Sesame Street — Earning Money

Elmo wants to earn some money, but he isn’t exactly sure how. Luis offers him a chance to earn some money by helping him repair the ice cream machine.

Superior Donuts — Labor Market Discrimination

 

The local flower delivery guy makes racist remarks to Franco because he’s African American. The rest of the characters discuss other comments they have received regarding their nationalities. Labor market discrimination in this scene occurs as Arthur’s donut shop is a customer of the flour supplier. Customer discrimination could persist, but if the customers aren’t discriminatory, they have the ability to take their business elsewhere, which Arthur and Franco try to do. The Becker Model of discrimination argues that only customer discrimination can last in the long run because competition should drive out co-worker or firm discrimination.

Ryan Hamilton — Making it in New York

 

One of the underlying assumptions of the improvements to society from ease of migration comes from the fact that the models assume homogenous works. While there may be gains to productivity from easier migration, it doesn’t mean that workers will necessarily adapt to their surroundings. In Borjas’s book, We Wanted Workers, he points out the implications of psychic costs on movers and argues that it’s not fair to assume all workers who move will be as productive as they were at their source. This bit from Ryan Hamilton echoes that sentiment that allowing for migration may not mean productivity gains will occur if workers are unable to adjust to their new surroundings.

CBS TV — Kennedy on the Labor Market & Unemployment

In a 1963 Labor Day interview with Walter Cronkite, President Kennedy discusses his position on handling the labor market of the United States with around 4 million unemployed (about 5.5% at the time). Kennedy notes that the growing labor force in the United States requires that if the US wants to “stand still,” they still need to move very fast. Kennedy’s main policy focus at the time was retraining workers who had been displaced by technology and making sure that significant amount of workers have the necessary education to handle the growing workforce.

Kennedy also speaks to the lost jobs in “hardcore unemployed” industries like coal and steel and how it’s important to make sure those workers are retrained because those workers are no longer needed. He then laments that there’s a different issue with older workers replaced by technology and younger workers who don’t have the education to handle that technology. Kennedy ends this portion of the interview with a very powerful quote about the fear of automation:

Too many people coming into the labor market, too many machines are throwing people out.

You can view the entire interview, courtesy of the Kennedy Presidential Library, on YouTube.

Business Insider — Robotic Kitchen

This Boston restaurant (Spyce) uses robots to cook food for customers and can cook your meal in 3 minutes or less.  Customers order from electronic kiosks at their table and a screen displays which robot station is preparing the diner’s dish. The woks are designed in a way to ensure consistency. The only labor used in the kitchen is the “garden manager” who is responsible for adding toppings and ensuring presentation. The bowls are priced at under $8.

Thanks to Peach for the clip suggestion!

World Economic Forum — Alibaba’s Automation

A look inside the robotic warehouse of Alibaba in Huiyang, China. The robots pick up the physical items and deliver them to the workers who are in charge of sorting the orders before shipment. The robots can carry about 1100 pounds of good around the warehouse floor all while not bumping into other robots because of a laser guidance system.

Business Insider — Self-Driving Garbage Truck

Volvo has recently unveiled self-driving garbage trucks in Sweden that are designed to be operated by only on single garbage collector. The trucks match the pace of the garbage collector to allow for differences in worker characteristics. This is just one of the many ways in which automation improves the efficiency of tasks.

Adam Ruins Everything — Tipping & Wage Discrimination

 

Adam Ruins Everything is a half-hour informational comedy were host, Adam Conover, debunks popular myths. Each episode is divided into 3 segments with some common theme. In the Spring of 2018, James Tierney and I sat down to go through all three seasons of Adam Ruins Everything to pick out examples in each episode that could be used in an economics course. If you’re curious about the paper, you can read about it here.

In this scene, Adam discusses the discrimination aspect of tipping in restaurants. While the segment focuses on the history of tipping in the United States, this scene is poignant because so many students work as waiters or at least have been waited on. Subconsciously, they may be discriminating against minorities without realizing it.

There’s a great scene from Reservoir Dogs that covers the issue of tipping as well as an in-depth Freakonomics podcast asking whether tipping should be illegal.

Horrible Bosses 2 — Child Labor

 

Nick, Kurt, and Dale start up production on their new product, the Shower Buddy. After hiring some workers, they decide to hold a day where employees can bring their kids to work. It turns out that the kids actually started working on the factory floor and are enjoying it. At first blush, it seems like this shouldn’t be happening, but when Nick finds out how productive they have been, he walks away to change the sign instead.

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