Would Paying Politicians More Attract Better Politicians?

Whenever you look at a political system and find it wanting, one tempting thought is this: Maybe we have subpar politicians because the job simply isn't attracting the right people. And, therefore, if we were to significantly raise politicians' salaries, we would attract a better class of politician.

This is an unpopular argument for various reasons, in part because it would be the politicians themselves who have to lobby for higher salaries, and that isn't politically feasible (especially in a poor economy). Can you imagine the headlines?

But the idea remains attractive, doesn't it? The idea is that, by raising the salaries of elected and other government officials, you would a) signal the true importance of the job; b) attract a kind of competent person who might otherwise enter a more remunerative field; c) allow politicians to focus more on the task at hand rather than worry about their income; and d)  make politicians less susceptible to the influence of moneyed interests.

Exploitation in College Sports: It's Not Just Football and Basketball

When we think of money and college sports, we tend to think only about basketball and football.  In fact, defenders of the excesses we see in those sports – with respect to salaries to coaches and university expenditures – argue that these sports are necessary to support all the other teams universities field. People often argue that outside of football and basketball, athletes in other sports don’t generate enough revenue to justify their scholarships. 

A recent paper by Leo Kahane (editor of the Journal of Sports Economics) challenges this line of thinking.  Kahane’s paper looks at college hockey, which will hold the Frozen Four this week in Tampa, Florida (really, Tampa).  This is college hockey’s championship, an event which doesn’t get quite the same attention as the NCAA Final Four for men and women. (Perhaps also because people don’t associate hockey with Tampa?)

"Football Freakonomics": Incentives

Today’s question on “Football Freakonomics” is a tricky one. Which incentive is stronger for an NFL player: landing a big contract or winning the Super Bowl?

It can be devilishly hard to find out what truly motivates people to do what they do. There are a lot of reasons for this. Different people have different preferences; an incentive that works for a while may wear off over time; and it’s dangerous to rely on what people say about their motivation, since most of us are concerned about saying “the right thing.”

It’s better, therefore, to measure actual behavior – in this case, for instance, how players perform before and after signing a big contract.

On Payday, Watch Your Back

Another thing to add to the list of things to be paranoid about: your paycheck might kill you. Notre Dame economist William Evans, along with Timothy Moore from the University of Maryland, analyzed more than 75 million deaths in the U.S., and found something interesting.

On the first day of each month, the death rate goes up.

Why You're More Likely to Die After Getting Paid

Last year, Notre Dame economist William Evans, along with Timothy Moore from the University of Maryland, documented that mortality rates spike by almost one percent on the first day of every month, remain high for the next few days, and then steadily decline over the course of the month. Now they think they've figured out one reason why: our paychecks are killing us.

In a study to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Public Economics, Evans and Moore examined the death records of four demographic groups in the U.S.: seniors on Social Security; military personnel; families receiving tax rebate checks in 2001; and recipients of Alaska’s Permanent Fund dividends. Their results show that mortality increased the week after checks arrived for each of these groups.