Sociology: “I love you.” Economics: “I know.”

Sour grapes, by Sy Clark. https://flic.kr/p/yFT3a

Sour grapes, by Sy Clark. https://flic.kr/p/yFT3a

A sociologist who knows how to use python or something could do this right, but here’s a pilot study (N=4) on the oft-repeated claim that economists don’t cite sociology while sociologists cite economics.

I previously wrote about the many sociologists citing economist Gary Becker (thousands), compared with, for example, the 0 economists citing the most prominent article on the gender division of housework by a sociologist (Julie Brines). Here’s a little more.

It’s hard to frame the general question in terms of numerators and denominators — which articles should cite which, and what is the universe? To simplify it I took four highly-cited papers that all address the gender gap in earnings: one economics and one sociology paper from the early 1990s, and one of each from the early 2000s. These are all among the most-cited papers with “gender” and “earnings OR wages” in the title from journals listed as sociology or economics by Web of Science.

From the early 1990s:

  • O’Neill, J., and S. Polachek. 1993. “Why the Gender-gap in Wages Narrowed in the 1980s.” Journal of Labor Economics 11 (1): 205–28. doi:10.1086/298323. Total cites: 168.
  • Petersen, T., and L.A. Morgan. 1995. “Separate and Unequal: Occupation Establishment Sex Segregation and the Gender Wage Gap.” American Journal of Sociology 101 (2): 329–65. doi:10.1086/230727. Total cites: 196.

From the early 2000s:

  • O’Neill, J. 2003. “The Gender Gap in Wages, circa 2000.” American Economic Review 93 (2): 309–14. doi:10.1257/000282803321947254. Total cites: 52.
  • Tomaskovic-Devey, D., and S. Skaggs. 2002. “Sex Segregation, Labor Process Organization, and Gender Earnings Inequality.” American Journal of Sociology 108 (1): 102–28. Total cites: 81.

A smart way to do it would be to look at the degrees or appointments of the citing authors, but that’s a lot more work than just looking at the journal titles. So I just counted journals as sociology or economics according to my own knowledge or the titles.* I excluded interdisciplinary journals unless I know they are strongly associated with sociology, and I excluded management and labor relations journals. In both of these types of cases you could look at the people writing the articles for more fidelity. In the meantime, you may choose to take my word for it that excluding these journals didn’t change the basic outcome much. For example, although there are some economists writing in the excluded management and labor relations journals (like Industrial Labor Relations), there are a lot of sociologists writing in the interdisciplinary journals (like Demography and Social Science Quarterly), and also in the ILR journals.

Results

Citations to the economics articles from sociology journals:

  • O’Neill and Polachek (1993): 37 / 168 = 22%
  • O’Neill (2003): 4 / 52 = 8%

Citations to the sociology articles from economics journals:

  • Petersen and Morgan (1995): 6 / 196: 3%
  • Tomaskovic-Devey and Skaggs (2002): 0 / 81: 0%

So, there are 41 sociology papers citing the economics papers, and 6 economics papers citing the sociology papers.

Worth noting also that the sociology journals citing these economics papers are the most prominent and visible in the discipline: American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Annual Review of Sociology, Social Forces, Sociology of Education, and others. On the other hand, there are no citations to the sociology articles in top economics journals, with the exception of an article in Journal of Economic Perspectives that cited Peterson and Morgan — but it was written by sociologists Barbara Reskin and Denise Bielby. Another, in Feminist Economics, was written by sociologist Harriet Presser. (I included these in the count of economics journals citing the sociology papers.)

These four articles are core work in the study of labor market gender inequality, they all use similar data, and they are all highly cited. Some of the sociology cites of these economics articles are critical, surely, but there’s (almost) no such thing as bad publicity in this business. Also, the pattern does not reflect a simple theoretical difference, with sociologists focused more on occupational segregation (although that is part of the story), as the economics articles use occupational segregation as one of the explanatory factors in the gender gap story (though they interpret it differently).

Anyways.

Previous sour-grapes stuff about economics and sociology:

Note:

* The Web of Science categories are much too imprecise with, for example, Work & Occupations — almost entirely a sociology journal –classified as both sociology and economics.

6 Comments

Filed under Research reports

6 responses to “Sociology: “I love you.” Economics: “I know.”

  1. Marta

    I’m an economist, and I visit your blog more often than any blog by a fellow economist. But I know that’s beside the point when it comes to the citation gap. I think it’s true that economics has a self-centered view of research, and those of us who would like to turn outward (especially those of us who are junior) worry that citing too many non-economists will mark us as outsiders to the tribe.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Don Tomaskovic-Devey here. Your analysis rings true, but I went to recent papers of mine in the same arena to check on the N=1 sampling problem. My 1999 paper also with Sheryl Skaggs in Work & Occupations was on statistical discrimination, 1 citation (out of 133) in the Journal of Economic Issues. On the other hand, my 2006 ASR paper Documenting Desegregation has been cited by economists 10 times (out of 197), twice in the American Economic Review (same authors) and once in an other economics journal. The lion share of citations were in interdisciplinary journals (primarily demography and industrial relations journals).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Derek Martin

    Your analysis, and subsequent discussion, miss the point entirely. Economics is nothing more than a sub-discipline of sociology (it should be more precisely titled, Sociology of the Economy). “Freakanomics” is a good example. The sociology part of it is a bit sketchy, but the premise of the book (trying to explain the social world) is what we do. I am mostly kidding, but it does seem that some of the best selling popularizers from other fields (I’m looking at you Gladwell) are really selling sociology in different clothing.

    Like

  4. Pingback: Is the New York Times trapped in an economics echo chamber? | Family Inequality

  5. Pingback: Why I snarked on a 538 blog post (and I’m sorry) | Family Inequality

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