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Who Are the Giants on Whose Shoulders We Stand?


  • David N. Laband,

    1. Department of Economics, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA
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  • Suman Majumdar

    1. Center for Government and Public Affairs, Auburn University Montgomery, Montgomery, Alabama, USA
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    • We are indebted to Tim Caine, Natasha Clark, Greg Gilbert, Nik Markopoulos, Nick Moussalli, David Wright and, especially, to Josh Lewis for research assistance.


The scientific community is just that – a community – and the success/influence of any one individual likely reflects, at least in certain measure, the contributions made previously by others. This suggests that rather than merely ranking economists on the basis of raw citation counts, one might gain real insights about the giants laboring in relative obscurity by identifying who the authors of exceptionally influential papers drew their inspiration from. We identify the most-highly-cited (409) papers published in economics from 2001–2005, then examine who the authors of these high-impact papers drew from in terms of developing the ideas/arguments/applications presented in these papers. We find that a very small group of individuals had a comparatively large impact on the economics profession, in terms of influencing the subsequent work of authors of extraordinarily highly-cited papers. Further, there is relatively little consistency between our list of ‘giants’ and Nobel Prize winners in Economics.

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