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Collaboration incentives: Endogenous selection into single and coauthorships by surname initial in economics and management

by David Ong*, Ho Fai Chan, Benno Torgler, Yu (Alan) Yang

ARTICLE | Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization | Vol. 147, 2018


Many prior studies suggest that default alphabetical ordering of coauthors in economics confers disproportionate professional advantages on those with an early surname initial because of the greater prominence it gives to the first author. However, these studies do not consider that authors select into coauthorships according to the incentives identified. We develop a model of endogenous selection into single and coauthorships around the principle that no one wants to be second author when they expect to provide the larger contribution(i.e., are of higher “quality”). We test it with authorship data from economics, with management (which does not use default alphabetical ordering) as a benchmark. We predict for economics that lower quality authors with an early surname initial would be less desirable coauthors, whereas higher quality authors with a late initial would have a lower desire to coauthor. Most desired are early initial authors of high quality, who are therefore advantaged in forming high-quality collaborations. The combined effect predicts citation rank increases with surname initial for single-authored papers and decreases for coauthored. We find both effects for economics when compared to management and absolutely. Our findings indicate that part of the advantage enjoyed by early surname initial authors in economics could be due to the higher ability among them having more incentive-compatible collaborators, rather than merely to greater prominence.
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