Saturday, September 18, 2010

Center Opening 4, or, Economics and Lunch!

On Thursday, I had been asked along with one other student to take notes at the International Symposium on Family and Labor Economics, sponsored by UChicago and Renmin University. It was an all day event held on campus, where different academics from the US and China presented their papers on – you guessed it – family and labor economics! The day included plenty of free food and coffee, which was good- by the end of the day, I needed it.

The first paper presented was presented by James Heckman, one of the Nobel Laureates in econ that was in Beijing for opening. Another Laureate, Gary Becker, was also at the conference and the opening. Although I'm not an econ major, the papers were pretty interesting. Many of them, Heckman's especially, had a lot of equations, and I love the idea of being able to explain human behavior in terms of mathematical equations, even if I can't do it myself.

When we broke for lunch, Sidi (the other student) and I got to accompany the VIPs back to the center for lunch. I don't know whether or not to make a big deal out of eating lunch with Nobel Laureates – before Monday, I had no clue who they were, and they're just people who got awards for their work. But at the same time, it is kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity, so while I don't want to brag about it, I guess it was pretty cool. :) The only problem was that lunch involved noodles and watermelon, which greatly enhanced the possibility of me screwing up eating and making a mess of everything. Fortunately, no catastrophes occurred, and my only etiquette error may have been cutting the watermelon too loudly. The discussion focused primarily on economics, and was largely over my head, but what really impressed me is how passionate they are about their work and are still working, when most Americans their age have retired. It makes sense, though – you don't win Nobel prizes for a job or research you're ambivalent about.

The afternoon portion of the conference started to drag a little bit, although some of the works were interesting. One of the papers studied the effect of the Cultural Revolution on children's education (it was bad, fyi), and another covered the gender wage gap in China (getting worse, it seems). It struck me that thirty years ago, these papers likely could not have been researched or presented in China – since both ultimately came to negative conclusions, they probably would have been censored. It's s testament to how far China has come, though I'm certainly no expert. That one of the presenters was able to make a slight joke about the Cultural Revolution, and that people were able to chuckle, seems to me to be a very good sign.

That's it for my updates on this week, I'm sorry it's been so long since I've written, and that what I've written is so long! I hope you enjoyed it. :) If you have any questions or things you'd like me to discuss in an upcoming post, please let me know, either through comments/email/facebook. Also, assuming my internet connection lasts (it's been spotty recently), there should be more new pics up on Facebook!
Zai Jian!

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