Trends in Law & Economics: Survey of ALEA Submissions

What is going on with L&E? There are many trends in the field, most clearly the the inexorable and partly excessive rush to empirical work. In this spirit, I thought we might be able to learn something from a more quantitative approach. To that end, I scrapped the website of the American Law & Economics Association (the premiere L&E conference) for the decade between 2013-2022. The website gives a number of submission and then categorization by area (which is done by the authors).

Before proceeding, a word of caution: the names of the areas changed over the years, some saw expansion, other contraction. For the sake of analysis I unified areas as I saw fit (e.g., “Torts; Products Liability; Liability Insurance” was turned into “Torts, Health Law, and Insurance Law” ) but that involved some discretion and YMMV. I include the original data here, in case someone wants to run the numbers themselves. Also, I didn’t have area information for 2012.

Contrary to some concerns, it doesn’t look like there is a decline in work in the discipline. While we may be far from the golden, pre-pandemic days of 2019 (490!), we are at a solid 349 submissions this year, around the 2013 levels. It’s reasonable to expect a bump next year (confidence ~70%)

What about areas? Starting with the private law trifecta, contracts, torts, and property, we see relatively similar numbers, and I reluctantly admit that torts takes the lead. Befitting the field’s prudent temper, it looks like contracts & commercial law keep a steady modest average of 23.9 submissions/year. Our more mercurial brethren, Torts & health, exhibit greater variance (although small in absolute numbers) with an average of 27.9 submissions/year. Property is slightly above its 18 submission/year with 20 this year.

The biggest representation is in corporate law. There are always multiple panels and the organizers slice it by subfield. But I lumped them all together, to get a more general sense.

The area seems to have suffered the largest decline, falling from its average of 75.8 submissions/year to only 51 this year. We can include an additional 9 submissions in fin reg, as previous years may have included some of them, but even we are way below average. I don’t have a good theory of why we are seeing this drop: more outside conferences? CSG influences? the bear market?

Other trends of potential interest: legal process and dispute resolution — keeping up with a strong average submission rate of 45.8 submissions/year

Not to make this post too long, concluding with criminal law. There is what seems like an explosion of work in econ in the area, so it’s surprising to me that we are below average. 25 submissions relative to an annual average of 37 submissions/year.

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