the asa loophole and the unfairness of aea dues

While looking again at the proposed changes to the ASA’s dues, I noticed that, under the new scheme, a few lucky duckies will pay nothing at all. How is this possible, you ask? Consider the table.

Earn $125,500 and pay nothing!

As you can see, for those sociologists lucky enough to earn between $125,000 and $125,998 per annum, the new system requires them to pay no dues at all. What a great deal!

Speaking of good deals, it’s worth comparing the generous terms of the new ASA dues structure to what’s currently on offer from the American Economic Association. As it happens, the AEA has also just announced what it describes as a “substantial change to 2012 Dues under the newly adopted by-law” and has rejigged its dues structure. At present, membership starts at $70 for those making less than $66,000 per year and tops out at $98 for those making above $88,000. Not terribly progressive, but then what would one expect from a bunch of economists? Under the new rules just adopted, however, things get much worse. Beginning in 2012, if you make under $70,000 the AEA will force you to pay the outrageous sum of twenty bucks for association membership. This includes full electronic access to the seven AEA journals. If you make between $70,000 and $105,000, membership dues are a shocking $30. And if you make more than $105,000 fees rise to a positively outrageous $40. That’s a whole five dollars less than the subscription cost of a single ASA journal.

To put this in terms of the principle of progressivity, if you make less than $30,000 a year, the ASA proposal makes it easy for you—indeed, you are required—to pay an $80 membership fee. If you’re unemployed, the cost is the socially inclusive sum of $50. In return you receive one journal of your choice. Exploited AEA members, meanwhile, have to make upwards of a six-figure income before they are allowed to pay even half as much as that, and there is no way for an AEA member of any salary level to be socially included at the $50 level, something which even unemployed ASA members are able—that is to say, required—to do. And in a striking display of illiberality from a discipline allegedly committed to the idea that people should be “Free To Choose”, the AEA allows its members no choice of journals at all. No matter how little money you make, all members are forced to receive all seven journals published by the AEA, which not only makes a mockery of the idea that economics is the study of the allocation of scarce means which have alternative uses, but surely also imposes an absurdly high reading burden on its most vulnerable members. I for one am relieved to be a member in good standing of an academic association that has more respect for its members than this.

Written by Kieran

March 25, 2011 at 2:26 pm

11 Responses

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  1. Thank you Kieran. Thanks for the laughs. Thank you for provoking me to act. I will buy an AEA subscription for an impoverished economist so they needn’t allocate funds from feeding their children to stay active in the profession.



    March 25, 2011 at 6:20 pm

  2. Well this is ummm, typically American isn’t it? No surprises here…



    March 25, 2011 at 6:21 pm

  3. for me the biggest sticking point in the current fee-structure is that I have to pay for a paper copy of ASR compulsorily (which any institution with a sociology dept. subscribes to anyway). I think detaching that from the baseline subscription would save a lot of wasted paper (and for grad students, allow reallocation of funds to better quality ramen)



    March 25, 2011 at 7:52 pm

  4. sd: I thought you could opt out of getting a paper copy of ASR, you just couldn’t opt out of paying for a subscription whether you got a print copy or not.



    March 25, 2011 at 8:02 pm

  5. I am actually sort of fond of being forced to order a copy of the ASR. If I didn’t have them laying around the house, I don’t think I’d read half of those articles.



    March 25, 2011 at 9:01 pm

  6. jeremy: thanks, I didn’t know that – now at I can at least save the environment if not my money. My point was about the unnecessary subscription. great that the constraint is working positively for HB :)



    March 26, 2011 at 5:14 am

  7. Wow. Thanks for doing that comparison, Kieran. Sorry to report that it didn’t make me laugh, but if you were trying to make us cry, you did a good job!



    March 26, 2011 at 5:34 pm

  8. It gets worse still: according to the AEA’s minutes (from Jan 4, 2010), their blatant exploitation of their members generated a $366K operating surplus in 2009 and a projected $307K surplus in 2010. According to the ASA’s minutes, in 2009 the ASA operated under a much more respectable $100K deficit. As a card-carrying liberal, I applaud the ASA’s rejection of the capitalist-inspired notion of “breaking even.”

    All snark aside, the ASA minutes also imply that at one point the ASA was facing a deficit of $700K. Eliminating $600K of a projected deficit is great, and I don’t deny that it took “heroic” effort, to quote the minutes. But one has to wonder how the AEA was able to operate at a $366K surplus in the same general macroeconomic conditions in which the ASA, even after belt-tightening, operated at a $100K operating deficit.



    March 26, 2011 at 5:40 pm

  9. My economist spouse really does think that it’s an unfair burden to receive all seven journals. She puts them in the recycling bin before I can get my dirty sociologist hands on them.


    Darren Sherkat

    March 27, 2011 at 2:53 pm

  10. ezrazuckerman

    March 29, 2011 at 8:19 am

  11. […] the sociology blogosphere has been discussing the ASA’s proposed dues increase (See here, here, here, and here). Many are skeptical that the dues increase is in the best interest of the […]


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