The Burning Question: How Much Do Wildfires Cost?

If you live in the American West, you’re probably aware that it’s fire season. According to Chris Wilcox of the National Interagency Fire Center, there were about 123 large fires across the country, adding up to 2 million acres on fire as of September 10th. An ArcGIS Map shows the extent of the damage, with fire markers blanketing Idaho and tracing the Cascade Range. Coupled with the property damage and destruction caused by the flames, the smoke trapped by high pressure systems has been prompting air quality warnings for months. While the trapped smoke actually helps firefighters, it comes with health Continue reading The Burning Question: How Much Do Wildfires Cost?

Thesis Corner: Predicting College Attendance

So three weeks ago, I spoke with Ian Hughes about his thesis, titled: Identifying Socioeconomic Indicators of College Attendance with Classification Trees Much of Ian’s research centered around intergenerational income mobility and barriers to it. Some of the research showed that “low-income students are subject to less college preparation and lower test scores because of their financial situations”, which contributes to more difficulty in using education as a route out of poverty.  Much of the literature surrounding wealth, race, and parental education in connection with children’s college attendance is well established, so Ian included some other characteristics that have not Continue reading Thesis Corner: Predicting College Attendance

Why Should Class Attendance be Optional?

In economics, a common topic of discussion is opportunity cost, or the value of your next best option given up when you choose something. It is often used to highlight how people make decisions when faced with limited resources, especially scarcity of time and money. One common example is a college education. When most people look at the cost of college, they look at the sticker price on the college’s website, which includes room and board, tuition, and a few other odds and ends. Let’s say that ends up being $30,000, with $20,000 for tuition, $9,000 for room and board, and $1,000 Continue reading Why Should Class Attendance be Optional?

Cyclical Debt: Agriculture and Interest Rates

I read this article/ blog post, which touched on the cyclical nature of most agriculture. Basically, most farmers and ranchers get all of their income in a fairly small window of time, then need to use it for the rest of the year. There aren’t a lot of jobs or industries where this is such a common occurrence. Coupled with the fact that many of farmer’s costs are incurred during planting, then again as harvest approaches, this results in cyclical debt for farmers. Add in the long-term loans for land and capital, and it all adds up to significant debt. Continue reading Cyclical Debt: Agriculture and Interest Rates

Quinoa: The Dark Side of Demand?

Quinoa, pronounced keen-wa, has surged in popularity in the last five years. As this shift in Western tastes has occurred, demand began to outpace supply in the traditional quinoa-producing countries of Bolivia and Peru. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) compiles prices received by producers. In Bolivia and Peru, price received per ton increased by about 33 percent and 131 percent, respectively. This also increased the price for consumers, most notably those producers who had traditionally relied on quinoa as a cheap, nutritious staple. As prices skyrocketed, this was no longer a simple matter. This concern prompted Continue reading Quinoa: The Dark Side of Demand?

Hops and Craft Beer: Are We in a Bubble?

Depending on your beer knowledge, you may be wondering, what are hops? Hops are one of the three main ingredients for beer, along with barley and water. In the United States, they are primarily grown in Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. My family actually grows hops, among other things, and I decided to write this post after my mom mentioned an article she read. (Thanks Mom) The article covered some troubling trends in the hops market, most likely stemming from a boom in craft breweries over the last 5 years. In fact, we have seen about a 116% increase in the total Continue reading Hops and Craft Beer: Are We in a Bubble?

College Tours: Fixed Supply and Variable Demand

It is finally spring, which is the busiest season in the Office of Admission here at the University of Puget Sound. As a campus host (tour guide), I look forward to meeting all the new prospective students, because it’s a good mix of juniors beginning to look at college, and seniors who have been accepted and are trying to make their decisions. The influx of people does two things: it increases the average tour size, and makes each guide more productive; because they are giving the same number of tours in the same amount of time, but with more people receiving Continue reading College Tours: Fixed Supply and Variable Demand

Bad Jokes: Is the Market in Equilibrium?

When I came to the University of Puget Sound, I intended to be a chemistry major. After my first year in chemistry, I decided it wasn’t really what I wanted to do after college. As I scrambled to find out what else I would do with my life, I reflected back on the things I would miss about the department. I knew I would miss the satisfaction of completing an onerous stoichiometry problem, the professors in the department, and of course, the “bad” jokes and puns. Such as: H2O is water and H2O2 is hydrogen peroxide. What is H2O4?   Continue reading Bad Jokes: Is the Market in Equilibrium?

Fake Milk: An Introduction

I recently read an article from the Associated Press called: ‘Fake milk’ is the latest food fight among industry leaders. It discussed contentions surrounding guidelines for what is or isn’t milk according to the Food and Drug Administration. Essentially, dairy producers argued that their use of milk was misleading, and in violation of the FDA’s standard of identity for milk which states “complete milking of one or more healthy cows.” Proponents of alternative milk argued that these standards of identity are too restrictive, or just aren’t relevant. In this post, I will focus mostly on the economics of milk and milk Continue reading Fake Milk: An Introduction

Maple Syrup: A Challenge to the Cartel

Did you know about 72% of the world’s maple syrup supply comes from Quebec, Canada? To clarify, I’m not talking about brands like Aunt Jemima or Mrs. Butterworth’s which use mostly corn syrup, but the authentic, came-from-a-maple-tree stuff. The stuff that costs $40 a gallon, not $8 a gallon. Some quick facts about maple syrup production. Maple syrup is generally made from the sap of either sugar maples or red maples. Sap production requires cold nights and temperate days, and is highly variable. The sap is transferred from the trees to the “sugar shack” by spouts using tubing and gravity. Once Continue reading Maple Syrup: A Challenge to the Cartel