Does blogging help your professional reputation?

Following on Henry’s post, here is more:

Davis et al. (2011) conducted a survey of academic economists in the U.S., with 299 (15%) responding. The survey asked these academics to list up to three living economists over the age of 60 and up to three under the age of 60 who they “regard with great respect, admiration, or reverence”. Gary Becker, Ken Arrow and Gary Solow were the top choices among the over 60s, and Paul Krugman, Gregory Mankiw and Daron Acemoglu the top choices among the under 60s. The under 60s list of 23 names contains a number of regular bloggers – in addition to Krugman and Mankiw are Steven Levitt, William Easterly, Nancy Folbre, Dani Rodrik, and Tyler Cowen.
We merge this list with a list of the top 500 economists according to the RePEc rankings (based on paper downloads, citations) and also code each of the RePEc top 500 according to whether they blog or not.

And then there’s a model predicting the probability that economists named a person as respected/admired/revered, controlling for these RePEc rankings.  The result:

…regular blogging is strongly and significantly associated with being more likely to be viewed as a favorite economist. Blogging has the same size impact as being in the top 50 of RePEc rankings for the under 60 economists, and a larger impact for the over 60 economists. [emphasis in original]

Tyler Cowen responds:

One obvious question, of course, is how the average returns relate to the marginal returns.  If David’s numbers reflect the reality, and I believe they do, why do not more economists blog?  I believe it is because they can’t, at least not without embarrassing themselves rather quickly, even if they are smart and very good economists.  It’s simply a different set of skills.  The underlying cognitive model here still needs to be worked out, but it is not a story of smooth continuity.

I’d also ask about the causal mechanism here.  Is it that blogging makes your fellow scholars more aware of your research, and the research is what earns their respect?  Or is it that they respect you for your blogging itself?  Or is blogging just a way to increase your visibility and thereby increase the chance—via the availability heuristic—that people will remember your name when asked these sorts of questions?

3 Responses to Does blogging help your professional reputation?

  1. Don Williams August 11, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    1) I myself favor Yves Smith , who argued in “Econned” that economists are our modern day voodoo priests. That the profession itself sits on pretty shaky intellectual foundations.

    2) With second place going to Charles Ferguson, who hilariously demonstrated in his documentary “Inside Job” how some economists evidently follow the paradigm: “He whose bread I eat his song I sing”.

  2. Jason August 11, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    If the visibility heuristic explanation is correct, you might also find that some of the econ bloggers are among the least respected economists, if you were to do that poll.

  3. Andrew Gelman August 11, 2011 at 6:08 pm #

    There’s also the matter of timing.

    In academic publishing there’s been a smooth time scale: every year, new economists have a chance to publish in top journals and get noticed and older economists have a chance to do something new.

    In blogging, on the other hand, there was a period from about 2002-2003 when it was not hard at all to become a prominent blogger. But more recently it’s been much harder for new entrants to break in. Not impossible, but much more difficult than it was, 8 years ago.

    I’d also distinguish between different sorts of blogging. Cowen and Tabarrok’s reputations derives from their blog, whereas Mankiw and Levitt’s blogs serve more as ways to keep them in the conversation: their reputation derives from their academic work, not from their blogs.

    The above bloggers are in their 40s-50s. The story is different for a younger scholar such as Blattman who has developed a scholarly and blogging reputation at the same time.