Since the first decades of the 20th century scholarly activity in economics has expanded rapidly. Indeed, the cumulative stock of journal articles in economics has doubled every fourteen years. A century ago, co-authored scientific articles in general and economic papers in particular were, in sharp contrast to the present, more the exception than the rule. A representative example of this, as we will show in this paper, is the evolution in articles published by the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, which is the leading journal in the field of environmental and resource economics.

Numerous empirical studies have examined the production of scientific knowledge in economics, patterns of co-authorship for individual economists, the development of co-authorship in certain economic subfields or, like for most of the studies, the focus was set on the major economic journals. All such studies have found a rising incidence and extent of co-authorship in economic publications. The reasons for this are explored in this paper. However, surprisingly few studies to date have dealt specifically with environmental and resource economics, a subfield which has become ever more important in the economics profession. We hope to close this gap in the research, particularly because of the finding that intellectual collaboration is most important in environmental and resource economics. In this paper, we empirically investigate the first 36 years of the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management. Specifically, we analyze all articles published in this journal with respect to potentially relevant characteristics that could explain an author’s decision to cooperate with another peer. We focus in this regard on the development of structural patterns of co-authorship, the increasing complexity of the discussed subject matter, publications by female economists in JEEM, and the incremental growth in international collaboration.

Analyses of the structure of co-authorship are normally based on four hypotheses: The division of labor hypothesis, the opportunity cost of time hypothesis, the quality hypothesis, and the diversification hypothesis. We use our dataset to test these hypotheses, also add a fifth hypothesis that is new to the literature: the competition for external funding hypothesis. This hypothesis hinges on the following observation: As research has become more demanding in terms of both skill and financial expense, a critical mass of expertise and reputation is now necessary in order to obtain external funding.

We find support for the division of labor hypothesis, the opportunity cost of time hypothesis, and the external funding hypothesis. We find weak support for the quality hypothesis, and were only able to test the diversification hypothesis in a limited sample. In contrast to previous studies, we find substantial differences in the pattern of external funding for single-authored, co-authored, and multi-authored articles. We surmise that these differences in external funding could be attributable to the interdisciplinary nature of environmental and resource economics. Future research efforts could build on this finding with an investigation that uses a different approach.


Environmental and resource economics, co-authorship, production of knowledge