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the next economics nobel prize goes to … mark granovetter??

Fabio

From the home office in Fort Collins, Colorado, loyal reader Sammy Zahran makes the following argument. If the Nobel memorial prize in economics goes to a person who has made a substantial impact on the study of markets,* why shouldn’t it go to economic sociologist Mark Granovetter? By nearly any measure, he’s been more influential than most of the economists who’ve recently won the award:

Sociologist Mark Granovetter deserves serious consideration. In the sheet attached I compare Granovetter with Nobel Laureates dating back to Coase in 1991 on citation tree sizes. I search Google Scholar for the top 2 cited papers by each person – a quick and dirty estimate of influence (or size of citation tree). Top 2 is arbitrary. The story changes very little if one extends to top 3 or 5. Only Khaneman has many papers that clear 1000+ citations. In the attached document, you’ll see that very few papers out kick the problem of embeddedness or weak ties, and no person has a better one-two punch. Moreover, Granovetter’s citation tree is picking up pace – I check every so often. Important note – even more accessible Laureates like Sen fare badly against Granovetter. I’d like to see the ASA push this for 2007.

Sammy showed me the numbers to back up the claim. According to Google scholar, Granovetter’s most cited papers are the weak ties and embeddedness papers, which got about 5,000 cites each. Let’s compare with the recent econ prize winners: Ed Phelps’ two biggest papers got 800 & 500 cites each; Thom Schelling’s Strategy of Conflict book got 2700 cites and the Micromotives book about 1300 cites; Aumann’s papers on auctions got 400 and 700 cites; EC Prescott’s top papers hit 2000 cites; Stiglitz’ top paper gets 3,000 cites; and the list goes on. A few do surpass Granovetter, such as psychologist Daniel Kahneman, whose paper with Tversky established experimental econ and got 6000 cites. Those with citation counts in Granovetter’s league include leading figures like Jim Heckman, Myron Scholes, and Doug North. Given these numbers, how many economists will push for Granovetter as the next econ Nobelist? They are the rational ones among us! Greg Mankiw, we’re waiting…

*From the Nobel prize website:“The Prize Committee, and the Academy, has decided to give wide interpretation to the term “economic sciences,” so that prizes may be awarded to scholars making important scientific contributions also in neighboring disciplines, in so far as these concern economic issues.”

Written by fabiorojas

October 3, 2007 at 3:49 am

Posted in academia, economics, fabio

16 Responses

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  1. Economists would prefer to commit collective Hara-kiri before giving the prize to a sociologist.

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    Omar

    October 3, 2007 at 11:20 am

  2. Hate to rain on Granovetter’s parade, but, in fact, there is no “Nobel Prize in Economics.” It is the “Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel,” established by the Bank of Sweden, not by Alfred Nobel.

    I assume the orgtheory crew is aware of this, but I find it important to it over and over (and over) again whenever the “Nobel Prize in Economics” mantra is replicated, whether people know better or not. It is a textbook STS example of how handwaving by economists creates a reality for others. The Nobel family has explicitly distanced itsefly from the “Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel” as a “public relations coup by economists.”

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    rich

    October 3, 2007 at 12:10 pm

  3. Maybe we can get Wells Fargo to sponsor a similar prize for sociologists…in memory of Alfred Nobel of course.

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    Omar

    October 3, 2007 at 12:46 pm

  4. Omar: Collective hara-kiri is a positive externality – we’d all enjoy the sight and pay nothing for the privilige!

    Rich: First, sit down and breathe deep. Ok, yes, we are aware of the econ prize status – I do refer to it as the the memorial prize in the post, but saying the whole name is cumbersome – but it doesn’t bother me. There is nothing terribly wrong about making a prize for academic work and I don’t get why people invest the energy slamming the econ prize. I don’t see it as handwaving. Sammy’s point was simply that if they were serious about rewarding excellence in economic research, Mark Granovetter and a few others would actually have a legitimate claim on the prize.

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    fabiorojas

    October 3, 2007 at 3:14 pm

  5. If we are going on citation-counts and using loose definitions of economics – how about a management scholar, e.g., Jay Barney?

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    tf

    October 3, 2007 at 3:44 pm

  6. “There is nothing terribly wrong about making a prize for academic work and I don’t get why people invest the energy slamming the econ prize.”

    It seems very easy to understand to me. The reason people react aversively is because the field of economics in a sense puchased improved status. If I tried to pay you to respect me, you would be reluctant, right?

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    Thorsetin Veblen, Esq

    October 3, 2007 at 4:35 pm

  7. Thorstein: This case is not so obvious. Nobody has paid anyone to respect the economics prize – all the payment goes to the winner. There are no shills for the prize. Also, prizes are akin to advertising for an intellectual community. Does anybody slam literature because it has an original Nobel? Why should econ be singled out?

    In a sense, prizes are all about advertising – it may be for the winners, the prize givers, or the broader academic group. Yes, we all like poking fun at economists, but I don’t think they deserve anymore criticism on this count than any other group that has a well known prize. You may say they pimp off the fame of the original Nobel. True – but so what? Lot’s of prizes pimp off of the fame of others.

    Maybe your criticism is not really about the econ prize, but about prizes in general, and I would probably agree with you. While I would love to win a few prizes (and I did get an ASA grad student paper award once), I will easily concede that they aren’t the reason we do our work and that some people take them way too seriously. At best, it’s a way to signal to the wider intellectual community that (a) this individual is really doing good stuff, (b) this area of work is interesting and vibrant and (c) we should continue supporting this area. And taken with a grain of salt, that’s not a bad thing.

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    fabiorojas

    October 3, 2007 at 5:13 pm

  8. Fabio is certainly right in pointing to the secondary “functions” of prizes. I think that one additional thing that the Nobel “branding” does is that it prevents “prize inflation” (for instance now every ASA section has a prize, in addition to the various centralized ASA prizes which means that the ASA prize currency is devalued as Andy Abbott likes to point out). Nobel is instantly recognizable and usually gets reported in mainstream news as a major occurrence (as opposed to for instance the ASA career achievement award), even the “fake” economics Nobel.

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    Omar

    October 3, 2007 at 6:00 pm

  9. Fabio,

    My criticism concerns the econ prize, not prizes in general. Sleeze is the reason (thank you TV). Also, it is one thing that I enjoy being a d*&k about.

    I’m with Omar: “The Wells Fargo Whodaddy Wappy Prize for Sociology….inmemoryofAlfredNobel”

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    rich

    October 4, 2007 at 12:17 pm

  10. […] the next economics nobel prize goes to … mark granovetter?? […]

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  11. […] week, I discussed how sociologist Mark Garnovetter might legitimately be considered for the economics Nobel memorial prize because he studies the economy and has had a measurable academic impact similar to other prize […]

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  12. You cannot judge an economist by its citations. It is obviously a reasonable way to rank scholars, but not the best nor the only. There are hundreds of economists that have more citations than the ones that received the nobel prize. Just look at popular econometric tests like White, or estimation techniques: Arellano and Bond. Popularity is a good signal, but it is better to look at the quality of the papers that follow. Google scholar counts every citation as equal, it doesn’t matter if it is by the most prominent paper in Econometrica or just by your neighbor in his term paper for the econ class (that was posted in his website). Moreover, once an idea becomes popular, people just use it and no longer cite the original source, for example the Nash equilibirum. That paper has only 1500 citations, but it is one of the most widely used ideas in economics.

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    Diego

    October 9, 2007 at 4:07 pm

  13. I really like the Granovetter line of economic sociology but like the others, I disagree for a few reasons: (1) as mentioned citations are a crude measure of quality and even impact!; (2) there is a circularity problem with the work on social networks. That is, it’s hard to know whether one’s centrality in the network is a source of power, influence etc, or if one’s position in the network is the result of one’s own doing.

    A lot of people cite this work, but it has been rightly argued that we need to be careful about the causal inferences that we make from these social relationships before acknowledging their existence. This work has been adopted in economics, and it’s some of the most difficult stuff out there to do well.

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    S. Heaton

    October 9, 2007 at 8:32 pm

  14. I posted this in the *other* thread on the econ nobel prize:

    “Diego: I agree with you that google scholar counts are not to be taken too seriously, but they do serve as a rough estimate of a work’s impact. I doubt that any paper that got only one or two cites would be considered prominent, and I doubt that a paper gathering thousands of cites is not having *some* impact. My hypothesis is that if you showed a panel of specialists lists of papers and asked them to rate their importance, it would correlate pretty darned well with the google scholar count.

    The other issue you raised is about quality of papers. In my original post, I didn’t go purely by citation count, but each of the scholars has written material that I, and many others, find highly illuminating. The citation count just brings attention to the fact that I am not alone in thinking that a lot of good scholarship on economic institutions happens in fields adjacent to economics like management or sociology. Why shouldn’t we reward that?”

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    fabiorojas

    October 9, 2007 at 8:35 pm

  15. […] Nobel Prize (tomorrow). Next Monday the Prize for Economics will be announced. Some hope it will be awarded to an economic sociologist like Mark Granovetter or other sociologists who have had a serious impact on the study of economic […]

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  16. […] of transaction cost economics, nonetheless I think critiques will also receive indirect attention (who knows?).  Furthermore, both Granovetter and Williamson have highlighted the need for a meaningful […]

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