Published on Development Impact

Publishing Stats and News from the AEA Journals

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The 2023 edition of the AEA papers and proceedings just came out. At the back are the reports from the editors from different AEA journals.  Given the interest in my post this week on  publishing statistics from development journals, I thought readers might be interested in some of the bits and pieces from these reports:

·         I noted that submissions to development journals appear to have peaked in 2020 and fallen slightly since then – the same is true at the AER, which had 2029 submissions in 2020 and 1729 in 2022; AEJ Applied had 738 in 2022 versus 819 in 2020.

·         The AER editor (Esther Duflo) notes “My objective when joining the AER was to increase the number of revisions that do not go back to referees and are accepted in round 1, and I think we succeeded”. The AEJ Economic Policy editor (Erzo Luttmer) notes 40% of first revisions get decided without going back to referees. The AEJ Applied editor (Ben Olken) also notes “Coeditors are asked to give precise guidance to authors, instructing them on which referee comments need to be addressed and which do not. We are often able to make decisions on revisions without consulting referees again… in about 75 percent of cases, we do not consult with referees after receiving revisions back; the handling coeditor handles this themselves. We feel this is helpful because it means that authors only need to focus their revisions on those issues highlighted by the coeditor in the letter rather than responding to every single point of the referees, which can be time consuming and not helpful” – more journals should follow this policy! This is my objective as an editor too – I aim to keep the percent of revisions I send back to referees below 10%.

·         The AEJ Applied editor (Ben Olken) discusses the transfer policy, where authors who have had papers rejected by the AER or AER Insights can send the paper and reports to AEJ Applied.Authors can submit the same paper as they submitted along with a short cover letter saying some of the changes they could make (and this typically does not go to more referees), or submitted a revised version along with a response to referees (which may get sent to referees). In 2022 they got 67 AER rejected papers and accepted 16 of them, and 26 AER Insights rejected papers and accepted 5 of them – he notes that these transfer papers then account for about 35 percent of total published papers. At AEJ Economic Policy there were 56 transfers from AER with 14 accepted, and 25 from AER Insights with 4 accepted, and about a quarter of published papers came through the transfer route. See the journal websites for guidelines on this transfer process.

·         The AEJ Economic Policy editor (and new AER editor) Erzo Luttmer decries the long appendix: “we are seeing an increasing number of extremely long online appendices. Apparently, authors feel compelled to produce them because they perceive this improves the publication prospects, but I worry that long appendices impose a disproportionate amount of work on editors, reviewers, and the authors themselves relative to their scientific value. I am also concerned that they create unfair advantages in publishing for those who can harness large teams of research assistants to produce extensive appendices.”

·         The large number of exemptions on what data can be posted based on confidentiality is notable. At the AEJ Applied, 33 out of the 59 published papers received some form of exemption; at the AER 44 out of 94 papers did; at AEJ Economic Policy it is 14 out of 63.

·         Most papers at the Journal of Economic Perspectives are solicited by the editors, but they do consider unsolicited articles as well -  in 2022, 7 out of 44 total articles published in the JEP began as unsolicited proposals. Overall there were about 2 million downloads of JEP articles in 2022, showing the enormous reach and popularity of this freely downloadable and accessible format.

·         There were 2,982 new academic jobs for economists posted on JOE in 2022, up 12% from 2021; and a further 1,013 non-academic jobs (up 9%). There are about 1,200 new PhDs in economics graduating each year; and there were 2,358 jobseekers registered on JOE – so supply of jobs exceeds the number looking for them.


Here are some stats from the AEA editor reports. Note that the AEJs don’t report number of days conditional on going to referees, but are fast: AEJ EP notes “In 2022, the journal made 86 percent of first decisions within 3 months and 97 percent within 4 months. No manuscript remained for longer than five months without a decision” and AEJ Applied notes “Our objective is to avoid holding papers more than three months. Focusing on 2021 submissions, which is the last year for which we have complete data, 86 percent of all papers received a first decision within this 3-month window. In 2022, 96 percent of papers were handled within 5 months or less”

AEA journal stats



David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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