Ambiguity Aversion: Avoidance of the Unknown

If you are familiar with the idea of risk aversion, our innate preference for a sure outcome over a gamble that would result in an equivalent or higher expected value, the concept of ambiguity aversion is very similar. It claims that people show a preference for known risks over unknown risks. Ambiguity aversion differs from risk aversion because it applies to situations in which probabilities of outcomes are unknown, while risk aversion is based on scenarios where a probability can be assigned to each possible outcome. The famous experiment used to describe this idea, the Ellsberg paradox, begins by presenting Continue reading

The Shoplifting Fee

Most stores have strict rules and regulations they follow when it comes to shoplifting. The purpose of loss prevention departments is to spot thieves and recover stolen items. When a person is caught or suspected of using the five-finger discount, many stores have the very limited right to make citizen’s arrests and/or search the individual (e.g. shopkeeper’s privilege). However, some stores are no longer arresting or searching suspected shoplifters, but instead giving people a choice: they can take a $320 class and walk out scot-free, or the store calls the cops. The Corrective Education Company (or CEC) is a Utah-based business founded Continue reading

Crowd Sourced Stock Portfolio

Twitch.com is a website where people watch other people play video games, which apparently has a large market. The reason why I am writing about Twitch.com is because of an experiment they are currently running on their public forums. A group of users has started a crowd sourced stock portfolio over the website. The portfolio strategy essentially is determined by a voting system over the forum. The mechanism for stock purchases is a random selection of the suggestions from the group on what stock to buy. A stock-picking robot will randomly select one stock that was voted for in the past 5 minutes and spend $10,000 Continue reading

Training and Wages

The Economic Report of the President was released recently, and in it was a sizable section on a trend of declining on-the-job training that identified a downward trend in it over the twelve years between 1996 and 2008. The last observation in the data was in 2008, but given the trends in the prior periods, there seems to be a distinct movement towards jobs with less on-site training.This is a concerning trend, however, when viewed from an efficiency standpoint. In economics, economists identify two basic types of training. The first type is general training, and can be applied across a number Continue reading

Mitumba and Perfect Competition

Anybody who has taken an economics course is familiar with the term “Perfect Competition.” It is a market structure in which there are many buyers and sellers, there is free entry and exit into the industry, firms sell an identical product, buyers have perfect information about the product being sold, and most importantly, firms are price takers, meaning that firms cannot control the market price of their product because of their equally small market share. Anybody who has taken an economics course also knows that perfectly competitive markets are virtually hypothetical and are basically just a benchmark to compare real-world Continue reading

“A Pint for a Pint”

I gave blood in the campus blood drive yesterday. On my way to the blood mobile, I was wondering (in a slightly apprehensive state) why am I doing this? What is my real incentive for going through with such an inconvenient and uncomfortable hassle? That question inspired me to look into these two Freakonomics articles (link 1, link 2) that investigate exactly that question. I was interested to find that Chinese citizens are paid, about $12 a go, for their donations. Interestingly, there are conflicting findings about the effect of incentives on US blood donations. An older study actually indicated Continue reading

When the Beanie Baby Bubble Burst

Most people remember Beanie Babies: the cute floppy animals stuffed with beans. There were hundreds of kinds at the height of their time: dogs, cats, bears, fish, squirrels, etc. They were a huge part of late 90′s culture, and many Americans were desperate to have them. American adults… not children. In 1998, Beanie Babies had sales of $1.4 billion. Stores that carried Beanie Babies were being mobbed by collectors and sold out in days. People were investing their childrens’ college funds into them, and dedicating their time to day trading stuffed animals. It was madness. Why were people pouring their life savings Continue reading

Snobby Beer

Aside from the actual game itself, this past super-bowl weekend carried with it an interesting development in a non-football related field that is quite close to my heart: beer. Budweiser aired this commercial during the game, to the annoyance of people who apparently like to spend lots of money on beer they don’t drink. Ninkasi, a northwest brewery located in Eugene, immediately shot back with a quite hilarious response video. The point is that for many years now, craft brewers and the big macro brewers like Budweiser and Coors have been increasingly competing for the same market share. While I can Continue reading

The Market of Reusing

Recently, I was talking to my mom on the phone, and she mentioned that my family was considering selling our suburban house and moving closer to the city. She then added that they weren’t completely sure if she was going to do it because if they did, our house would almost certainly get torn down. Our house would be nothing special to the housing market, but nevertheless, every part of my house has an intrinsic value that can’t be measured based on merely market values. So many aspects of my childhood would end up as waste: the walls of my room that were painted over countless times in order to find the perfect color, Continue reading

Two Stories about Just-In-Time Delivery… from Last Week

Although you might be the only person you’re thinking about when you buy bubblebath online with two day delivery from Amazon, it turns out that the speedy and time-guaranteed delivery of your soap is part of a pervasive  trend that’s having huge effects on the global economy. Last week, I stumbled upon two stories that really show how important the just-in-time delivery paradigm has become. The first, from NPR’s Planet Money, the supply chain that perishable roses follow to get from halfway across the world, where it’s the growing season, to flower shops in anticipation of Valentine’s day. For just this one day, prices can spike to Continue reading