Is there an alphabetical bias in citations?

In Economics, there is a tradition to list multiple authors in alphabetical order, unless exceptional circumstances call for a different order. This implies that “alphaberically challenged” authors like me often get forgotten, either because they disappear in “et al.” or because they become also-rans. RePEc manages to correct for “et al.” in citations, but it is possible that because later co-authors get less name recognitions, they also get less cited when sole authors. Using data from authors registered in RePEc, here is are some simple statistics that could shed some light, or raise some new questions.

I split the over 23,000 author into 26 bins, one for each letter of the alphabet corresponding to the initial of their last name. First, see how the average number of distinct works authors have written for each of those bins. The graph below runs from A on the left to Z on the right. While this is not a straight line, it does not appear to be obviously trending up or down. The correlation is -0.27.

Distinct works per author, by author's initial A-Z

Now look at the number of citations per author. This time, if you blink a little, you can see a little downwards trend. The correlation is -0.45 and note also that the spread is much larger.

Citations per author, by author's initial A-Z

Now try again with citations per work. A downward trend is now more visible, and the correlation is -0.53, with a different of about one citation between start and end of alphabet. Note that these are just simple averages, without any control for anything else that could correlate with the alphabet and lead to lower citation counts. But it is not obvious what such a control could be. Conclusion? Is there a bias in citations against alphabetically challenged authors? Possibly, but it is not a large one.

Citations per work, by author's initial A-Z

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