The Simpsons — Day Laborers

 

In this scene, Homer and Bart are loading construction materials into their car at Builder’s Barn (a Home Depot-type store). Bart isn’t sure his dad is capable of handling the word himself when a group of immigrant day laborers offer their services. The day laborers have come from nearby Barleyville due to a recent “Barley Bust.” Homer accepts their offer and welcomes them to his home. He now feels superior because he’s able to hire workers to do jobs “we don’t want to do,” but then a hoard of laborers rushes the town of Springfield.

For a deeper look at economics and The Simpsons, check out Josh Hall’s book Homer Economicus.

The Pajama Game — 7 1/2 Cents

Asking for a raise is tough, but even a modest raise in wages can have a huge impact on worker salaries. In this scene from The Pajama Game, we see how a 7.5 cent raise can impact a worker’s wage. The cast goes through the calculations of what they could earn with additional income, including an automatic washing machine, a year supply of gasoline, and a vacuum cleaner.

Assessment idea: This is a neat opportunity to calculate real wages and see what 7.5 cents would be worth today versus 1953. The BLS has a calculator so you don’t have to wait!

Looking for more: Do you want to see more economics in Broadway shows? Check out BroadwayEconomics.com

Thanks to Mark Sammons from the University of Arizona for sending this clip in!

Superstore — Handheld Automation

 

Corporate has created new devices for customers to use that will allow them to look up where items are located in the store, scan the items, and pay for their total. The employees quickly point out that the device essentially replaces the workers and they are left wondering what that means for them. Dina tries to point out the relationship between ATMs and bank tellers, although she doesn’t have it exactly right.

At the end of the clip, Amy points out that corporate has also asked the stores to cut back employee hours, which implies that the new machines are replacing some of the labor in the store.

Moneyball — What’s the Problem?

The study of economics is often boiled down to the allocation of scarce resources, and few media clips illustrate that better than this iconic scene from Moneyball. The Oakland A’s scouts discuss the selection of players based on their appearance, but Beane recognizes that it’s too difficult to replace players using the old method.

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.

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!

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.

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