Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

Big dismal science.

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Happy Halloween, everyone.

Dean Karlan lives in New Haven, Connecticut. He gets a lot of trick-or-treaters in his neighborhood: “Residents say the area’s popularity is because the houses are so close together, minimizing the door-to-door travel time for trick-or-treaters.”

Dr. Karlan is also a behavioral economist. So why not combine the two and do science experiments on children?

Last year’s study found that 38% of kids 9 and older who saw a poster of First Lady Michelle Obama chose fruit instead of candy — twice as many as those who made that choice after seeing Ann Romney, wife of 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The study indicated that the first lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign, promoting healthy living for children, appeared to be reaching its target audience.

In other experiments, Karlan has found that the more generic the costume is, the more likely it is that the child will choose a see-through bag with candy in it over a non-transparent bag. Karlan has also found that…

…older children would change their stated political party loyalty if it meant getting a little more candy. Younger children, however, could not be bribed, and remained steadfast.

I’d like to see a follow-up to this experiment where children get equal amounts of candy, but those who identify as Democrats have more of their candy confiscated by the researchers.

This year, the study aims to test whether some children are inherently planners — whether they planned their costume ahead of time or procrastinated until the last minute, and whether they have a plan for how they will eat their candy. They’ll weigh their answers against whether kids choose fruit or give into the easy temptation of candy.

One more thing I’d like to know: why isn’t Dubner interviewing Karlan, instead of doing a re-run this week? With all due respect, guys, it seems like you’ve been doing a lot of re-runs recently, and that doesn’t really motivate me to give you money.

(This also reminds me that my youngest niece has gotten to the age where I can start doing science experiments on with her. She’s still a little young for the economics based ones, though.)

Onion headline, or New York Times headline?

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

The Rational Choices of Crack Addicts

Answer after the jump.


The economics of selling hot dogs.

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

And other things, at least in NYC. Have you ever wondered about those pushcarts?

The guy who owns the cart at the entrance to the Central Park Zoo (“Fifth Avenue and East 62nd Street”) pays $289,500 a year to the city parks department.

The zoo entrance drew the highest bid among the 150 pushcart sites in public parks, but the operators of four other carts in and around Central Park also pay the city more than $200,000 a year each. In fact, the 20 highest license fees, each exceeding $100,000, are all for Central Park carts.

Can you make money doing this? Apparently so: “…while vendors are adamant about not divulging details about what they make, most pushcart sites presumably turn a profit or they would not attract such high bids.”


A decade ago, the fee paid for the pushcart at the Central Park Zoo entrance was $120,000, less than half what Mr. Mastafa paid most recently. The second most expensive cart is on the West Drive at West 67th Street near Tavern on the Green, where the fee is $266,850.
For many other parks, especially those in parks outside Manhattan, the fees are much lower — $14,000 in Astoria Park in Queens, $3,200 in Maria Hernandez Park in Brooklyn and $1,100 in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. The lowest fee, $700, is paid by the owner of a pushcart near the soccer fields in Inwood Hill Park in Upper Manhattan.

The biggest selling item? Apparently, $3 bottled water. That sounds surprisingly reasonable for NYC, but:

Maximum prices for snacks and beverages are set by the department.

Obit watch: September 4, 2013.

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Frederik Pohl: a nice long obit in the NYT. LAT/AP.

(Edited to add: A/V Club, which I really didn’t expect. And it isn’t up to their usual standard.)

(Edited to add 2: Patterico.)

Also: Ronald Coase, winner of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. LAT.