Podcasting: An Emerging Industry? (Part 2)

The (brief) history of how podcasting came to somewhat surprised me as I was researching this article. The medium has existed through all of my adult and adult-ish life. I had always assumed that it was some corporate project (maybe of Apple?) that others jumped in on it. It turns out, this is not the case at all. In fact, almost the exact opposite occurred. The idea of serialized audio predates the advent of mainstream digital personal audio devices. NPR’s Planet Money ran an episode about a guy who claimed to have patented the concept. He ran a company called Personal Audio that delivered magazine articles read aloud to subscribers via cassette tape. Continue reading Podcasting: An Emerging Industry? (Part 2)

Goodhart’s Law and Standardized Tests

As the debate surrounding American education reform continues, more states are adopting a system of teacher evaluation that relies heavily (up to 50%) on their students’ standardized test scores. Considering the published studies showing correlations between increased test scores and student success in college and later in life, it’s not surprising that the Education Department has been encouraging school districts to adopt this new evaluation system. Eduardo Porter recently wrote an article for the Atlantic about these new education policies, and their potential for failure due to Goodhart’s law. Goodhart’s law was named after British economist Charles Goodhart, and explains how performance statistics Continue reading Goodhart’s Law and Standardized Tests

For-Profit Schools

First and foremost, Go Badgers. Now that I got that off my chest, I want to get into for-profit education. We see these commercials constantly for DeVry University, and University of Phoenix and I never really understand who goes to these strip mall universities, and what purpose they serve. It is interesting to consider why a school would choose to be for-profit rather than the more traditional and popular non-profit structure. In theory, these schools could be very effective at offering efficient education because it would be their profit-maximizing strategy to offer the best and cheapest education. This, I think, Continue reading For-Profit Schools

Ghosts of Economic Activity’s Past

  Over spring break, I drove to Utah with a group of friends to camp in a couple of the incredible national parks that the state has to offer. The drive consisted of a little over 1,000 miles and traveling through the depths of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and finally, Utah. On the rare occasion that our route deviated from the major highways, I noticed a few disheveled clumps of chipped-painted buildings and houses that looked like nobody had gone inside of them in years. I quickly realized these ill-fated areas were ghost towns. Simply put, ghost towns are abandoned cities that contain Continue reading Ghosts of Economic Activity’s Past

Podcasting: An Emerging Industry? (Part 1)

I’m sure many Sound Economics readers regularly use podcasts to get econ-related news and discussion. Personally, I regularly tune in to APM’s Marketplace, NPR’s Planet Money, and and WBUR’s Here and Now. Although podcasts are likely not particularly obscure among our audience, they do not register much with the vast majority of the American public: just 29 percent of Americans had ever listened to a podcast. In fact, the medium is so niche that when This American Life released its podcast-only spin-off show Serial, it provided a special YouTube instructional video on how to use it. It so happens that that project, Serial, quickly became Continue reading Podcasting: An Emerging Industry? (Part 1)

Seasonal Incompetence Disorder

This past Friday, the BLS released its monthly jobs report: unemployment rate down to 5.5%, and 295K jobs added in the month of February. The details of the report are here. Policy makers look to the employment numbers to gain insight regarding economic trends: are more people seeking work? Are more businesses hiring? Tracking these trends can better inform economic policy making. However, in a recent WSJ Op-Ed, Daniel Quinn Mills, a professor of business administration at Harvard took issue with how the BLS data are reported. Employment data is often impacted by seasonally-recurring phenomena. For example, the 295K “jobs added” figure Continue reading Seasonal Incompetence Disorder

NBAPA’s New Bargaining Ploy

Collective bargaining agreements are three words sports fans never want to hear. When these agreements expire and the door is opened for more negotiations during the offseason, the outcome never seems to turn out well. We generally see negotiations stall over a few key points, and the owners threaten a lockout of the players, and the players threaten to strike, and the outcome generally comes out in favor of the owners. There are a few reasons for the owners’ advanced bargaining position over the players. One, when a lockout or strike occurs, the players are out their salary for that Continue reading NBAPA’s New Bargaining Ploy

Are Robots Going to Take our Jobs?

In many economics classes, technology is seen as a positive: more advanced technologies being used in production can lower costs and increase efficiency. Firms that are on top of their industry’s respective tech tend to be more successful. People also love technology in their social lives: social media, communication and news are one and the same now, with every aspect of your life weaved seamlessly into one device. While technological advances are seen as positive in most social environments and economic markets, it might not be so great for the job market. According to Michael Osbourne of the Oxford Martin Programme on Technology and Continue reading Are Robots Going to Take our Jobs?

Is Amazon Prime a Method of Guilt Aversion?

Last week I talked about ambiguity aversion; how we prefer known risks to unknown risks. Although guilt aversion does not revolve as much around probability, it does play a large role in gift giving and shopping. To put this idea into context, behavioral economist Dan Ariely describes a scenario in which you encounter a coat at a store that you would like to buy, but realize it’s twice as expensive as you originally guessed and decide you cannot justify buying it. You get home to see that your significant other has bought you the exact same coat out of your Continue reading Is Amazon Prime a Method of Guilt Aversion?