The Westerns

I’ve just returned from San Diego, where I took part in the annual conference of the Western Economic Association and spent a little time with some very good friends I don’t get to see nearly often enough.

I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I didn’t spend perhaps as much time at the conference as I have spent at others, but I did chair a session and present and even caught a few oher papers. My experience last year with the Westerns was that the quality of papers was exceptionally disheartening. The conference is traditionally grad student friendly, and due to its size, the call for papers ends just short of seven months before the conference. I’m not sure whether these things contribute to average quality, or the fact that it’s always in a fun, beautiful, outdoorsy place during the summer, but not many people seemed to put much thought into what they were presenting last year. I could have also just been extremely unfortunate in my choice of sessions.

In my session, I presented my job market paper, “Match Quality and Maternal Investments”, in which I tease out the association between subjective quality of a romantic relationship and investments in children’s cognitive skills. The session was well-attended and my paper well-received. I had fun presenting it (even though my heart was still beating a million miles a minute from having lost and magically found my flash drive only moments before). I’ve presented the paper so many times now that I can feel it calling at me to get out. Go forth and publish! Or at least go forth and submit (and wait, and submit, and wait, sorry, this wasn’t supposed to be commentary on publishing lags in economics).

I thought my session particularly interesting because we had four papers dealing with divorce and union dissolution in four very different ways. I discussed a paper by Risa Kumazawa of Duquense University on the effects of divorce on children’s educational attainment. A fellow CU grad student discussed her paper on spillover effects of divorce laws on marriage markets using LMAs and divorce law changes. And Claudia Smith of Grand Valley State discussed the effects of immigration policy on divorce and marriage. I was really impressed with all the papers and I’m excited to see them develop.

I also fully survived my first chair experience, keeping everyone within the time limit and being sufficiently organized. I’m sure someone is dying to make a joke about the diversity of my participants, but we had a great international group and I got to see a lot of papers about migration and labor market participation that I might have otherwise never seen. All in all, I was really pleased with the conference.

The Westerns are great because they give access to everyone. Their paper acceptance rate is high and while it increases the variability in quality, it definitely allows for a broad spectrum of ideas to come from lots of places, which is really fun. Next year, it’s in San Francisco and will hit my own hometown of Denver before going to Hawaii in 2016. I think I can get behind all of those stops.

Happy Fourth of July!

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