positively related to past production. However, the sensitivity of promotion and mobility to production diminishes with experience, indicating the presence of a learning process. We also find evidence that economists respond to incentives. They tend to exert more effort at the beginning of their career when dynamic incentives are important. This finding is robust to the introduction of tenure, which has an additional negative ex post impact on production. Our results indicate therefore that both promotions and tenure have an effect on the provision of incentives. Finally, we detect evidence of a sorting process, as the more productive individuals are allocated to the best ranked universities. We provide a very simple theoretical explanation of these results based on Holmström (1982) with heterogeneous firms.

Keywords: Dynamic incentives; career concerns; sorting; productivity; internal labor markets; human capital; economic departments; promotions; mobility; tenure

JEL-codes: J41; M51

45 pages, January 17, 2003

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