The Facebook for Economists, aka REPEC, has released its list of the most cited papers in the last five years (by papers posted at REPEC). And what a lovely list it is. People, it's all Macro and Econometrics!
Look at the top 5:
Christiano Eichenbaum & Evans: A DSGE Macro paper
Im, Peseran & Shin: Applied Econometrics, Panel unit root tests
Obstfeld & Rogoff: Puzzles of International Macro
Bils & Klenow: the importance of Sticky prices
Anderson & Van Winkoop: the gravity model of trade
Throughout the whole list, there's very little theory, very little IO, very little Public.
Tyler says it's because micro is fragmented and macro has a common core.
I think it's because empirical macro is what the great majority of economists are actually interested in and work on. The internet lets economists from non-top schools and developing countries post their work, and once one gets past the sweet icing layer of top-ranked schools, theory is just not very interesting or important to people residing down in the cake.
This dude says the work in the list is not impressive: "Are these the future classics? Are these the papers that will lead to Nobel Prize? I do not see anything that really strikes me. The only marginal candidate I see is Anderson and van Wincoop's "Gravity with Gravitas." Is there really nothing groundbreaking written nowadays?"
I disagree. Christiano et. al is a seminal paper that set the terms of current debate in DSGE macro modelling. Smets and Wouters paper is groundbreaking in using MCMC methods to estimate DSGE models (along with the work of Frank Schorfheide). Reinhart and Rogoff along with Levy-Yeyati and Sturzenegger have changed how we view and measure exchange rate regimes with their distinction between defacto and dejure regimes. Bai and Perron's paper on multiple structural breaks has opened up a whole new way to look at and model macro time series data.
There is some excellent economics being done these days indeed.