I’ve long been puzzled by the almost complete disconnect between real-world businesses and academic economics. After I graduated from college, I went to work as a management consultant. Almost nothing I learned as an economics major proved helpful to me in that job. Then, when I went back to get a Ph.D., I thought what I had learned in consulting would help me in economics. I was wrong about that as well!
Ever since, I’ve felt that both business and economics would benefit from a greater connection. Why don’t businesses set prices the way economics textbooks say they should? Why are randomized experiments so rare in business? Why do economists write down models of how businesses behave without spending time watching how decisions are actually made at businesses? The list goes on and on. Read More »
A few weeks ago, we got an e-mail from a reader Vishal Dosanjh, who lives in St. Louis:
My daughter asked me this morning why the fancy neighborhoods are the best places to go trick-or-treating. It puzzled me for a moment and then realized it was an economic question. I gave her an answer about disposable income and societal expectations. Anyway I thought it might be up your alley, and I wonder if it’s even true. Do wealthy neighborhoods/people actually give out better candy? She’s 8 by the way.
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In certain markets, the observed discrimination is not bigotry or animus-based, but consistent with the notion of profit-maximization, or Pigou’s (1920) “third-degree price discrimination”: in their pursuit of the most profitable transactions, marketers use observable characteristics to make statistical inference about reservation values of market agents. In others, the discrimination is more in line with Becker’s (1957) taste based theory of discrimination, or animus.
Interestingly, the nature of discrimination is less driven by particulars of the market or institutions, rather the nature of the disparate behavior is driven by whether the object of discrimination is a choice of the individual or is uncontrollable.
Here now is a new List paper, co-authored with Stefano DellaVigna and Ulrike Malmendier, published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, called “Testing for Altruism and Social Pressure in Charitable Giving.” Read More »
We recently ran on a post on a reader’s query about the economics of a 50-50 fund-raiser. John List, the University of Chicago economics-of-charity wizard (related podcast here), wrote in with a comment:
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The intuition of the reader is slightly off. Although not directly a 50-50 charity drive, we have explored the efficacy of lotteries both theoretically and empirically. As John Morgan (from Berkeley) has elegantly shown, under standard assumptions (no risk-loving or lottery-loving behavior is necessary), lotteries outperform the simple ask (what we call a VCM). Lotteries obtain higher levels of public-goods provision than a voluntary contributions mechanism (VCM) because the lottery rules introduce additional private benefits from contributing.
Our recent podcast “What Makes a Donor Donate?” features economist John List, who has concentrated his research on the science of philanthropy. In short, when it comes to convincing people to give, some ways are better than others. But what about just directly asking them?
A new study from authors James Andreoni, Justin M. Rao, and Hannah Trachtman examines the way people behave when solicited for donations by bell-ringers from the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign. The authors designed an experiment where bell-ringers were sent to a grocery store in suburban Boston, and positioned at either one or both of the store’s entrances. Read More »
In our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast, we look at the economics of charity — specifically, what works (and what doesn’t) when trying to incentivize people to give. (Download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the media player above, or read the transcript.)
In Australia, Dick Smith’s electronics empire has afforded him enough success to be able to donate about 20 percent of his annual income to charity. But, he says, this kind of generosity is no longer the norm: Read More »
More well-deserved attention for University of Chicago economist John List, whose research is the star of Chapter 3 of SuperFreakonomics and also featured in the last segment of the Freakonomics movie.
Oliver Staley crafts a long piece that both describes some of List’s recent research endeavors and gives the reader a feel for his personality.
Like all economists, apparently, he has a story about potty training his kids:
List believes so strongly in incentives that he offers his own children lottery tickets to do extra math homework, he says. He promised a daughter a trip to Disney World in exchange for her becoming potty trained. The day he made the offer, she used the toilet and was trained, he says.