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Fathers of Neoliberalism

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The Academic and Professional Performance of the Chicago School, 1960-1985

One reason why neoliberal economic ideas are powerful is that they are assumed to stem from a position of scientific dominance. We empirically analyze the professional advance of economists in the United States since the 1960s to examine if Chicago economists, and their networks, performed better than their peers in Harvard and MIT. Specifically, we differentiate mechanisms related to professional behavior, such as publication productivity and relationships in citation networks, from mechanisms related to selection, such as external funding and hiring practices. We suggest that behavior and selection can be traced generationally by studying the relationship between important economists at Chicago, Harvard, and MIT (‘Fathers’) and their doctoral students (‘Children’). Our findings demonstrate that academic and professional prominence alone do not explain the ascension of neoliberalism – not in terms of historic citations, external funding, or post-PhD career paths. Where we do find significant divergence between the Chicago school and their descendants was with respect to observed social norms of reciprocity and in-group cohesion, suggesting an important ‘insurgent solidarity’ mechanism at play in the neoliberal ascent.

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