People have a wide array of preferences for working conditions, which creates a heterogeneous workforce. Some workers may need to be paid extra to compensate for unpleasant conditions (known as a compensating differential) while others may be willing to be paid less to work a job that they enjoy. Workers are often assumed to be utility maximizers, not income maximizers, in the decision of which jobs to work and how many hours to work. Adam highlights that notion at the end of this brief scene with a USDA veterinarian who specializes in the disease.
Superstore — A Pharmacist’s Salary
Tate has no problem sharing his salary, but it’s unclear the main driver of the salary. In reality, salaries are comprised of a variety of skill and compensating differentials as well as potential efficiency payments. Tate has a doctorate of pharmacy, which should result in higher pay for human capital investments. In the clip above he mentions that people could die if he messes up, which probably adds a lot of pressure to his workday. This pressure could be a compensating differential that increases his pay. However, there’s also a chance he’s paid highly so that he doesn’t goof off, which would be an efficiency payment.
The Daily Show — Sig Hansen & Deadliest Catch
Captain Sig Hansen joins Jon Stewart’s Daily Show to discuss life on an Alaska fishing boat. Hailed as the deadliest job in America, Hansen and his crew can earn tens of thousands of dollars in a matter of days so long as the crew is willing to risk their lives. Jon discusses safety on the boats and the motivation for why an individual would risk their lives.
Moby Dick — The Ship
Two potential sailors come aboard the Pequod to inquire about becoming joining the crew. Peleg asks why any man would want to become a sailor when the conditions are so rough. He works through the requirements of being a sailor to make sure the men are willing to undergo through strenuous conditions. The reason whalers were so well-paid at the time was because the risk of death aboard the ship.
Here’s a good interview from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the captain of a fishing boat on the show Deadliest Catch.
Aaron Tippin — I Got it Honest
Aaron Tippin sings about the hard working lifestyle of a blue-collar worker who works 8 hours per day. While others may have more money than he does, he did it the way he felt was right by not selling his values.
If you love country music and economics, check out EconGoneCountry.com
Last Week Tonight: Gender Pay Gap
John Oliver explores America’s wage gap between men and women and proposes a possible solution.
Note: Solution proposed is 100% sarcastic.
The Perfect Storm: The Giant Wave
In October 1991, a dying tropical hurricane from Bermuda collided with a cold front from the Great Lakes, resulting in a “perfect storm” of previously unknown destructive impact that resulted in 100-foot waves; tragically, the crew of a fishing boat was lost in the midst of the fearsome storm.
I use this as the introduction to my Compensating Differentials chapter. How much would you need to get on this boat?
ABC News: GW Bridge Painter: Dangerous Jobs
Hanging more than 600 feet above 24 lanes of traffic for these guys is just another day at the office.
Freakonomics: An Unlikely Job Change
Stephen Dubner interviews a young woman who had a big career change, and went from earning about $70k a year as a computer programmer to more than four times that while working fewer hours
Dangerous Missions: Timber!
Documentary about the many dangers lumberjacks face while doing their work. The impact of the technological advances of chainsaws over the last century in the lumber industry is also highlighted. Great discussion for capital/labor decisions plus scale/substitution effects when capital prices change.