Productivity and Mobility in Academic Research: Evidence from Mathematicians

Pierre Dubois, Jean-Charles Rochet, and Jean-Marc Schlenker


Using an exhaustive database on academic publications in mathematics all over the world, we study the patterns of productivity by mathematicians over the period 1984–2006. We uncover some surprising facts, such as the weakness of age related decline in productivity and the relative symmetry of international movements, rejecting the presumption of a massive “brain drain” towards the US. We also analyze the determinants of success by top US departments. In conformity with recent studies in other fields, we find that selection effects are much stronger than local interaction effects: the best departments are most successful in hiring the most promising mathematicians, but not necessarily at stimulating positive externalities among them. Finally we analyze the impact of career choices by mathematicians: mobility almost always pays, but early specialization does not.

JEL codes

  • D85: Network Formation and Analysis: Theory
  • I23: Higher Education • Research Institutions
  • J24: Human Capital • Skills • Occupational Choice • Labor Productivity
  • L31: Nonprofit Institutions • NGOs

Published in

Scientometrics, vol. 98, n. 3, March 2014, pp. 1669–1701