Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

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

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

Valerie Smeets ()
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Valerie Smeets: Department of Economics, Aarhus School of Business, Postal: Prismet, Silkeborgvej 2, DK 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark

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 process.

Keywords: Fast track; Incentives; Sorting; Productivity; Economic departments

JEL-codes: J41; M51

28 pages, May 26, 2004

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