Hamermesh on The Daily Show: Ugly People

Our friend and contributor Dan Hamermesh was featured on The Daily Show last night, in a piece about ugly people. Hamermesh has done extensive research on the economic disadvantages of being unattractive. His most recent book, Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful, shows how all kinds of economic benefits flow toward physical beauty, from higher salaries, to better loan rates, to attractive, educated spouses.

In the bit, Hamermesh and Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones have some fun discussing whether "uglo-Americans" should be given special legal protection.

How Diversifying Helps a Lawsuit

A related set of lawsuits involving billions of dollars has provided employment opportunities for a number of consulting economists specializing in antitrust issues or labor economics issues. I’ve been involved in three of the cases, and they have been great fun (and a good way of paying dental bills). I was crestfallen to find out […]

A Paycut By Any Other Name Is Still a Paycut

There are at least four ways of meeting a decline in labor demand: laying off workers, cutting nominal annual salaries, cutting hires, or reducing hours. It is difficult to lay off tenured faculty; but in this recession, universities are using two other methods of cutting payroll. Some schools have imposed faculty hiring freezes. Others are […]

How Far Should Your Sympathies Go?

Over the past few months, the press has deluged Americans with weepy stories about people who are in danger of losing their houses because their sub-prime mortgages now exceed the value of their houses, which the recession and the popping of housing bubbles have caused to drop. I am sympathetic; and I, and other taxpayers, […]

The Army's Not Coming Up Short

NPR reported last month that, for the first time in five years, the U.S. Army had more than met its recruiting goals. This happens every time unemployment rises, and it should be absolutely no surprise. People choose military service after high school partly out of a desire to serve the country; but there is strong […]

The Continuing Saga of the Suits

In facing the "Buy one, get one free" suit deal, my quick-thinking wife said, "Let's take the second suit anyway." She called our older son on her cell phone from the store, as we knew he was shopping for a suit, and he said he was interested.

The store has a branch where he lives, so we are taking the suit to him this week when we visit. He will take it in and exchange it at no cost to himself for the suit he wants. While I would have derived perhaps $50 of consumer surplus from the "free" second suit, a suit's value to him is at least $300; and with the pick of the store, he'll buy a fancier suit.

My "Buy One, Get One Free" Burden

My wife made me give my 12-year-old suit to charity, so I had to get a new one. Men's Wearhouse had some nice outfits, and I was willing to pay a lot for a good suit.

Top-of-the-line models were available for $600, and they were on sale: "Buy one, get one free." I was going to buy one even without the sale, and $600 was about what I wanted to spend. But I have almost no use for the "free" suit; I derive little consumer surplus even from a "free" second new suit.

Do Easier Affairs Help Divorce Lawyers?

A column by Meghan Daum in the Los Angeles Times reports on the dating service Ashley Madison, which matches up married women and men who wish to have a quick fling. The service is a market intermediary for extramarital affairs. Its founder claims that, by lowering search costs for affairs, he enables people in unhappy […]

The Estate Tax Stays

The Wall Street Journal recently published a front-page story about the estate tax. Under current law (passed in 2001), the tax is scheduled to disappear next year (but come back with a very low exemption in 2011). President-elect Obama will quickly push to abolish the repeal and instead freeze the exemption at $7 million for […]

Who Changes the Kissing Rules?

A female friend who I hadn’t seen in several months and I greeted each other yesterday with the usual hug and one-cheek kiss. If I had done this in 1970 I would have been looked on as really weird, or I might even have been slapped. The social norm on kissing has changed in the […]