Monday, 4 January 2010

Economic etymology and the AEA

In a WSJ article about how economists are cheapskates at the AEA conference, the following unusual error appears:
Think of the person who orders the most expensive entr[eacute]e at a restaurant, knowing that the check will be shared equally among companions.
I find myself trying to pronounce the typo. Is this where the word 'entrecote' comes from?

More seriously, and yet somehow also less:
Cornell University economist Robert Frank, working with a pair of psychologists, mailed questionnaires to college professors asking them to report the annual amount they gave to charity. Their 1993 paper reported that 9.1% of the economists gave no money at all -- more than twice as many holdouts as in any other field.
Note that twice as many reported holdouts is not the same as twice as many holdouts. Many economists, I have no doubt, are proud of their lack of charitable giving and much happier to admit it in a survey than others might be.

And one more piece of odd speculation:
Given their understanding of the odds of gambling, economists seldom frequent casinos, which is one reason the meeting isn't held in Las Vegas.
But surely this is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of an inefficient cross-subsidy. Many hotels in Las Vegas can be got quite cheaply because the casino owners expect to make back the money on the slot machines (another example of metered price discrimination).

The explanation? Someone gave away the secret. The hotels have already seen through this and don't offer the AEA any discounts:
A decade ago, a hotel sales representative showed Mr. Siegfried a chart showing how little economists gambled compared to other people, he says.
Note that the Business and Behavioural Science conference has been held in Las Vegas. So has the Western Economic Association's annual meeting. I don't know whether behaviourists or Westerners are less rational - or have a different set of exotic preferences - but clearly the rest of the economists have decided that gambling should be confined to the gold market and their job applications.

Then again, it's never been in Miami either. Maybe they don't like drugs or gambling.

No doubt there will be more entertaining reports from the AEA conference when all the other bloggers get back from it. Maybe I should become an American economist in time for next year's.

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