The Simpsons — Day Laborers

 

In this scene, Homer and Bart are loading construction materials into their car at Builder’s Barn (a Home Depot-type store). Bart isn’t sure his dad is capable of handling the word himself when a group of immigrant day laborers offer their services. The day laborers have come from nearby Barleyville due to a recent “Barley Bust.” Homer accepts their offer and welcomes them to his home. He now feels superior because he’s able to hire workers to do jobs “we don’t want to do,” but then a hoard of laborers rushes the town of Springfield.

For a deeper look at economics and The Simpsons, check out Josh Hall’s book Homer Economicus.

Freakonomics — What’s in a name?

 

A summary of the labor market impacts for naming children with “distinctively black names.” Researchers conduct resume studies in Chicago and Boston to determine the frequency of callbacks for two identical employees with different-sounding names. This subtle form of discrimination lengthens the spells of unemployment and creates a gap between white and black workers. Not hiring a worker because an employed believes the applicant is African American is a form of employment discrimination.

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!

The Pajama Game — 7 1/2 Cents

Asking for a raise is tough, but even a modest raise in wages can have a huge impact on worker salaries. In this scene from The Pajama Game, we see how a 7.5 cent raise can impact a worker’s wage. The cast goes through the calculations of what they could earn with additional income, including an automatic washing machine, a year supply of gasoline, and a vacuum cleaner.

Assessment idea: This is a neat opportunity to calculate real wages and see what 7.5 cents would be worth today versus 1953. The BLS has a calculator so you don’t have to wait!

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!

Zelle — Birthday Gifts

From an economic perspective, giving the wrong gift makes society poorer. If you spend money on chocolates and give it to someone who happens to think it is worth less (due to an allergy!), you’ve lost value. Whenever you receive an outfit that is the wrong size or style, a candy you won’t eat, or something that is worth less to you than what the gift giver spent on it, an economic inefficiency has occurred. Thus, from an economic perspective, the most efficient gift is always cash. The person will maximize their own utility by spending (or saving) the money according to their preferences.

Submission and description from Erin Yetter!

Superstore — Handheld Automation

 

Corporate has created new devices for customers to use that will allow them to look up where items are located in the store, scan the items, and pay for their total. The employees quickly point out that the device essentially replaces the workers and they are left wondering what that means for them. Dina tries to point out the relationship between ATMs and bank tellers, although she doesn’t have it exactly right.

At the end of the clip, Amy points out that corporate has also asked the stores to cut back employee hours, which implies that the new machines are replacing some of the labor in the store.

Get a Job — Ironic

Our main character Will Davis is searching the internet for job listings. He has just been let go from his internship because there were no available paying jobs and his time had run out. He is looking for the right fit, or really any fit that would make sense for him, but he’s realizing that he lacks the skills for many of the job postings he’s finding online. His friends joke that the skills he’s good at can’t get him paid.

Clip submitted by Kate Lecea

Brooklyn 99 — The Assistant

 

Captain Holt, the dry, stoic, strictly professional captain of the Brooklyn 99 precinct, is searching for a new assistant. He is exhausted by the search process and finds all applicants unsuitable for reasons such as using improper grammar in an interview, and including Microsoft Word use in the “special skills” section of a resume. Exhausted by the search, he gives up and is willing to forgo an assistant just to not have to deal with the search process. His subordinate, Detective Jake Peralta, persuades Captain Holt that Peralta can find an assistant for him, and Captain Holt agrees on the terms that he can fire whomever Peralta hires.

This episode is an example of employer frictions resulting from search costs. Both Holt and Peralta have to devote man-hours to the search, and for the particularly selective Captain Holt, the search costs are high enough that Holt is willing to do the work of an assistant himself without extra pay. The opportunity cost of Peralta searching for assistant is less than the opportunity cost of Holt searching, likely both because Holt faces high psychic costs of the search and because, as a detective, Peralta’s time is worth less to the precinct than the captain’s time. Holt’s decision to allow Peralta to search for an assistant suggests that the opportunity cost of Peralta’s lost man-hours do not outweigh the expected gain of Holt having an administrative assistant, which would allow Holt to be more productive in his position in the future and results in a net gain for the overall productivity of the precinct.

Submission and description submitted by Melissa Paton

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