• Noisli

    Apr 1 • The Pulse • 49 Views

    This new site provides a wide variety of background noise tracks to encourage productivity and focus while working. Hot or Not?


    No Comments

    Read More
  • Grade Incentives

    Should Kids Get Paid for Grades?

    Apr 1 • Behavioral Economics, Demand, Supply, and Markets, Economic Debates, Economic Thinkers, Education, Government, Innovation, Labor, Lifestyle, Thinking Economically • 62 Views

    What happens when you combine a $100 student payment with a teacher bonus for high A.P. grades, better lab equipment, free tutoring, Saturday classes and extra teacher training?

    At one Boston school, the results for the A.P. Statistics exam were:

    • A surge in enrollment from 12 in 2008 to 61 in 2010.
    • A grade of 3 or more for 70% of the class including 31 low-income students.
    • A grade of 5 for 25% of the class whereas worldwide, 13% of all students taking the A.P. stat test got the highest grade.
    • A $7300.00 cash bonus for the teacher.

    And now, at 3 high schools in the Washington D.C. area, a similar program had similar results. At Stafford High, the number of AP exams went from 543 to 1113, an increase of 105%. For a passing English, Math or Science AP grade (what about econ???) a student and his or her teacher each received $100. Funded with private and public dollars, the program paid a total of $90,800 to students and $145,370 to teachers.

    Paying kids for grades is controversial and not all of us agree that it works. In a recent paper, Freakonomics economist (University of Chicago) Steven Levitt and other scholars concluded that kids’ response to grade incentives varies considerably. It all depends on the child’s age and sex, whether the award is financial or non-material, delayed or immediate, and if is is “framed” as a gain or a loss. Looking to the future, they concluded that behavioral economics and education could have a fruitful relationship.

    I wonder whether monetizing educational achievement takes us to the benefits of a capitalist approach or its limitations.

    Sources and resources: If you put together the articles in the Washington Post and the NY Times with academia and then look at the website of a sponsoring organization, the dilemmas of paying for grades in the short and long term become increasingly evident.



    No Comments

    Read More
  • gender gap women's sports and March Madness

    How is March Madness About Women?

    Mar 31 • Behavioral Economics, Businesses, Economic History, Education, Gender gap, Government, Labor, Macroeconomic Measurement, Regulation, Sports, Thinking Economically • 66 Views

    “A woman’s place is on home, first, second, and third.”
    A League of Their Own, 1992

    45 years ago, cheerleading and square dancing were the sports we associated with young women while only 1 in 27 high school girls participated in athletic programs. By 1998, the ratio skyrocketed to 1 in 3.

    The reason was Title IX of the Education Amendments to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Signed by President Nixon in June 1972, the law mandated gender equity in all federally funded school programs. Sports, though, with the greatest gender disparity, felt the biggest impact.


    Title IX Impact

    From: “Beyond the Classroom: Using Title IX To Measure the Return From High School Sports”

    In her study of Title IX’s impact on women, University of Michigan economist Betsey Stevenson looked at education and the workplace. For education, she concludes that women who participate in athletic programs attend school longer and have higher rates of college attendance. At work, their wages are higher and they are more likely to enter occupations that are associated with men. Furthermore, she hypothesizes that female athletes enjoy the byproducts of sports participation. They develop abilities that the market values and have the positive reinforcement from coaches, friends and family that foster self-esteem.

    And that takes us to March Madness. Relevant although perhaps distantly, here is a Mother Jones chart that displays the female/male athletics spending ratio. The purpose of the brackets is to display who would win if spending became the key variable.

    We could also say that spending on women’s athletic programs is one yardstick of gender gap progress since Title IX.

    March Madness Women's Brackets

    From: Mother Jones

    Our bottom line? Increasingly gender equity in sports creates a positive externality that extends far beyond athletics. Because of its impact on human capital, the spillover will not only affect women in school and at work, but also I would hypothesize that it will affect their skills as mothers.

    Sources and Resources: For an academic perspective, Dr. Stevenson’s NBER paper  ideally complemented the Mother Jones article and chart. You might also want to hear Val Ackerman discuss female basketball players’ professional opportunities in this Bloomberg Kathleen Hayes interview.


    No Comments

    Read More
  • Line standing tradeoffs

    How Much to Pay For a Line Waiter?

    Mar 30 • Behavioral Economics, Businesses, Demand, Supply, and Markets, Economic History, Entertainment, Innovation, Labor, Lifestyle, Thinking Economically • 53 Views

    If a lobbyist wants to go to a congressional hearing but cannot do the line, she can hire a line stander. Maybe 30 minutes before entering, the customer takes the place of the “waiter.” Saying they have ”significant expertise in all of the sometimes complex details of seat holding and line standing,” one Washington DC firm charges $40 an hour.

    2 years ago during March, when the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act decision was imminent, it was a line stander’s bonanza. Although there are approximately 400 seats in the courtroom, only 60 seats were allotted to the public for each day’s arguments and another 34 for a 3 to 5 minute peek at the proceedings. Awaiting a specific oral argument or the decision, some people stood outside for days.

    By contrast, for the Cronut in NYC’s Dominique Ansel Bakery, the line starts to form at 5:30 or 6 am even though the bakery opens at 8. With a 2 per person max and larger but limited pre-orders and boxes of 8, the Robert Samuel line standing firm sometimes uses several people if a client has a bigger order. Samuel’s rate? $25 for the first hour and then $10 for each additional one.

    For the iPhone, during 2012, TaskRabbit said it would charge $55 for up to 4 hours on an Apple line. Interesting to see a convergence of prices for Apple and Cronuts. My applause for the market system.

    Our bottom line? Line standing decisions are all about the tradeoffs that relate to time or money.

    And finally, I suspect the lines at Dominique Ansel’s will be longer and line standers will charge more because of this:

    The Chocolate Chip Cookie Shot

    The Chocolate Chip Cookie Shot from Dominique Ansel Bakery


    Sources and resources: Line stander articles are interesting. If you want to read more, Robert Samuel did an interview for his firm, Same ‘Ole Line Dudes (SOLD), as did Washington Express.

    Several sentences were excerpted from  a past econlife post.


    No Comments

    Read More
  • Movie Attendance Price elasticity

    2 Reasons We Don’t Go to the Movies

    Mar 29 • Behavioral Economics, Businesses, Demand, Supply, and Markets, Economic History, Entertainment, Households, International Trade and Finance, Labor, Lifestyle, Regulation • 80 Views

    While movie ticket sales are down, box office revenue is up.

    NATO, the National Organization of Theater Owners (not the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), says that between 2004 and 2013, movie ticket sales declined by 11% but box office revenue went up 17%. In 2013, the average movie ticket price was $8.13, up from $7.96 the previous year. At almost the same time, movie attendance for people aged 18-24 dropped 17% and for 12-17 year olds, there was a 15% decrease.

    Concerned, theater owners are trying to figure out how to increase attendance. A discount weekday, for example, would target our elasticity. Elasticity involves how much a change in price affects the amount we buy. When a relatively large drop in price generates much higher sales and more revenue, the cause is elastic demand. If however, price and revenue both go up, then the quantity we demand is relatively inelastic.

    The problem though might be quality. With Netflix, Amazon, HBO and other attractive alternatives, many consumers prefer staying at home. After all, Lena Dunham got good press for “Tiny Furniture” but turned to TV for her next project.

    The industry does see a brighter picture beyond the US. Theater executives say that China is building 14 new screens a day and the Asia Pacific is generating more revenue than China, the Middle East and Africa.

    Our bottom line? As economists, we can conclude that price elasticity of demand and substitute products are the 2 reasons we enjoy our home screens rather than the local theater.

    Sources and Resources: Lower ticket sales cited in a recent WSJ article might be the “canary in the coal mine.” They could be temporary but it seems more likely they indicate a more formidable trend. Meanwhile 2 NY Times articles and Variety provided extra detail, here and here.



    No Comments

    Read More