Fun with American Economic Association Conference Papers

I know, I know, economics papers and conference are deathly dully. But I have a weakness for that sort of thing, however, and will on Saturday be at this year’s annual American Economic Association conference in San Francisco.

You  have to believe that this year’s event will be at least a little fun. After all, what better sign that economics is relevant and/or challenged and/or in crisis could you find than the current credit meltdown. Right?

Well, to prepare myself I did what any self-respecting data geek would do: I did some quick textual analysis of the papers and sessions in this year’s conference. The following is a tag cloud (via Wordle) of all 195(!) session titles at this year’s event.


Hmmm, you wouldn’t know much changed in 2008. Lots of economics chatter, lots of data love, plus goodly dollops of international, trade, etc., but nothing that really jumps out as being uniquely current, if you know what I mean.

Well, maybe the situation is different if you get down to the lever of papers. After all, sessions are really collection of papers to be discussed, and it’s at the level of papers where all the fun is. So here is  tag cloud of the titles of all 505 papers being presented at AEA 2009 in San Francisco over the next few days:


Well, that’s pretty much the same damn thing. Nothing jumps up about "crises", "Keynes", etc. Matter of fact, the name "Keynes" appears precisely zero times in any paper or session at AEA. (Admittedly "crisis" does appear five times in paper titles, but barbarous "gold" clocks in at zero, as does "Federal Reserve".) You have to give the field of economics credit for being so darn convinced of its own rectitude in the face of a world that is … less convinced.