The Wall Street Journal has an entertaining article on the front page (Justin Lahart, Jan. 2, 2010), recounting tales of economists as hard bargainers and, well, cheapskates. The article opens noting that the annual professional meetings occur the week after New Year, when hotel costs are generally low, and this year are taking place in Atlanta:
Academic economists gather in Atlanta this weekend for their annual meetings, always held the first weekend after New Year’s Day. That’s not only because it coincides with holidays at most universities. A post-holiday lull in business travel also puts hotel rates near the lowest point of the year.
Economists are often cheapskates.
The economists make cities bid against each other to hold their convention, and don’t care so much about beaches, golf courses or other frills. It’s like buying a car, explains the American Economic Association’s secretary-treasurer, John Siegfried, an economist at Vanderbilt University.
The rest of the article has entertaining stories of people like Keynes and Milton Friedman. But let me stick with professional conferences. We law professors are also holding professional conventions this week, as are many other academic groups, such as the MLA. Price is part of the timing; so is, as the article notes, the general agreement to schedule academic calendars across the country’s institutions in order to hold the professional meetings before classes resume.
Update: I didn’t realize that this economics conference is also a job market and not just professional confab – definitely changes the picture. Here is an interesting comment, pulled up from below:
As someone pretty close to the economics AEA meetings, I think the article misses the point about these meetings: they aren’t in fancy places because a huge swath of attendees are graduate students doing job market interviews. These students basically have