How to Organize Your Own Mini-Economics Conference

This past weekend I attended the Midwest Economics Association Meetings. I had submitted four sessions on development and was really happy with the quality of papers. I was inspired to organize my own set of sessions after seeing a lack of opportunities to present development papers.

There are several great conferences in development economics (NEUDC, MIEDC, PACDEV, BREAD, LACDEV) and regional ones for Africa and Latin America (CSAE, LACEA) not to mention organized sessions at AEA and AAEA. I have presented at MIEDC, but been rejected at NEUDC, LACDEV, CSAE, and LACEA. Sometimes the rejected papers were good and went on to be published in solid field journals (World Development and Journal of Development Studies) and some weren’t so good.

Given my own experience and hearing the acceptance rates at some of the conferences listed above is well below 50%  there seems to be excess demand for development conferences, so I thought to organize my own, but I did not want to actually do all of the logistics.

To solve this problem I organized my own set of four sessions with 14 papers at the Midwest Economics Association meetings (MEA). The MEA is one of at least four “directional” economics conferences along with the Easterns, Westerns, and Southerns. These conferences have two advantages over those listed above. First, acceptance rates are generally high so you can have more certainty of your conference schedule and two registration fees are low and when you organize your own session submission fees are  waved. The MEA was very happy to have me do the work of finding papers and organizing sessions!

The downside is these conferences can have an extremely high variance in quality and attendance of sessions if someone does not do the work of organizing. To get a good group of presenters I sent an email to all the development faculty I knew (or kind of knew) within a close range of Chicago where the MEA were held. Of course I would have love faculty from top places to present, but realistically I was expecting and got their graduate students. Given that graduate students are price sensitive reaching out to those within driving distance provides opportunity to present and attend a conference for $100 or less.  

The conference was a great experience for me. I got to meet roughly a dozen  development economics PhD students and see their work, which was all really good. For the students they got a chance to meet each other and I hope form some potential collaborations. Plus we all got some deep dish pizza the night before [protip planning a dinner at graduate student budget friendly place is a great way to make friends]

If you are interested in organizing your own mini-directional economics conference here is a little guide for the next year or so. Generally these dates do not move too much


Southerns: Sessions are due by April 1st. Conference is in Washington DC Nov 18-20

Westerns: Sessions were due Feb 1st. Conference this year is Vancouver. Future cities San Francisco (2019), Denver (2020), Honolulu (2021), and Portland (2022).

Midwestern Meetings: Sessions due by early October. St. Louis 2019. Evanston, IL 2020

Easterns:  Sessions were due Dec 1st. Typically in Boston, NYC, DC or Philadelphia