Prestigious economics magazine calls Pittsburgh home

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V.W.H. Campbell Jr., Post-Gazette
Jane Voros, managing editor of the American Economic Review, looks over the publication's offices on the South Side.
By Anya Sostek, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

If Rick Sebak ever does a show on the most prestigious things nobody knows are headquartered in Pittsburgh, he might well start off in the South Side, in a building that formerly housed the Gimbel's warehouse.

There, on the second floor of what is now River Park Commons, lie the offices of the American Economic Review -- arguably the world's pre-eminent economics journal.

Michelle DeBlasi will be managing editor for four new journals.

"If you get published in the American Economic Review, it will change your life," said Jane Voros, the publication's managing editor, who moved to Pittsburgh a couple years ago from a job at the United Nations in New York.

The journal, which was founded in 1911 and is published by the American Economics Association, previously rotated its headquarters around the country, depending on where its current editor was based.

In 2004, while the journal was being edited by Ben Bernanke -- then a Princeton professor and now chairman of the Federal Reserve -- the AEA decided to choose one city to be a permanent home for all of its publications.

Pittsburgh was chosen over other cities where the AEA had a presence, such as Princeton, N.J.; Palo Alto, Calif.; and Nashville, Ten., in part because the city already housed considerable computer infrastructure to host EconLit, the association's online bibliography. "It made more sense to have them all in one place," said Ms. Voros, who now reports to an editor based at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Drucilla Ekwurzel is director of publication services.

Since 1969, Pittsburgh also has been home to the AEA-published Journal of Economic Literature, which was founded by a University of Pittsburgh economics professor.

Dave DeJong, chairman of Pitt's economics department, called the American Economic Review "probably the flagship journal in our profession" and remembered fondly when he found out that he would have an article published in 1991.

"It felt great, especially for a kid without tenure," he said. "Getting a paper published [in the AER] is something everyone would love to do at least once in [his or her] career."

Mr. DeJong said that while there are three other economic journals also held in highest esteem by economists, the AER prides itself on having general appeal, meaning that the articles would appeal to all economists, even if the specific topic isn't in their field.

Indeed, the March 2007 edition includes economics articles on topics ranging from Internet advertising to police hiring quotas to climate change.

Every year, the AER receives about 1,300 submissions from economists all over the world -- of which it rejects about 93 percent through a peer review process.

Partially for that reason, the association is planning to launch four new publications: on macroeconomics, microeconomics, economic policy and applied economics.

"AER is a general journal, and there were very good papers that [were] getting turned away," said Michelle DiBlasi, who was a business journalist in New Jersey before moving to Pittsburgh. The new journals, which will start receiving submissions in June, also will compete with for-profit publications covering similar topics.

To staff the new journals, as well as incorporate new responsibilities such as typesetting, the Pittsburgh-based staff has grown substantially since the consolidation -- from 14 employees in 2004 to 28 currently.

Most of the hires have been local, with many people just a year or two out of college or graduate school. "We've been extremely lucky," said Drucilla Ekwurzel, director of publication services for the AEA. "We have wonderful, smart, talented people, and people have been able to grow into these new jobs."

The offices now smell like wet paint and drywall plaster as they physically expand by more than 50 percent to fit another seven employees expected by 2009.

"It's a very exciting time," said Ms. Voros. "It's a little known thing in Pittsburgh, but we're becoming a publishing powerhouse here."

Anya Sostek can be reached at 412-263-1308 or .


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