The Status of Unemployed High-Status Papers
By Bryan Caplan
Every now and then, prominent economists release working papers that never get published. What should we conclude when an elite article suffers from “long-term unemployment”?
1. The signaling story: Even prominent economists can’t publish their paper, so it’s probably terrible.
2. The counter-signaling story: Of course prominent economists can publish their paper. But many are so elitist that they’d rather have a permanently unemployed paper than a paper in a third-tier (or even second-tier) journal. The paper is probably mediocre rather than terrible.
3. The non-conformist story: Prominent economists can easily publish their paper if they “play the rules of the game.” The fact that they haven’t published indicates unusually creative and open-minded research. So the paper is probably unusually good!
Other stories? What makes the most sense to you?