Monday, March 17, 2008

Midwest Economics Meeting Wrap Up

This weekend I was in Chicago for the Midwest Economics Association meetings. While the rest of the city was drinking and kissing Irish people, a bunch of economists were in the Hyatt on Wacker discussing their research. For those of you who have not been to an academic conference, typically there are 4 two hour sessions each day. Each session has four papers, where the author gives a 15-20 minute talk, then a discussant who has read their paper (hopefully), comments on the paper for 5 minutes.
At Economic conferences results are typically preliminary so it wouldn’t be right to cite any presentation specifically, but two interesting results I saw. First, I saw two presentations on the impact of Mexican wages, be they immigrants to the US or staying in Mexico. Both presentations suggested that Mexican workers were not bringing down US wages. George Borjas a leading immigration economist, who was not at the conference, suggests that in the short run migration to the US will bring down US wages, but in the long run this immigration will lead to growth. Below is a table of his estimates of impacts of migration on wages (from Econlog).

Impact of Mexican Immigration on US Wages
Short Run Long Run

All native workers -3.4% 0.0%

High school dropouts -8.2% -4.8%

High school graduates -2.2% +1.2%

Some college -2.7% +0.7%

College graduates -3.9% -0.5%

The other topic that seemed popular at the conference was childhood obesity. Patricia Reagan, Prof. at Ohio State, as President of the MEA gave a talk on her own work on the causes of childhood obesity. Her general conclusion is that “that overweight prevention may need to begin before pregnancy and in early childhood.” In particular she suggests that attention should be paid to the movement of puberty to earlier years, which has been associated with obesity and other health problems.

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