Last Week Tonight — Wealth Gap


John Oliver looks at the wealth gap in the United States following the announcement by President Obama that income inequality was “the defining challenge of our time.” Critics immediately accused the President of class warfare. Oliver discusses popular reasons for growing inequality but also highlights some of the current policies that contribute to its growth. An interesting extension of his coverage on the estate tax is a framing argument that by simply telling people the threshold required to pay those taxes can cause people to switch their support for the tax.

CBS News — American Wealth Pie

Tony Dokoupil takes an interesting approach to ask Americans if they understand what their “share of the pie” looks like. While trying to ask directly, many mall goers avoid the topic, but when asked to distribute pie to plates representing various bins, Americans learn how wealth is distributed currently. This is similar to work done by Michael Norton and Dan Ariely who fond that Americans have a hard to defining the distribution of wealth in the United States.

Catastrophe — Working to pay for child care


A husband and wife comically discuss their plans for preventing another child, whether to use an IUD or have a vasectomy. The conversation then leads into whether it’s time to go back to work after maternity leave. While she loves her children, she wants to be away from them a bit, but they can’t decide on the best option. One option is to hire a “child minder,” but that would cost nearly the same as her teaching salary, but Sharon is in favor of the option. She’s willing to work full time to pay for someone to watch her children, essentially have zero effective income. Why would she be willing to do something like this? She would derive utility from spending time away from her own children.

Thanks to Sheena Murray for the clip suggestion! If you have a great clip that you’d like to add to the site, just reach out to me!

ESPN 30 for 30: Broke — Paying Self First


Athletes become broke after retirement because of overspending, unexpected expenses, poor financial advice, but also feeling guilty about not helping others around them. One of the early tips of financial advice was to pay oneself before paying others. It’s easy to look at the purchase of houses or unexpected as something that can be prevented, but helping family and friends is something that isn’t as easy to give up.

Abdullah Al-Bahrani and Darshak Patel have a great paper in the Southern Economic Journal that looks at using ESPN 30 for 30 to teach economics.

ESPN 30 for 30: Broke — Financial Literacy


The growth of professional sports over the past few decades has also meant that athlete salaries have grown as well. The issue? Professional athletes fresh out of high school and college (most under the age of 22) are become overnight millionaires, and most lack the financial literacy to handle that adjustment. Surprising to most, a large percentage of professional athletes declare bankruptcy within a few years because of their inability to manage their finances. Nearly 16% of NFL players file for bankruptcy within 12 years of retirement and ESPN’s Broke looked at the prevalence of financial stress for professional athletes.

Abdullah Al-Bahrani and Darshak Patel have a great paper in the Southern Economic Journal that looks at using ESPN 30 for 30 to teach economics.

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.

Bloomberg — How Much Money Do You Need to Be Wealthy in America?

Relative values of wealth are often difficult for students to analyze, primarily given our focus on income. Income is the flow of money while wealth is an accumulation of assets. Different generations perceive the concept of “wealthy” differently, but this video includes nonpecuniary aspects like spending time with family or being able to vacations as markers of wealthy. It would be interesting to survey students what they feel is a level of wealth that they would identify as being “wealthy.” I suspect it could also be a good opportunity to talk about the differences between means and medians.

Superstore — Winning the Lottery

What would you do if you won the lottery? This clip fits nicely with two different sections of an economics course. The first is how people respond to income increases in terms of purchasing normal goods or luxury goods. For labor economics, this discussion is a good segue to discussion how increases in income decrease the time people devote to work assuming leisure is a normal good.

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