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The Economic History of the American Economic Review : A Century's Explosion of Economics Research

By Robert A. Margo


Written in celebration of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the American Economic Review (February 2011), this paper recounts the history of the journal. The recounting has an analytic core that sees the American Economic Association as an organization supplying goods and services to its members, one of which is the AER. Early in its history the AER was a multi-purpose publication with highly disparate content. Over time the economics profession expanded and more economics research was produced, primarily in the form of journal articles. The AER accommodated this shift by allocating more resources to the refereeing and editing process and more space, absolutely and relatively, in the AER to research papers. Historically, the latter was accomplished mostly by moving other content (for example, book reviews) out most of which the AEA continued to supply elsewhere. Despite these shifts, the ratio of papers published in the AER to those submitted – a proxy for the acceptance rate – has declined precipitously over the past half-century.

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