Adam Ruins Everything — Revealing Salaries

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 video, Adam goes through notion that sharing salaries is bad for workers, but focuses on how this practice creates information asymmetry in the workplace and gives managers the power to lower wages since workers aren’t well informed.

Good Will Hunting — Value of a Degree

In this iconic scene from Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon gets into a confrontation at a bar with an undergrad who is trying to embarrass his friend who is trying to impress a group of young women. In the process of humiliating the other student, the two get into a key distinction on the value of a college degree. Someone could obtain the same knowledge of a college degree from accessing a public library, but the lack of an actual degree (a signal perhaps) limits the job opportunities available for many.

Thanks to Charlie Clarke for the post!

Superstore — Union Scare

 

The team is trying to donate days off so Cheyenne can have her baby since Cloud 9 doesn’t offer maternity leave. Jonah finds out how much profit Cloud 9 made the year before and calls corporate with Amy to try and see if they can give Cheyenne maternity leave. At the mere mention of other company’s with unions having paid maternity leave, corporate sends a union buster to try and talk the store out of organizing.

Young Sheldon — Haggling Skills

 

Meemaw is having a garage sale and have asked Missy and George to help out. When George questions the pricing decisions of the junk for sale, Meemaw explains that she starts prices high so that people can negotiate and feel like they saved some money, which is another way of arguing that she’s trying to let the customers experience some consumer surplus. When Missy & George try to negotiate for better pay, they realize that it may not work out.

 

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.

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