The American Economic Association launched three years ago the four American Economic Journals, juniors to the American Economic Review. For a journal, three years is a short time, but I still want to assess where they stand for now. From the get-go, let me express again my disappointment that the AEA did not make them open access, the finance would certainly have allowed it, and there was no real need to have print copies. In fact, issues were lying around the department like junk mail that no one bothers to throw away. That was a rather bad omen for the new journals. How has each fared since.
American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics had a horrible start. Editors struggled to fill the first issues as submissions were severely lacking. I suspect this had to do with some very poor choices for the editorial team, to a large extend the usual AEA insiders. A change of editor after a year and some serious recruiting efforts changed all that, and AEJ-Macro is now a success story and the flagship of the AEJs, with impressive impact factors for such a young journal.
American Economic Journal: Microeconomics is rather unremarkable. The market for a new micro journal was thin to begin with. Arguably, the AEA wants to recapture the market share lost to commercial publishers, but with Theoretical Economics launched shortly before (in open access), it was difficult to rally economic theoreticians for this new cause. Unless people finally get fed up with the commercial publishers, AEJ-Micro will remain unnoticed.
American Economic Journal: Economic Policy fares better, but only little. I think it suffers from the fact the most economic research has policy implications, so it is difficult which papers should go there rather than elsewhere. And there are plenty of field journals that attract the top papers in their field. If, say, a health economics paper does not make it in the AER, the author will always prefer sending it to the Journal of Health Economics.
American Economic Journal: Applied Economics is the most worrisome. It has essentially been hijacked for the research agenda of the editor, and for the rest it looks like a junior partner not to the AER, but to the Quarterly Journal of Economics, even with the same mafia mentality (and hence the title of this post). I am surprised that the Association has not yet started rectifying the situation, but then again it is run by people close to the editorial team. I am afraid that this journal, despite being so young, is already the epitome of club mentality in publishing.
In summary, an unexpected success, two non-remarkable journals and a basket case. Not a promising start.