Representation of countries in economics articles

Today, we’re using Academic Sequitur data to examine the representation of countries in economics articles. The exercise is simple*: if a country name appears in the title or abstract, we count that article as representing that country. An article can represent more than one country. Rather than looking at the total count of articles, we scale the counts by the country’s 2020 population, as reported by the World Bank, and exclude countries with fewer than 5 million people. The final sample includes 115 countries. (By the way, if you’re interested in a particular country, you can use Academic Sequitur to keep track of new articles matching that country!)

The graph below shows the top 20 countries, using 2019-2021 article data. It is perhaps unsurprising that Denmark and Sweden are almost at the very top of this chart, as these countries have notoriously rich administrative data used by a large number of empirical papers. The list consists of only highly-developed high-income countries. What is more surprising, perhaps, is that the United States is not in the top 10.

But, you say, the economics literature is not accused of being US-centric in general. It’s the top journals that overemphasize the US at the expense of other countries. The next graph shows the ratio of articles corresponding to a given country in the top 5 economics journals versus overall (so the scale of the x-axis is not necessarily informative). For clarity, we stick with the countries in the graph above. Indeed, the US now ranks #1. The bottom 6 countries–the highest of which was ranked #5 in the graph above–have zero articles in the top 5.

The last graph shows the bottom 20 countries, as defined by articles per million inhabitants. No high-income country makes this list, and the reasons for why some countries are near the bottom are clear (data from Somalia and Yemen are not readily available, to put it mildly). Ultimately, it’s not clear how much attention from economists any given country should get, so we leave it up to you to judge these patterns for yourself.

*Nothing is ever simple, of course. We also attribute articles to the United States/Canada if they mention a US state/Canadian province. We also consider country capitals and attribute an article to its respective country if a country capital is mentioned. Finally, abbreviations such as “US” and “UK” are also counted.