Monday, January 05, 2009

Back from ASSA San Francisco 2009

This year Allied Social Sciences Association (ASSA) held its annual meeting in San Francisco, CA. The main body in these associations is American Economic Association. However several other associations were present, including Econometric Society (ES), Middle East Economics Association (MEEA) and etc.
For many this meeting is also known as the “Job Market" since several PhD candidates and recent graduates receive their first chance to talk to their potential employers. And for life of me I do not know how anyone can evaluate anyone as a potential colleague in 30 minutes! I believe that is why hiring committees intend to rely on brands and their instincts more than anything else. That is also why job seekers must have a network of connections before this event to make themselves known. Otherwise they are only another face in a line of dozens of talented candidates.
The recession and the recent economic events have caused tremendous distortion in the market this year. Several schools hiring budgets were frozen. Some received word in the last minute that they can hire, some heard that they could not.
The conference also is a place for the members of MEEA to meet and to have their annual gatherings. There were a few sessions including a poster session where researches from schools in U.S. and universities in Algiers, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey and other countries presented their work (I presented in the poster session myself).
The quality of some of the papers was remarkable. I particularly liked a paper presented by Nagla Rizk from American University of Cairo on copy rights and the lack of demand for them in Egypt. Her argument is that the main source of income for many artists is their performances in the weddings and other social events and thus they are not interested in collecting loyalties from the sale of their products. I found this paper and a few others intriguing because of their insightful approach to the fabric of daily economic life in the Middle East.
Overall one must admit that there is an increasing interest in the Middle Eastern economies that goes beyond the traditional approach, which focuses on oil and nothing else.

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