The G Word with Adam Conover – The Value of A Label

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, there was no real oversight on meat packing and procession. When Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle, it brought national attention to the unsanitary conditions at meat packing facilities. Today, the labels are intended to serve as a signal that meat has been processed correctly. It’s an attempt to correct for information asymmetry in which the food processor knows how the food was handled, but the final consumer is unaware.

Learn more: https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/41203/18885_aer793.pdf?v=0

I Can See Your Voice — Asymmetric Information

Could you tell if someone is a good singer just by the way they look or by how they lip-sync a song? In this music game show, contestants perform a variety of tasks and judges have to decide whether or not the person is actually a good singer. The show’s host and the performers know the truth, but the judges are left in the dark. This show, and even just the concept of the show, is a great example of asymmetric information. For judges, it’s hard to make decisions with limited information, but they’ll use signals to see if they can be successful.

Full episodes of I Can See Your Voice can be found on Fox: https://www.fox.com/i-can-see-your-voice/

Thanks to Shreyasee Das for the recommendation!

Frozen: Let It Go

Frozen is the story of two princesses, Anna and Elsa. Elsa has magical powers that she is forced to hide her entire life until her coronation ceremony. Elsa flees to the cold, remote mountains and sings “Let it Go” after finally accepting her magical powers and letting go of the pressure to hold back her true self. When she sings “the past is in the past”, it’s a reminder of the role of sunk costs in the decision-making process. Sunk costs should be ignored because that time/energy/money cannot be recovered in the present.

Thanks to Matt Rousu for the clip.

The Simpsons — Grease Business

When Homer finds out from Apu that there is a local business buying old grease, Homer sets out to be rich. He buys $30 worth of bacon, feeding it to the dog, in order to harvest the extra grease and sell it. He spends hours frying up bacon only to earn 68 cents. He doesn’t seem bothered by his losses since his wife (Marge) paid for it. There’s one problem Homer hasn’t realized yet; Marge gets her money from Homer.

Thanks to Alex Marsella for the clip suggestion and summary!

Volkswagen — Buying a Used Car

Asymmetric information is a condition in which one party to a transaction has information that isn’t known to the other side of the party. This can disrupt the market for used goods because the buyer may not know the full extent of what they’re purchasing. In this Volkswagen ad, the father and son duo are unaware of the older lady’s past experiences with the cars. This is a great segue to Akerlof’s Market for Lemons, which is based on the the used car market.

West Side Story — America

“America” compares life in America versus life in Puerto Rico. While the men favor the lifestyle of their homeland, the women prefer the mainland. This is a fun introduction to a discussion on mobility and migration in a labor economics or even to discuss standards of living and preferences in a macroeconomics course.

Assessment idea: Have students list things things they would miss if they were asked to move to another country.

Looking for more: Do you want to see more economics in Broadway shows? Check out BroadwayEconomics.com

Thanks to Mark Sammons from the University of Arizona for sending this clip in!

Saturday Night Live — Chance The Rapper’s 2nd Favorite Things

Chance the Rapper is grew up in Chicago, which is nicknamed “The Second City.” In honor of his hometown, Chance the Rapper (along with Kyle Mooney) shares some of his other favorite second-best items, which he considers better than the first. This is a fun introduction to substitutes, or even monopolistic competition and product differentiation. This could be used in an upper-level class to discuss ordinal preferences or transitivity.

Thanks to Kim Holder and Darshak Patel for tweeting this video!

Qwest Communications — Free Wifi

People will go to great lengths to get “free” wifi even though they may not realize the cost associated with the decision. In this commercial for Qwest Communication, they try to offer wifi where people actually want to go.

Brooklyn 99 — Gift Giving Externalities

 

Charles and Gina have been secretly hooking up  for a while, but now their parents have decided to start dating and it’s freaking the two of them out. Charles rushes to the office to show Gina a gift that his dad is planning to give Gina’s mom. At first the two are scared of the repercussions to their lives if their parents start dating, but quickly realize that the planned gift is much worse for their parents than for them. Gina also goes through her process of unwrapping gifts before the actual reveal because she doesn’t want to get surprised in photos. Her risk aversion results in lots of time spent to avoid embarrassment.

The Simpsons — Sirloin-A-Lot Challenge

This clips includes a few different economics concepts rolled in to one. The overarching theme is that of consumer choice where Homer appears to experience diminishing returns while trying to eat a 16 pound steak. He’s competing against a previous eating contest winner, who dies at the end from eating too much steak.

In the middle of the clip, Marge asks Dr. Hibbert if that much steak is healthy and Dr. Hibbert exhibits a bit of the principle-agent problem where his interests now align with eating competitions because he owns a portion of the restaurant. The good doctor tells her not to worry because they have a new heimlich machine, which decreases their need to focus on choking hazards.

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