Boring AEAs

The annual American Economic Association meetings used to be a terrific affair. New research was presented. It was the place to go to see what was happening at the frontier. And that was only 15 years ago.

Well, all that has changed. The AEAs are now a dull affair on the whole. Put simply, all of the research is now available earlier and on the Internet so conference presentations have lost their glamour. I attended a couple of sessions (only because they might possibly be interesting) and found them to be sparsely attended and not that interesting. If it wasn’t for the other reasons to travel to the US (an NBER pre-conference on entrepreneurship and a seminar presentation at Wharton) I would not go anywhere near them.

This cartoon appeared during the meetings and seems to reflect my mood.

Of course, the dullness of the AEAs doesn’t seem to reflect promise in the profession as exemplified by this New York Times article. (The full list of 13 young economists of promise is here).

Oh and yes, there is always a new scandal to get gossip flowing; making my visit to Penn a little more interesting too.

Finally, here is an account from David Warsh whom I saw wandering around some of the sessions and clearly seemed more excited than I was. Then perhaps he might not track developments on the Internet as I do.

3 thoughts on “Boring AEAs”

  1. I attended 12 sessions and was a bit disappointed. Some of the sessions were a bit specialised rather than state-of-play. I wanted to be informed about certain topics and came away with narrow perspectives. For example the session on the ‘great moderation’ in macroeconomics discussed only the removal of credit constraints.

    But I thought Akerlof’s talk was outstanding – I’ve seen an early version of this on the web. There were several other presentations I found very good.

    On seminar attendance – I went to specialised sessions on Walmart, urban sprawl and obesity and found them all well-attended.

    You are right that could could read quite a few (not all) presentations on the web beforehand but hearing the papers presented is a shorthand way of accessing the stuff. It would take me quite a while to assimilate the message of the 40 or so speakers I heard present.


  2. This was my first ASSA conference so I can’t say anything in relative terms. But I had a blast and felt energized from being surrounded by all these accomplished researchers.

    Like hc, I found the sessions to be well attended. In fact, somes sessions were standing room only.


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