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Men Set Their Own Cites High: Gender and Self-citation across Fields and over Time

King, Molly M., Carl T. Bergstrom, Shelley J. Correll, Jennifer Jacquet, Jevin D. West. 2017. “Men set their own cites high: Gender and self-citation across fields and over time.”  Socius 3: 1-22. 10.1177/2378023117738903

How common is self-citation in scholarly publication, and does the practice vary by gender? Using novel methods and a data set of 1.5 million research papers in the scholarly database JSTOR published between 1779 and 2011, the authors find that nearly 10 percent of references are self-citations by a paper’s authors. The findings also show that between 1779 and 2011, men cited their own papers 56 percent more than did women. In the last two decades of data, men self-cited 70 percent more than women. Women are also more than 10 percentage points more likely than men to not cite their own previous work at all. While these patterns could result from differences in the number of papers that men and women authors have published rather than gender-specific patterns of self-citation behavior, this gender gap in self-citation rates has remained stable over the last 50 years, despite increased representation of women in academia. The authors break down self-citation patterns by academic field and number of authors and comment on potential mechanisms behind these observations. These findings have important implications for scholarly visibility and cumulative advantage in academic careers.