November 2022

IZA DP No. 15739: Aging in Style: Does How We Write Matter?

Daniel S. Hamermesh, Lea-Rachel Kosnik

The scholarly impact of academic research matters for academic promotions, influence, relevance to public policy, and others. Focusing on writing style in top-level professional journals, we examine how it changes with age, how stylistic differences and age affect impact, and how style and prior scholarly output relate to an author's subsequent achievements and labor-force decisions. As top-level scholars age, their writing style increasingly differs from others'. The impact (measured by citations) of each contribution decreases, due to the direct effect of age and the much smaller indirect effects through style. Non-native English speakers write in a different style from others, in ways that reduce the impact of their research. Scholars produce less top-flight work as they age, especially those who have produced less in the recent past, whose work is less cited, and whose styles have been more positive. Previously less productive authors are more likely to retire.