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Classifying economics for the common good: a note on the links between sustainable development goals and JEL codes

Jussi T.S. Heikkilä (Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 1 January 2021

Issue publication date: 18 February 2021




This brief note sheds light on the links between Journal of Economic Literature (JEL) codes and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.


Three alternative methods based on keyword overlap to establish links between SDGs and JEL codes are presented.


These simple linkages illustrate that the themes of SDGs have corresponding closely related JEL classification codes.

Research limitations/implications

The mappings presented in this note are based on simple keyword overlap and are therefore necessarily imperfect and incomplete. There is plenty of room for further development.

Practical implications

Despite the demonstrated possibility of linking SDGs to existing JEL codes, introducing a specific JEL code for each SDG would reduce search costs for those searching for economic research related to specific SDGs.


The first and preliminary attempt to link SDGs and JEL codes.



The author thanks participants of the Steering Research and Innovation for Global Goals (STRINGS) project workshop 2020 and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. Salla Laukkanen provided excellent research assistance.


Heikkilä, J.T.S. (2021), "Classifying economics for the common good: a note on the links between sustainable development goals and JEL codes", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 77 No. 2, pp. 305-319.



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