Archives for Economics



Fantasy Football For Econ Nerds

Christian Zimmerman of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis has created the ultimate game for econ nerds: the RePEc Fantasy Economic league.  “The IDEAS fantasy league allows you to pretend you are at the helm of an economics department,” explains the league’s website. “Your goal is to improve its ranking relative to other departments in the league. You can do this by trading economists and by choosing which ones to activate in your roster.”  A Business Insider article explores optimal strategy:

“In real life when you build a department, you want to hire people that are prospects,” Zimmermann said. “In this fantasy league, it’s just the same. You really want to acquire people that are going to be doing well in the next 10 years.”

In other words, you want the sleeper picks. Ask yourself: Who is going to cost 1 util and then put out some game-changing working papers?

Edwards agrees that you have to look for the rising stars. “It’s a Moneyball type strategy,” he said. “Looking for undervalued economists and trying to invest, or trying to divest in overvalued economists.” 



Paying More for the White Dress

In an article for The New York Times Magazine, Catherine Rampell  explores the “wedding markup.”  While planning her own wedding, Rampell was surprised by the lack of transparency in the wedding industry, even with all the wedding-related sites on the Internet:

Wedding vendors seemed to be trying to size me up to figure out how much I’m willing to pay; consumer advocates say this is a common practice, as is charging more for a given service for a wedding than for a “family function” or “corporate event.” Austan Goolsbee, an economics professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, recalls that when he was married over a decade ago, one caterer initially quoted him about $60 a head, and then jacked up the price to about $90 per person after realizing the function was a wedding. These are forms of what economists call price discrimination; it sounds unfair, but it’s perfectly legal, and it’s easier to get away with in markets where there’s little price transparency and consumers are relatively uninformed.

Many of the industry experts Rampell interviewed attributed the markup to the fact that brides are usually less-informed “first-time shoppers,” and also to the “once-in-a-lifetime logic”: Read More »



Don’t You Wish You Thought of This? Econ Professor Focuses on Beer

From the (Saskatoon) Star-Phoenix:

When Jason Childs and his colleagues went about devising a new course in economics at the University of Regina, they wanted to find a focus that didn’t involve the overused and fictitious widget.

What they arrived at was a product that was historic and central to people’s lives – and something most undergraduate students are familiar with: beer.

Childs, an associate professor of economics, said the Economics of Beer course had 80 seats, and they were filled in about two weeks. The course began in early May and finishes near the end of June.

“Basically, it’s an exploration of some economics concepts, in particular microeconomic concepts, and the brewing industry,” he said. “Beer is a really neat example because it allows you to talk about just about every fundamental concept in economics.”

Read More »



Does Economics Have an Egalitarian Core?

Tyler Cowen, who appears in these parts pretty regularly, writes in a Times column about the egalitarian core of the economics profession:

Economic analysis is itself value-free, but in practice it encourages a cosmopolitan interest in natural equality. Many economic models, of course, assume that all individuals are motivated by rational self-interest or some variant thereof; even the so-called behavioral theories tweak only the fringes of a basically common, rational understanding of people. The crucial implication is this: If you treat all individuals as fundamentally the same in your theoretical constructs, it would be odd to insist that the law should suddenly start treating them differently.

Cowen concludes by exploring a modern-day application of this putatively egalitarian core:

A distressingly large portion of the debate in many countries analyzes the effects of higher immigration on domestic citizens alone and seeks to restrict immigration to protect a national culture or existing economic interests. The obvious but too-often-underemphasized reality is that immigration is a significant gain for most people who move to a new country.



Calling All International-Econ Undergrads

Elena Malik, communications chair of the 12th annual Carroll Round at Georgetown, writes to solicit applications for a worthwhile event:

The Carroll Round is an annual undergraduate international economics conference at Georgetown University that provides a unique forum for research and discussion among the world’s top undergraduates. Each year, we invite applications from students to present and discuss their work with peers, professors, and policy-makers invited to participate. This year we are honored to host guest speakers including Dr. John B. Taylor and Dr. Janet Currie. We are still recruiting applications from students.

This year’s Carroll Round will be held from April 18-21; more info here.



Why America’s Economic Growth May Be (Shh!) Over: a New Marketplace Podcast

With the Presidential debate finished, we are officially in the final lap of America’s second-favorite spectator sport. (Yes, football is better than politics.) Of all the talking that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will do by Nov. 6, you can bet that a great deal of their breath will be expended on economic matters. Because that’s what the President of the United States does, right — runs our economy?

Well, actually, no. The President has far less influence over the economy than people tend to think — as we’ve pointed out not once, or twice, but three times.

That, of course, won’t stop the candidates from talking about their plans to “fix” or “heal” or “restore” our economy — all of which imply that we are in an economic doldrums that is sure to pass. But what if it doesn’t? What if the massive economic growth the U.S. has experienced through most of our history is a thing of the past?

That’s the topic of our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player in the post.) Read More »



Research from My Favorite Economic Gabfest

I’ve just gotten back home after a terrific few days at the Brookings Panel on Economic Activity.  It’s my favorite gabfest of the year, featuring economic analysis that is both serious research, and also connected to ongoing policy debates.  (OK, I’m biased–I’m an editor, and organize the conference along with Berkeley’s David Romer.)  And while I think some of you may enjoy slogging your way through the latest papers, others may prefer your summaries simpler and lighter. So I went ahead and recorded a few short videos summarizing the papers. I hope you enjoy! Read More »



The Economics Revolution Will Be Televised

There’s a revolution underway in economics. It’s not due to the financial crisis, but rather something more mundane: Data, and computing power. At least that’s the claim that Betsey Stevenson and I make in our latest Bloomberg View column:

“Consider the stream of data you will create today. Your metro card will record what time you caught the train. Your Web browser will note how you go about your job, and how much you procrastinate. A mid-afternoon purchase at Starbucks will reveal your penchant for lattes and the occasional cookie. Your flow of e-mail traffic will trace out your professional and personal networks.

At the same time, computing power has made it extremely easy and cheap to analyze all the data you produce. An economist with a laptop can, in a matter of seconds, do the kind of number crunching it used to take a roomful of Ph.D.’s weeks to achieve. Just a few decades ago, economists used punch cards to program data analysis for their empirical studies.”

Two weeks ago, Harvard’s Raj Chetty gave a spectacular talk at the National Bureau of Economic Research, about what he called “The Transformative Potential of Administrative Data.” He documented that today’s cutting-edge research is based on crunching newly-available data from the vast databases which underlay our schools, welfare state and tax systems.  I’m just as optimistic that new data coming online from the private sector will prove to be just as useful. Read More »