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?