Core journals in economics.
Periodical publishing (Management)
Scholarly periodicals (Management)
Liner, Gaines H.
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Name: Economic Inquiry Publisher: Western Economic Association International Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Business, general; Economics Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2002 Western Economic Association International ISSN: 0095-2583
Date: Jan, 2002 Source Volume: 40 Source Issue: 1
Product Code: 2721520 Special Interest Periodicals; 2721330 Educational Journals NAICS Code: 51112 Periodical Publishers SIC Code: 2721 Periodicals
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This article ranks core journals in economics using the textbook citation method. Rankings are produced from citations in graduate-level microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics textbooks. Textbooks used in the study were chosen through responses from a survey of professors in top-tier economics departments. The top nine journals or core journals from this study correlate closely in rank with the results of two comparison studies. Second-tier journals identified in this study correlate less closely in rank with second-tier journals in comparison studies. (JEL A)


Between 1970 and 1990 the number of published pages in economics journals more than doubled (Laband and Piette 1994), and during the early 1970s budgets of libraries devoted to journals grew, in percentage terms, several-fold relative to those devoted to books (Liebowitz and Palmer 1984). Laband and Piette (1994) reported that between 1976 and 1985 at least 55 new economics journals commenced publication. Although not all journals are considered general interest journals many emphasize the importance of economic theory in their submission instructions to authors. With this increased emphasis on research, scholars and administrators alike have acquired an increased sensitivity to how journals rank in quality, influence, or impact. The variety of methods used to rank journals, departments, and authors attests to the increased concern individuals place on such issues.

The Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI; Institute for Scientific Information 1986) has figured prominently as a source of data in a variety of studies. Burton and Phimister (1995), Laband and Piette (1994), Liebowitz and Palmer (1984), and Stigler et al. (1995 provide recent examples. Another approach occasionally used in ranking of economics departments involves choosing citation data from the "premier," "core," or "principal" journals. Departmental rankings are then based on the number of journal articles or pages published by members of their faculty in these journals. Graves et al. (1982), Burkitt and Baimbridge (1995), Conroy et al. (1995), Scott and Mitias (1996), and Dusansky and Vernon (1998) have used variations of this approach. Others have surveyed deans and chairpersons for their own rankings of journals. See Enomoto and Ghosh (1993) for one recent example. A potential weakness of this approach is that survey respondents can be influenced by recent and not-so-recent literature on the subject and by each other. Some earlier studies have attempted to rank journals by their quality. See Liebowitz and Palmer (1984) for a review and Beed and Beed (1996) for a criticism of attempts to measure journal quality. Because an objective ranking of journals by their quality is difficult if not impossible, most recent studies mentioned above have attempted to rank journals based on their "impact" or their "influence." Ranking the number of citations to journal articles in other journal articles provides only one path to measuring the potential impact a journal has on individuals and the profession and ultimately the broader community. Davis (1998) pointed out that the often-used SSCI data under represent journals that share content with other social sciences. A second problem noted is that "not all of any journal's citations are identified by citing journal. In every case the list is truncated, and some portion of a journal's citations are simply entered as 'all other'" (Davis, 1998, 62). Moreover, the percentage of citations in the "all other" category is not necessarily the same from journal to journal. This might bias raw counts of citations as well as attempts to adjust for "impact" by adjusting for the number of pages or the number of characters in the cited journals. However, these biases tend to have less impact on rankings of core journals than less highly ranked journals.

In attempts to rank authors of journal articles using SSCI data, Alexander and Mabry (1994) noted that the SSCI does not include in the counts the second and subsequent authors of multiple-author articles. This omission tends to cause an overrepresentation of the contribution of first-listed authors and an underrepresentation of others in multiple-author works. This and the former criticisms should lead one to use caution when making use of SSCI data to rank journals or authors.

To avoid some of the possible biases associated with the SSCI data, this study uses citations in graduate-level economic theory and econometrics textbooks to rank core journals for their potential impact. The word impact is used to connote the number of times articles are cited and the number of instances they have an opportunity to influence the reader. Economic theory is at the core of economics, and all fields of economics draw from it. Consequently, it seems plausible that a ranking of core journals should pay attention to the role of theory in the ranking process. Stigler et al. (1995, 334) succinctly stated the role of economic theory in economics as follows: "Economic theory is the authoritative central core of economics, and even the many applied economists who will not employ the advanced techniques are expected to maintain some familiarity with what is evolving in economic theory." Leading graduate-level theory textbooks supply a direct path for accepted theory, as articulated by authors of texts, t o practitioners. This raises the question of whose theories and philosophies are to be captured in any ranking process. Should it be a ranking that reflects the broad spectrum of ideas printed in journals, or should it reflect currently accepted thought in leading, graduate-level textbooks? For purposes of this article, leading texts are assumed to reflect currently accepted thought. Versions of the textbook approach have been used by Larson and Kershaw (1993) and by Gordon and Vicari (1992) to rank journals in health care administration and in social psychology, respectively.


To account for the currently accepted concepts presented in leading textbooks; texts used by the most highly ranked economics departments were identified. This was accomplished in two steps. Departments were chosen for survey through the productivity of members of their faculty. Productivity of departments was assumed to be the number of pages published by members of the faculty of the departments. Five major economics journals identified in the Scott and Mitias paper (1996) were used as a basis for surveying departments. These include the American Economic Review, Econometrica, Journal of Political Economy, Quarterly Journal of Economics, and Review of Economics and Statistics. Pages published in these journals divided by the number of faculty members in the departments (data supplied by Scott and Mitias [1996] and Table VII of their paper) produced a ranking of departments. (1) A survey of professors in the top 35 departments who had taught graduate-level microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics dur ing the 1996-97 academic year produced a list of texts that had been used. Respondents to the survey of professors indicated the following texts were the most often used texts during the 1996-97 academic year. In microeconomics, Microeconomic Theory by MasColell, Whinston, and Green (1995) was the most often used primary text, and Varian's Microeconomic Analysis (1992) was the second most often used primary text. Advanced Macroeconomics by Romer (1996) was the most used primary macroeconomics text, and Lectures on Macroeconomics by Blanchard and Fisher (1989) was the second most often used primary text. In econometrics, Econometric Analysis by Greene (1993) was the most often used primary text, and A Course in Econometrics by Goldberger (1991) was the second most often used primary text. (See the appendix for the full citations of these texts.) In all cases supplemental texts and supplemental readings were not used for citation purposes. Journal articles cited in these texts were counted for each occurrence i n the body of the books. Appearances only in prefaces and bibliographies were not counted. To be counted, citations had to be mentioned in the body of the chapters and followed by complete references at the end of the chapters or at the end of the book.


In this section each journal citation is given equal weight in the rankings. The number of pages or the length of page in the journal cited is not considered. Each citation is treated as having equal value. Because the number of citations in one journal of another journal's output is not being counted, figuring the weight to apply to each page or character of the cited journal is not needed. Discussions of weighted citations are available from the author. (2)

In previous attempts to rank journals, a core set of journals has often been ranked. However, there is no agreed-on set of core journals. Using Data Envelopment Analysis in a reappraisal of Diamond's (1989) core list, Burton and Phimister (1995) included up to 27 journals in their list of core journals (their Table 6 is partially reprinted in Table 1 in this study). Measuring citations received from nine core journals Stigler et al. (1995) included nine journals (their Table 1 is partially reprinted in Table 1 of this study) in their list of principal journals. Using impactadjusted citations, Laband and Piette (1994) estimated relative market shares of nine core journals (their Table 5), which included AER, Econometrica, JPE, JET, JME, QJE, REStud, REStat, and Economic Journal.

Whether or not econometrics (i.e., method) should be included with theory in the core of economics is debatable. Because all other areas of economics are dependent on theory and to some extent econometrics, one can make a case for including econometrics in the core. In the analysis that follows comparisons are made with and without econometrics included as part of the core of economics. Using unweighted citations, the 29 and 27 most-often-cited journals in this study are listed in Table 1 (columns 1 and 2) with their frequency of citations expressed as a ratio of the number of citations received to that of the most cited journal. The 28th and 29th journals are listed in column 1 because five journals are tied for the 25th position. A total of 1932 citations are used in this study. Because several other studies have included only nine journals in the core, initially the top nine from this study are treated as core journals. When all years' citations are included, the core (Table 1) is made up of JPE, AER, Econ ometrica, QJE, JME, R.E.Stud, JET, NBER Macro. Annual., and Brookings Papers on Economic Activity. Most studies of journals base the rankings of citations over a limited time frame to account for current conditions in the journal market. To put this study on such a basis, the older citations are not included in Table 1, column 2. This puts the citation time frame more in line with the other three studies discussed above, but some of what is currently accepted as important in the core of economics is lost. The same nine journals appear in the top nine positions, but in a different order from that of column 1. Consequently removing pre-1984 citations does not impact which journals appear in the core.

Using theory texts only and all years' citations, rank coefficients of correlation with the three other studies indicate widely varying degrees of similarity. Rank correlation coefficients range from -0.183 with Burton and Phimister (their Table 6), to 0.638 with Stigler et al. (their Table 1), to 0.817 with Laband and Piette (their Table 5, mentioned above, and 1990 citations only). With pre-1984 citations removed, the rank coefficients of correlation become: with Laband and Piette 0.600, with Stigler et al. 0.483, and with Burton and Phimister -0.317. By removing the pre-1984 citations, the strength of rank correlations is weakened slightly.

When econometrics is added to the core and all years' citations are used (Table 2) the nine most-cited journals are Econometrica followed by JPE, AER, QJE, J.Econometrics, J ME, REStud, JET, and J. Amer Stat Assoc. Significantly, seven of the top nine journals from the previous ranking remain. Brookings Papers and NBER Macroecon. Annual are replaced by J. of Econometrics, and the J. Amer. Stat. Assoc. The rank correlation coefficients become: with Burton and Phimister 0.017, with Stigler et al. 0.833, and with Laband and Piette 0.833. The coefficients of rank correlation increase slightly when econometrics is added to the core in column 1.

When pre-1984 citations are omitted and econometrics is included (Table 2), the rank coefficients of correlation become: with Laband and Piette 0.583, with Stigler et al. 0.567, and with Burton and Phimister -0.217. By adding econometrics and removing pre-1984 citations, the strength of association in rankings between this study and the other three studies changes only slightly and the changes are mixed.

As can be seen from Table 1, several field journals appear in the top 29 and 27 positions (columns land 2) in this study and in the results of the other two studies where more than nine journals are listed. However, far fewer field journals appear using the textbook method than when using the journal-to-journal citation method of Laband and Piette and the Data Envelopment Analysis of Burton and Phimister.

The question of the appropriate number of journals to include remains. As reported in Burton and Phimister (1995), Diamond (1989) listed 27 journals, and later Burton and Phimister also referred to 27 journals as being in the core. In a different ranking scheme from that mentioned above, Laband and Piette (1994) also included over 100 journals in a ranking based on impact adjusted citations per character (their Table A2). The top 27 journals from their Table A2 (1990 citations to articles published 1985-1989) are reprinted in Table 1 of this study.

When the core list in this study is expanded to include at least 27 journals a greater difference in the rankings between this and the other studies appears. For example, in Table 1 fewer field journals appear in this study than in the studies by Burton and Phimister (their Table 6) and Laband and Piette (their Table A2). In one or both the other studies the J. Acc. Econ., J. Bus., J. Econ. Ed., J. Health Econ., Econ. Geogr., and Probi. Commun. appear in the top 27, but not in this study. On the other hand, Economica, Economic Inquiry, and Scand. J. Econ., general interest journals, appear in this study in the top 27 positions but not in the top 27 positions in the other two studies. In both tables of this study with pre-1984 citations removed the QJE moved to the top spot in column two.

Laband and Piette (1994) noted that the impact-adjusted citations to nine core journals (their Table 5) dropped from 66.6% to 54.1% of all citations between 1970 and 1990, indicating some loss of market share. In this study these same nine "core" journals (AER, JPE, QJE, REStat, REStud, Econometrica, Economics Journal, JME, and JET) account for 74.5% of all citations (1984-forward) when only theory texts are included and 66.4% of the citations when econometrics texts are included. Using the textbook method these core journals have maintained a relatively higher market share during the 1984-forward period. The top nine journals in this study (Table 1) during the 1984-forward time period receive 84.5% of all citations. When econometrics is included in the core, the top nine receive 76% of all citations. Thus, when using the method of this study, the top nine journals of Laband and Piette (1994) and the top nine in this study maintain a considerably higher market share of citations than when calculated using the journal-to-journal citation method.

Aside from mathematics- and econometrics-oriented journals, few field journals appear in any of the rankings in this study. This is not unexpected because the objective of this article has been to rank core journals. These results point to the difficulty one has in finding a place for field journals vis-a-vis core journals. Comparing field journals with core journals is somewhat equivalent to comparing apples to oranges. A ranking of journals within fields would seem to be more informative than comparing field journals with core journals. The exclusion of most field journals is not intended to provide a comment on their worth. Core journals, for the most part general-interest journals, reach the broader community in a more indirect way than field journals might. With certain exceptions, most field journals tend to be more applied and/or specialized and tend to be more easily read by economists in their respective fields and by noneconomists in certain cases. Moreover, as mentioned by Davis (1998), field journ als require significant institutional content. Thus, field journals serve a purpose for which general-interest journals are probably less adept, that is, directly reaching more non-economists, hence influencing more of the community at large more directly. By stretching this line of reasoning a bit further, one could argue that any journal that takes the economic way of thinking to the broader community serves a valuable service to the community.


This study ranks economics journals using the textbook citation method. Theory and econometrics textbooks are used to rank core journals in economics. Graduate-level textbooks in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics supply citation data. The two dominant texts in each area for the 1996- 97 year were determined from a survey of respondents of leading departments of economics. Textbooks provide one path, and perhaps the most direct path, to account for the contribution of journals to currently accepted economic thought.

The top nine journals identified in this study are very similar to the top nine journals identified in two of three other studies discussed. Only with the 10th through the 27th ranked positions do the results from this study differ significantly from the results of two comparison studies based on SSCI data. This study excludes more field journals and includes more general-interest journals at the 10th through the 27th ranked positions. An additional finding is that the market share of the top nine journals has remained relatively higher during the 1984-forward time period than was found in a comparison study during the 1980-1990 period using the journal-to-journal citation method.

Limitations to the method of this study include citation biases of the authors of the texts providing the citation data. Another area for caution stems from the use of texts employed by survey respondents of the leading departments of economics. The departments chosen for study were those that had high publication output per faculty member in five leading economics journals. The choice of graduate-level textbooks by professors in these departments may or may not reflect the choice of graduate level textbooks by others in other universities.

(*.) I wish to thank all faculty members of departments of economics who supplied survey data. I am grateful to an anonymous referee and the editor for helpful comments. An earlier and less developed version of this article was presented at the 48th International Atlantic Economic Conference in Montreal, October 1999. All errors and omissions are the author's responsibility.

Liner: Associate Professor, Department of Economics, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC 28223. Phone 1-704-687-4128, Fax 1-704-687-6442, E-mail

(1.) The stock ranking of 35 departments of economics by pages published per faculty member in the five major journals include: MTT, Princeton, Harvard, Chicago, Yale, Penn, Rochester, Northwestern, Ohio State, UCLA, Virginia, Michigan, Iowa, Stanford, University of Calif.-Berkeley, Carnegie-Mellon, Minnesota, Boston University, University of Calif.-S.B., University of Calif.-Davis, Brown, Wisconsin, University of Houston, Maryland, University of Calif.-SD, NC State, Columbia, Texas A&M, Boston College, Michigan State, Duke, NYU, Penn. State, University of Texas, and Georgetown.

(2.) A discussion of journal rankings based on weighted citations are available in an appendix available on the author's Web page. See


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Ranked Core Journals

                                          This Study
This Study Theory Texts                  Theory Texts
Only (Citations:                       Only (Citations:
All Years)                              1984-Forward)
Journal                      #     Journal                 #

J Pol                    1         Q Journal           1
  Economy                            Econ
Amer Econ                 .99      Amer Econ            .876
  Rev                                Rev
Econo-                    .879     J Political          .595
  metrica                            Econ
Qrtly                     .782     J Mon                .579
Journal Econ                         Econ
J Mon                     .529     Econo-               .570
  Econ                               metrica
Rev Econ                  .379     NBER Macro           .339
  Stud                               Econ A
J Econ                    .354     Brookings            .264
  Theory                             Papers Econ
NBER Macro                .194     Rev Econ             .223
  Econ A                             Stud
Brookings                 .180     J Econ               .132
  Papers Econ                        Theory
Econ                      .136     J Econ               .100
  Journal                            Persp
Rand J Econ               .097     Scandinav            .050
  (Bell J)                           J Econ
Rev Econ                  .087     Econ                 .041
  Stat                               Journal
Int Econ                  .073     Rand J Econ          .041
  Rev                                (Bell J)
E Inquiry                 .068     JMC&                 .041
J Econ                    .048     E Inquiry            .041
JMC&                      .049     J Financial          .033
  Banking                            Econ
Qrtly Rev                 .044     Qrtly Rev            .032
  (Minn Fed)                         (Minn Fed)
Economica                 .039     Journal of           .025
J Math                    .039     J Econ               .025
  Econ                               Lit
J Financial               .034     AER Papers           .025
  Economics                          Proc
Scandinav J               .034     J Labor              .025
  Econ                               Econ
Economics                 .024     Review               .025
  Letters                            (St L Fed)
AER Papers                .024     Rev Econ             .017
  Proceedings                        Stat
J Finance                 .024     Int Econ             .017
Journal                   .019     J Public             .017
  Economet                           Economics
J Econ                    .019     Economica            .017
J Public                  .019     Journal              .017
  Economics                          Finance
J Labor                   .019
Weltwirt-                 .019

                                Burton and            Laband and
This Study Theory Texts          Phimister              Piette
Only (Citations:                  (1995)                (1994)
All Years)                        Table 6              Table A2
Journal                  Journal        E (*)     Journal

J Pol                    J Econ         1         Amer Econ
  Economy                  Lit                      Rev
Amer Econ                Econo-          .521     J Fin
  Rev                    metrica                  Econ
Econo-                   J Political     .494     Econo-
  metrica                  Econ                     metrica
Qrtly                    Brookings       .439     J Political
Journal Econ               Papers Econ              Econ
J Mon                    J Econ          .420     Q Journal
  Econ                     Persp                    Econ
Rev Econ                 J Fin           .371     J Mon
  Stud                     Econ                     Econ
J Econ                   Q Journal       .311     J Econ
  Theory                   Econ                     Theory
NBER Macro               Amer Econ       .301     J Finance
  Econ A                   Rev
Brookings                Rev Econ        .291     Rev Econ
  Papers Econ              Studies                  Studies
Econ                     J Law and       .289     Rand J Econ
  Journal                  Econ                     (Bell J)
Rand J Econ              J Mon           .261     J Econ
  (Bell J)                 Econ                     Persp
Rev Econ                 Rand J Econ     .247     J Math
  Stat                     (Bell J)                 Econ
Int Econ                 Oxford Bull     .231     J Account
  Rev                      Econ Stat                Econ
E Inquiry                Econ            .220     J Business
J Econ                   J Labor         .201     J Economet
  Persp                    Econ
JMC&                     J Econ          .192     AER Papers
  Banking                  Theory                   Proc
Qrtly Rev                Sov. Econ.      .188     J Fin Quant
  (Minn Fed)                                        Analysis
Economica                J Human         .187     J Econ
                           Resources                Lit
J Math                   J Accounting    .186     JMC&
  Econ                     Econ                     Banking
J Financial              Economic        .184     J Labor
  Economics                Geography                Economics
Scandinav J              J Internat      .180     Int Econ
  Econ                     Econ                     Rev
Economics                J Health        .154     Brookings
  Letters                  Econ                     Papers Econ
AER Papers               Probl           .152     Rev Econ
  Proceedings              Communism                Stat
J Finance                Journal         .143     J Law and
                           Economet                 Econ
Journal                  NBER Macro      .141     Economic
  Economet                 Econ A                   Journal
J Econ                   J Economic      .139     J Bus and
  Lit                      History                  Econ Stat
J Public                 J Applied       .136     J Econ
  Economics                Economet                 Education
J Labor

                         Laband and
This Study Theory Texts    Piette           Stigler et al.
Only (Citations:           (1994)               (1995)
All Years)                Table A2             Table 1
Journal                   (**)     Journal           (***)

J Pol                    1         Econo-            1
  Economy                            metrica
Amer Econ                 .907     Amer Econ          .822
  Rev                                Rev
Econo-                    .890     J Political        .752
  metrica                            Econ
Qrtly                     .791     J Econ             .443
Journal Econ                         Theory
J Mon                     .645     Rev Econ           .401
  Econ                               Stud
Rev Econ                  .593     Q Journal          .317
  Stud                               Econ
J Econ                    .511     J Mon              .268
  Theory                             Econ
NBER Macro                .510     REStat             .232
  Econ A
Brookings                 .476     Econ               .191
  Papers Econ                        Journal
Econ                      .465
Rand J Econ               .370
  (Bell J)
Rev Econ                  .324
Int Econ                  .287
E Inquiry                 .271

J Econ                    .268
JMC&                      .267
Qrtly Rev                 .213
  (Minn Fed)
Economica                 .186

J Math                    .179
J Financial               .171
Scandinav J               .167
Economics                 .147
AER Papers                .140
J Finance                 .128

Journal                   .128
J Econ                    .124
J Public                  .122
J Labor

(#)Number of citations received relative to that of the top ranked

(*)Data Envelopment Analysis Index.

(**)Ranking based on impact-adjusted citations per character.

(***)Number of citations received relative to that of the journal
receiving the greatest number of citations.

Ranked Core Journals

Citations: All Years Theory and Econometrics Texts

Journal                   #

Econometrica            1
J. Pol. Econ.           0.619
Amer. Econ. Rev.        0.616
Quart. J. Econ.         0.469
J. Economet.            0.344
J. Mont. Econ.          0.318
Rev. Econ. Stud.        0.247
J. Econ. Theory         0.207
J. Amer. Stat. Assoc    0.182
Rev. Econ. Stat.        0.173
Int. Econ. Rev.         0.119
NBER Macro. Annual      0.114
Brookings Papers Econ   0.108
Econ. J.                0.085
Rand J. Econ. (Bell J)  0.057
Econ. Letters           0.051
Econ. Inquiry           0.043
J. Econ. Persp.         0.043
JMC&Bank.               0.031
J. Econ. Lit.           0.028
J. Roy. Stat. Soc.      0.028
Qtrly. Rev. (Minn Fed)  0.026
J. Appl. Economet.      0.026
Economica               0.023
J. Math. Econ.          0.023
J. Fin. Econ.           0.020
Scand. J. Econ.         0.020
Economet. Theory        0.020

Citations: 1984-Forward Theory and
Econometrics Texts

Journal                   #

Quart. J. Econ.         1
Amer. Econ. Rev.        0.944
Econometrica            0.896
J. Mont. Econ.          0.584
J. Economet.            0.584
J. Pol. Econ.           0.576
NBER Macro. Annual      0.328
Brookings Papers Econ   0.256
Rev. Econ. Stud.        0.248
Rev. Econ. Stat.        0.168
J. Econ. Theory         0.128
J. Econ. Persp.         0.104
Economics Letters       0.079
J. Econ. Lit.           0.072
J. Appl. Economet.      0.072
Int. Econ. Rev.         0.056
Scand. J. Econ.         0.048
Econ. J.                0.048
Econ. Inquiry           0.048
Econometric Theory      0.048
Rand J. Econ. (Bell J)  0.040
JMC&Banking             0.040
Qtrly. Rev. (Minn Fed)  0.032
J. Fin. Econ.           0.032
AER Papers Proc         0.032
J. Public Econ.         0.032
J. Amer. Stat. Assoc    0.032
J. Bus. Econ. Stat.     0.032

(#)Number of citations received relative to that of the top-ranked
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