We investigate theoretically and empirically how connections in evaluation committees affect application decisions. Prospective candidates who are connected to a committee member may be more likely to apply if they anticipate a premium at the evaluation stage. However, when failure is costly and connections convey information to potential applicants regarding their chances of success, the impact of connections on application decisions is ambiguous. We document the relevance of this information channel using data from national evaluations in Italian academia. We find that prospective candidates are significantly less likely to apply when the committee includes, through the luck of the draw, a colleague, a coauthor or a Ph.D. advisor. At the same time, applicants tend to receive more favorable evaluations from their connections. Overall, the evidence suggests that connected individuals have access to better information at the application stage, which helps them to make better application decisions. Ignoring applicants’ self-selection would lead to an overestimation of the connection premium in evaluations by 29%.
- Academic labor markets