Three decades of publishing research in population economics
The Journal of Population Economics is celebrating its 30th birthday. When the first issue was published, population economics was non-existent as a field. Hence, the aim has been to provide a high-quality outlet to publishing excellent theoretical and applied research in all areas of population economics. The article summarizes key developments in the Journal’s editorial process, thematic orientation, international reach, and successes. Furthermore, we discuss the benefits of working papers in economics and investigate the impacts of the current working paper culture on journal citations. Finally, we try to identify the citation impacts in the Journal itself. The Journal of Population Economics has established itself as the leader in its field. Publishing in working papers and in the Journal seem to be complementary activities.
KeywordsDemographical economics Population economics Working papers Kuznets prize Citation impacts
JEL classificationA11 A14 B20 J1
Throughout the last three decades, the Journal of Population Economics, an international quarterly journal that publishes original theoretical and applied research in all areas of population economics, has been at the forefront of population economics research.1 The issues stretched from micro-level topics as individual, household, or family behavior, including household formation, marriage, divorce, fertility choices, education, labor supply, migration, health, risky behavior, and aging to macro-level analyses as economic growth with exogenous or endogenous population evolution, population policy, savings and pensions, social security, housing, and health care.
Moreover, the Journal has also featured research into economic approaches to human biology, the relationship between population dynamics and public choice, and the impact of population on the distribution of income and wealth. In addition, the Journal has attracted papers dealing with policy issues and development problems that are relevant to population questions. Today, issues related to population economics such as the demographic composition of the labor force, including aging populations, migration and refugees, declining fertility rates, and many more policy-relevant topics have been at the fore. With the aim of guiding readers, the Journal traditionally features a lead article with temporary open-access and group articles into thematic clusters.
In its 30 years of publishing high-quality research in population economics, the Journal has experienced exciting developments in its editorial processes, its geographical and thematic perspectives, and its successes in impact and ranking. In the next section of this article, we present some selected aspects of these developments.
The proliferation of working papers and the respective working paper culture in economics has implications for publishing peer-reviewed journal articles. Some journals in demography and other disciplines have been worried about the potential competition working papers may have for journals. In section 3, we, thus, discuss these implications, the benefits and potential costs of working papers. Specifically, we look into the implications for citations. We argue that the dissemination function, the resulting benefits, and resulting early cites clearly outweigh potential citation losses of journal articles. Finally, we try to identify the citation impacts of working papers in the Journal of Population Economics. Section 4 concludes.
2 Three decades of the Journal of Population Economics
We focus on several aspects of the Journal’s development and position in the field. We first take a closer look at the evidence related to the editorial development of the Journal.
2.1 Some editorial developments
The Journal of Population Economics published between 16 (in the early years) and 61 (in 2013) articles per year. Since 2014 the Editors have established a strict policy of publishing only 10 papers per issue, totaling to 40 papers per year. In total, until the end of 2015, the Journal has published 1007 articles. Figure 1 also shows the development of the number of published articles over the last 20 years. A rising number of papers were published, in particular between 2007 and 2013, with more than 50 articles per year after 2009.
In light of these developments and the slowdown in first decision times in economics journals to 3–6 months4 in 2013, the Journal has implemented a strict desk rejection policy which aims to provide authors with an early signal for better targeting of their work and at the same time saving editorial and refereeing resources. Furthermore, the average number of days to reach a first decision has been consistently declining for the Journal of Population Economics to 42 days in 2015.
We now inspect the development of areas covered in the Journal of Population Economics.
2.2 The evolution of JEL areas
JEL code classifications of published papers, Journal of Population Economics
C—Mathematical and Quantitative Methods
E—Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics
I—Health, Education, Welfare
J—Labor and Demographic Economics
O—Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth
Articles published with JEL codes
In a next step, we take a closer look at whether the Journal’s identity as an international outlet is mirrored by its geography of authorship and access.
2.3 An international journal
The Journal of Population Economics is an international journal and signals its global focus also in its subtitle: “International Research on the Economics of Population, Household, and Human Resources.” We want to assess whether the Journal is globally accessed and inspect the geographical distribution of its authors.
Origins of submissions 1988–2015
Thus, while authorship of the Journal of Population Economics is skewed towards Europe,6 its global relevance is well founded on the evidenced global access and readership.
To attract good authors and create attention for their articles, the Journal selects the best paper for a prize, the Kuznets Prize.
2.4 The Kuznets Prize
Kuznets Prize winners and winning papers
Semih Tumen and Binnur Balkan
Immigration and prices: quasi-experimental evidence from Syrian refugees in Turkey
2016, 29(3): 657–686
The quality–quantity trade-off: evidence from the relaxation of China’s one-child policy
2014, 27 (2): 565–602
National identity and ethnic diversity
2013, 26 (2): 437–454
Richard W. Evans, Ying-yao Hu and Zhong Zhao
The fertility effect of catastrophe: US hurricane births
2010, 23 (1): 1–36
Makoto Hirazawa and Akira Yakita
Fertility, child care outside the home, and pay-as-you-go social security
2009, 22 (2): 565–583
Sex selection and fertility in a dynamic model of conception and abortion
2005, 18 (1): 41–67
Olympia Bover and Manuel Arellano
Learning about migration decisions from migrants: using complementary datasets to model intra-regional migrations in Spain
2002, 15 (2): 357–380
David C. Ribar
The socioeconomic consequences of young women’s childbearing: reconciling disparate evidence
1999, 12 (4): 547–565
James R. Walker
The effect of public policies on recent Swedish fertility behavior
1995, 8 (3): 223–251
As a last step in reviewing the evidence of 30 years of the Journal of Population Economics, we highlight the Journal’s success in impact and rankings.
2.5 Successes: impact, citations and rankings
In 2015, the Simple Impact Factor was 1.139 and the 5-year impact factor was 1.509. IDEAS/RePEc ranks the Journal of Population Economics based on its Simple Impact Factor for Journals as number 70 of 1661 studied journals.
In the next section, we will proceed to discuss the role of working papers in economics and their citation impacts. The debate will include the situation in population economics and relate the analysis to the Journal of Population Economics.
3 Working papers in (population) economics
3.1 Working papers are working
The internet has enriched scientific communication and dissemination among other means also through the online availability of working papers. While the open dissemination and sharing of unpublished research is very different in various disciplines, economics has a tradition of a working paper culture with a relatively high recognition.7 According to McCabe and Snyder (2015) in economics, the share of published articles having working papers rose from 15 % in 1995 to over 50 % in 2005. In other fields such as health science, medicine and psychology copyright restrictions prevent pre- or post-publication and working papers are also not common in competitive fields with commercial potential and speedy journal publication as biology or chemistry. The degree of development of a paper also varies across disciplines, e.g., in physics, math, and bioinformatics, working papers often are final version pre-prints.8
In economics, working papers can be papers in progress or more polished versions submitted to a journal or forthcoming in a journal, typically complementary to journal publication, while not all working papers are published in journals and not all journal articles exist as working papers. With some exceptions, working papers are typically not refereed.9 Besides formal working paper series as the widely followed NBER, CEPR, etc. series and institutional or discipline-specific repositories as SSRN and RePEc, increasingly, papers are also posted on personal webpages.10
With the proliferation of the working paper series and the practice of some economists to publish working papers on their own websites, working papers have changed journal practices. First, working papers push journals to move away from double-blind peer reviewing since the identity of the authors can often be easily determined based on existing working papers.11 Second, since publication lags obstruct swift dissemination of new knowledge,12 working papers are becoming substitutes for the traditional dissemination role of journals, whereby the role of journals is increasingly restricted to providing quality certification.13
Furthermore, Azar (2007) argues that by making research work timely and (mainly) openly available, the community is aware of the research before it is being published, whereby from the community’s perspective quick journal publication became less important. Clearly, working papers are no substitutes for formal peer-reviewed journal publication and the resulting quality seal, but the long lag to publication is a central reason for the proliferation of working papers.14 Hence, speedy public availability and dissemination15 are the main drivers of working papers, with the implicit aim of informing the community, stimulating debates, establishing priority, building reputation, and protecting research from plagiarism.16 While they generally are not peer-reviewed working papers enable a light, informal, institutional or pre-publication review, achieved through dissemination, exchange, discussions, and feedback.17
The increasing relevance of working papers may also imply a wider dissemination of wrong findings due to lacking quality assessment and in light of expected reviews until the published version. This may be aggravated by the fact that media is generally interested in new findings and thus, often, especially if findings are novel or unexpected, report, or rely on working papers. In case findings have proven wrong, readers may seldom know about the correction or read the final published version. While the quality may be partly assessed by the identity of the author, the issuer of the working paper and bibliometrics, specifically information on citations and downloads, as well as blog coverage, it is the nature of working papers to disseminate work in progress as disclaimers often signal.18 Evidence-based policy making should though not rely on working papers but rather on peer-reviewed journal publications.
As a consequence of the rapid availability and dissemination, working papers have a significant role in citations. According to Azar (2007), they account for 14 % of citations having increased from 3 % in 1960 and rank second in citation sources in Econometrica and American Economic Review after journals and before books followed by edited volume chapters and forthcoming articles. However, Frandsen (2009), who analyzed citation levels of working papers in economics, highlights that their measured impact is relatively low. This suggests that the number of citations to working papers underestimates the true value of working papers. Most citations to working papers are to recent papers, which appeared in the last years, since references especially prior to publication are usually updated such that the citation is to the published journal version of the paper.19 And working papers seem to increase the awareness of the article which may lead also to more journal version cites.
Nonetheless, working papers may continue to receive citations even after the respective peer-reviewed journal article has been published, e.g., because of lack of awareness of the journal publication or an easier access to the online available working paper. While these citations should be attributed to the published version of the paper and the respective journal, thus contributing to impact factor etc., the possibility of losing citations to working papers is inherent in the economics publishing sphere. As pointed out by McCabe and Snyder (2015), citations are “the currency in this market” and thus, this effect could though be costly if working papers due to their free availability attract higher citations.20 The question then is whether their open-access characteristic generates higher citations.
Since Lawrence (2001) showed that open-access articles in computer science have significantly more citations than articles which are not open access, the scientific literature in bibliometrics and information science has extensively debated the citation impacts of open access and online availability of scientific publications.21 For example, Harnad and Brody (2004) argued that articles in physics submitted to a preprint server generated four times higher citations than papers published in the same journals which were not archived on a preprint server. Hajjem et al. (2005) found that open-access articles across ten disciplines had a citation advantage of 25–250 %. While this so-called open-access effect postulates that open-access articles are cited more because they are openly available or non-open-access articles are not cited since they are not accessible,22 these and many other studies generally showed a correlation between open access and higher citations but no causality.23 In the following, the literature debated limitations, methodological flaws, and various potential biases.
Kurtz et al. (2005) uncovered two biases. First, the twofold selection or quality bias accounts for the fact that the most reputed and citable authors are more likely to make their papers openly available and especially their higher quality and thus citable contributions. Second, the early view bias or effect for papers which have posted before journal publication identifies the fact that due to their earlier availability, these papers enable earlier accumulation of citations. In the field of astronomy the authors find strong evidence for both effects but no residual open-access effect. Similarly, Moed (2007) rigorous analysis in the field of solid state physics provides evidence that after controlling for strong selection and early view biases, the open access has at best a negligible or no effect on citations. It is difficult to generalize across disciplines due to their specific publication cultures and the implied methodological aspects.24 Nonetheless, the evidence suggests that preprints or working papers in general do not have a citation impact by making research papers freely available, but it illustrates through the early view effect that they may generate citations since the papers are available earlier. This is in line with the dissemination function of working papers.25
This strand of the literature mainly focused on comparing journal articles archived in preprint archives and those not or open-access and not open-access articles in the same journals. Relatively less analysis has been applied in examining citations for working papers, i.e., publications in various earlier stages of development.26 The existing studies though seem to confirm the above findings. Frandsen (2009) found no evidence of an open-access effect on citations for working papers in economics. Specifically, the author shows that they have not experienced an increase in citations due to the free availability with the shift to online versions. Similarly, Ingwersen and Elleby (2011), who examined a working paper series of a multidisciplinary social science research institute, conclude that leaving the above biases aside working papers have no citation advantage over peer reviewed journal articles.
A different strand of the literature focused on the online availability effect, independently of open access, of articles on citations.27 According to McCabe and Snyder (2015), who focus their analysis on economics and business, this literature is subject to similar biases. Their analysis provides evidence of an aggregate zero online effect on citations, which though covers substantial heterogeneity. Specifically, online availability on JSTOR had a positive and significant but a not generalizable and modest effect of 10 % on citations, which decreased over time. The authors argue that this decline may be due to the proliferation of working papers, whereby there is less additional citation benefit of having the published version accessible through the JSTOR platform.
Summing up, the literature does not provide any evidence for an open-access effect of working papers on citations, thereby implicitly also no evidence for systematic “stealing” of citations from published peer-reviewed journal articles. Nonetheless, sometimes, working paper references may not be updated to refer to the published journal articles. We though argue that this is an acceptable side effect of working papers. As evidence by Frandsen and Wouters (2009) shows authors generally aim for peer-reviewed journal articles in their reference list and, thus, tend to update their references, whereby the residual “stolen” citations should be modest. The evidence of a lack of open-access effect indicates as discussed by Frandsen (2009) and Craig et al. (2007) that working papers have different impacts on readership and citations. Clearly, the impact on the former reflects the advantages of working papers and their information and dissemination function. In addition, without working papers, the author and the research itself would lose citations, namely citations to the working paper prior to the journal publication, which the journal would not have received anyway. The strong evidence for the early view effect suggests that this loss would be significant, since working papers enable acceleration and early accumulation of citations. Furthermore, the combination of this latter effect and the updating of references could imply that working papers generate additional citations for peer-reviewed journal articles. Imagine a researcher being able to access early, read, and cite the working paper, while the journal article is not yet published. By the time, this researcher submits her final version for publication the peer reviewed journal article may be published and then replace the working paper in the updated references.
Clearly, working papers are working in economics: they have an important information, dissemination, and informal review function and generate early citations for the author, and while potential citation losses for the published journal article to the working paper version are expected to be small, working papers may actually generate additional citations for the journal. Peer-reviewed journal publication remains essential to provide the necessary quality certification. The proliferation of working papers has though shown that they have and will in the future reduce the marginal impact of other online or open-access channels, e.g., as limited time window open access or early view of the online version of the peer-reviewed article before print publication.28 As a tendency, working papers and published articles are complementary.
3.2 Journal of Population Economics: citations 2010–2014
Articles with and without working papers and their citations
Total number of papers with WP
Share of published papers with WP
Avg. Google Scholar cites—with WP
Avg. Google Scholar cites—without WP
Avg. Web of Science cites—with WP
Avg. Web of Science cites—without WP
Avg. no of WPs—with WP
Total number of published papers
Those articles which have also been published as working paper systematically have higher citations. Specifically, Google Scholar citations count the citations of both the article itself and the working paper version and show that articles published also as working papers get on average 2 times more citations. The Web of Science citations report counting only citations of the article itself reveals 1.4 times more citations for articles which have also been published as working papers. Clearly, as per the discussion above, this association does not imply any causation and may be a result of the early view and selection biases.
3.3 Journal of Population Economics: most cited papers 1997–2016
Journal of Population Economics: most cited papers 1997–2016
David J. McKenzie
Measuring inequality with asset indicators
2005, 18 (2)
Namkee Ahn and Pedro Mira
A note on the changing relationship between fertility and female employment rates in developed countries
2002, 15 (4)
Barry R. Chiswick and Paul W. Miller
Immigrant earnings: language skills, linguistic concentrations and the business cycle
2002, 15 (1)
Daniela Del Boca
The effect of child care and part time opportunities on participation and fertility decisions in Italy
2002, 15 (3)
Anna Maria Mayda
International migration: a panel data analysis of the determinants of bilateral flows
2010, 23 (4)
Changing fertility rates in developed countries. The impact of labor market institutions
2004, 17 (1)
Speaking fluency, writing fluency and earnings of migrants
1994, 7 (2)
Björn Gustafsson and Shi Li
Economic transformation and the gender earnings gap in urban China
2000, 13 (2)
Amelie Constant and Douglas S. Massey
Self-selection, earnings, and out-migration: a longitudinal study of immigrants to Germany
2003, 16 (4)
The changing nature of wage inequality
2008, 21 (1)
For these highly cited articles, we also inspected the potential early view effect by counting the Google Scholar citations until the year prior to the Journal of Population Economics publication year. Based on this crude inspection, the early view effect of working papers on citations lies between 0 and 10 % with an average of 2 % of existing citations.
3.4 Journal of Population Economics: citations of lead articles 2014
Lead and normal articles published in 2014 with and without working papers and their citations
Total number of papers with WP
Share of published papers with WP
Average Google Scholar cites—paper with WP
Average Google Scholar cites—paper without WP
Average Web of Science cites—paper with WP
Average Web of Science cites—paper without WP
Average no of WPs for those published in WP
Total number of published papers
Again, these facts do not enable any clear interpretation though the fact that all lead articles exist as working papers may relate to the selection or quality effect. The higher citations of lead articles relative to normal articles may in addition to being a result of the selection effect could also be a result of a signaling effect. Having chosen these papers as lead articles may signal higher quality. The fact that these articles are openly accessible for a specific time window should have no significant impact if we apply the findings from the literature and since all these papers have respective working paper versions, which would make any potential additional citation benefit even smaller.
While we are not able to verify the existence of the mentioned effects for the Journal of Population Economics without further rigorous analysis, on the basis of the existing literature, this inspection into the citations articles leads to different interpretations. Journal of Population Economics’ articles increasingly have a respective working paper version, the top cited articles to a higher degree, which may be a direct result of the quality or selection effect. The limited data on lead articles may point to a potential signaling effect.
4 Concluding remarks
The Journal of Population Economics has experienced very successful 30 years of publishing high-quality research in population economics. We have reviewed and highlighted some selected developments. First, the editorial developments of the Journal are comparable to those of top economics journals. Second, the Journal is indeed a global journal in reach and authorship. Third, its impact factor and rankings illustrate the success of the Journal and place and qualify it as the leading journal in population economics.
We have discussed the central role of working papers in economics and stressed that working papers are indeed working. They fulfill a crucial and valuable dissemination function in economics; the use and interpretation of their findings though has to take into account their specific nature as working papers. Peer-reviewed journal articles remain essential to provide quality control and assurance. The discussion of the literature provided insights into their citation impact, and in our interpretation, citations of journal articles rather benefit from working papers than lose citations to them. Both seem to be complements rather than substitutes, and the Journal will continue to accept discussion papers for submission.
See Zimmermann (1997).
Card and DellaVigna (2013) analyzed the following five journals: the American Economic Review (AER), Econometrica (ECA), the Journal of Political Economy (JPE), the Quarterly Journal of Economics (QJE), and the Review of Economic Studies (RES).
Specifically, the acceptance rates decreased from 15 to 6 % between 1990 and 2012; see Card and DellaVigna (2013).
See Azar (2007).
See Andrikopoulos et al. (2016) for a review of the development and determinants of co-authorship in economics as well as an analysis of the structure and network of collaborative authorships.
100 % of authors reported that they would definitely publish or probably publish in the journal again.
Some World Bank Discussion Paper Series are refereed; other series have some moderating role or quality control by the editor and series as NBER and CEPR are affiliation-based, i.e., you need to be a fellow to submit a paper in these series.
See Blank (1993) for experimental evidence of the effects of double- vs. single-blind reviewing.
See Meyer (2000).
See Ellison (2011), who presents her decline of peer-review theory, by which highly reputed authors traditionally may have used journal publications mainly to disseminate their work and nowadays will be able to doing so without publishing it in journals.
Nowadays, online first strategies enable availability and citability in advance of the publication of an article in printed issues.
In addition to the community, the dissemination includes also media and scholars in developing countries without formal subscription to journals.
See Harley and Acord (2011) and Harley et al. (2010). Also, see for example the aim of NBER working papers: “They are intended to make results of NBER research available to other economists in preliminary form to encourage discussion and suggestions for revision before publication.” http://www.nber.org/papers.html
See Tahamtan et al. (2016) for a comprehensive review of factors influencing citations.
See also Gargouri et al. (2010).
See Craig et al. (2007).
See for example Frandsen (2009) for a discussion.
According to Moed (2007), this is also the explicit function of preprint archives.
See Frandsen (2009).
See McCabe and Snyder (2015) for a discussion of this literature.
One needs to take into account that this analysis does not count articles which have a different title in their working paper version.
- Blank R (1993) The effects of double-blind versus single-blind reviewing: experimental evidence. Am Econ Rev 81(5):1041–1067Google Scholar
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- Ozler B (2011) Working papers are not working, Development Impact Blog, The World Bank, 30.06.2011, http://blogs.worldbank.org/impactevaluations/working-papers-are-not-working