Economics department ranked at top of leading liberal arts college

The Bates College Department of Economics ranks second in the nation in the number of times its faculty’s scholarly research is cited by other researchers. When citations are counted on a per capita basis, Bates ranks first among the 50 top U.S. liberal arts colleges studied. The higher per capita ranking indicates that the citations of the Bates economists are spread over several department members, rather than being concentrated on one department member.

Written by economist Howard Bodenhorn of Lafayette College, the 2001 study, Economic Scholarship at Elite Liberal Arts Colleges: Are Other Economists Paying Attention? measured the influence of 439 economists at liberal arts colleges. Bodenhorn concluded, “Although prominent economists at elite research universities produce the most influential scholarship, economists at the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges make significant contributions to the literature.” Ranking the publication record not by the number or books and articles, but by the frequency with which others cite their work, the study seeks to measure the quality and influence of the department’s scholarly output, rather than its quantity.

David A. Aschauer, the Elmer W. Campbell Professor of Economics at Bates, was the top-ranked full professor among liberal arts colleges. A former Federal Reserve senior economist, Aschauer has taught at Bates since 1989. His teaching and research interests center on macroeconomics, financial markets and public finance.

Aschauer’s scholarship represents only a part of his department’s publication record. Michael Murray, the Charles Franklin Phillips Professor of Economics; Margaret Maurer-Fazio, associate professor of economics; and James Hughes, associate professor of economics, all have substantial numbers of citations.

Murray’s work concerns public economics, urban economics, econometrics and urban development. Maurer-Fazio’s research focuses on labor-market issues in China. Hughes specializes in labor economics and health care economics. “We were quite pleased with the results of the study,” said Hughes, who is also the department chair. “People have been working hard to complete and publish their work. It is nice to see that other economists have been paying attention.”

Hughes also noted that the rankings did not include the publications of the department’s newest member, Associate Professor Lynne Lewis, a well-respected and highly productive environmental economist. “If you include Lynne’s work, our ranking would be higher still,” said Hughes.

According to Bodenhorn’s findings, the 10 most productive liberal arts economics departments in the 1990s were Wellesley, Bates, Wesleyan, Colby, Williams, Bowdoin, Middlebury, Smith, Lafayette and Swarthmore.

Bodenhorn’s study cites 1999 research by James Baughman and Robert Goldman published in Change, a journal of higher education, that shows a high correlation between faculty publication records and college rankings. Prestigious baccalaureate liberal arts colleges have faculty publication records comparable to some research and doctoral granting institutions, Baughman and Goldman concluded.

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