The Simpsons — MoneyBART

The local little league team has a new coach, and she plans on using statistical analysis to improve their chances of winning. She tracks player tendencies and digs into the work of Bill James to bring a Moneyball approach to the Isotots. Bart laments that she has taken the fun out of the game, which begs the question of the team’s objective function. Are sports teams win-maximizers or should some teams focus on having fun?

At the end of the segment, Bart has a choice to make. Should he take the statistical approach to win the game or should he swing and try to preserve his hot streak. The hot hand fallacy is the belief that previous observations are correlated with upcoming observations. This fallacy leads us to believe batters “get hot” even though the probability of the next hit is independent of the previous ones.

Brooklyn 99 — Moneyball

Captain Holt and Lieutenant Jeffords want to streamline the department and improve efficiency across the precinct. Jeffords is concerned that Capt. Holt is getting to greedy and can’t make many more improvements, but Capt. Holt believes he’s taking a Moneyball approach to the department. The film is his favorite and he finds the statistical analysis beautiful.

While he may be improving efficiency through his new statistical approach, the two should be concerned about diminishing returns. Productivity can increase with revised strategies, but additional productivity may require a significant increase in cost. In order to determine the optimal outcome, the two should focus on marginal analysis.

Superstore — Election Day

It’s election day and Cloud 9 has placed pamphlets in the break room encouraging employees to vote for anti-union candidates. Cloud 9 knows that unionization could result in much higher labor costs, so they spend that money to encourage workers to not form a union. This form of managerial opposition is part of the explanation for the decline in unionization rates in the United States.

Pixar — Purl

The video shows how an investment in human capital and diversity can provide significant increases in productivity.  Allowing employees to express their individuality brings new thoughts and ideas to the group. Without diversity, the company was trending down, when they embraced the balls of yarn it was trending up.  While it was easy to keep everyone and everything the same, the company was not making money.  By investing in a more diverse workforce, they were able to become profitable and a much more favorable place to work.  The opportunity costs are implied but they are that diversity can have real bottom line impacts.  In addition, diversifying your workforce can make you an employer of choice and allow you to hire more highly skilled employees.   Lastly, it shows that diversity allowed the male employees to be more free with who they were and thus helped the company become more successful.

I think this video applies to everyone from women to men.  Introverts to extroverts, it shows the benefits of staying true to who you are.  Additionally, it shows the benefits to companies by encouraging diversity.

Clip suggestion & description submitted by Keven Tarantino

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!

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.

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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