The Economics of Halloween

The chill in the air, orange leaves, and Tacoma rain that now graces UPS signal that October, and thus spooky season is in full force. As the nation gears up for football season, the World Series, and pumpkin flavoring, children young and old prepare for Halloween, the holiday of holidays. Although the winter holidays more often elicit ideas of consumerism, Halloween still generates a relatively large surge in household consumption. According to The Balance, last year’s Halloween sales hit $9 billion, just shy of 2017’s $9.1 billion. The Balance sites the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, which found that people Continue reading The Economics of Halloween

Seattle Considers Congestion Pricing

Driving through Seattle is a challenge. Seattle is one of, if not the most, traffic congested cities in the state. In an attempt to alleviate some of the traffic, the city of Seattle may implement congestion pricing: a toll that drivers must pay to use popular routes during peak hours. If successful, the tax will reduce use of the roads during those hours, and the revenue collected will fund transportation projects. Cities such as New York, London, Singapore, and Stockholm have already used congestion pricing. While New York’s tax is fairly new, the system worked well in the other cities. Continue reading Seattle Considers Congestion Pricing

New Seattle substation powers tech industry

Due to its expansion over the past years, the city of Seattle decided to construct the Denny substation, which will provide power to South Lake Union and Denny Triangle. Seattle began budgeting for the substation in 2003, when then-mayor Greg Nickels and billionaire Paul Allen revealed a proposal to turn South Lake Union into a biotech center. According to Seattle Times, the Denny will supply power to Amazon, Facebook, and Google, and additionally back up the current network. Although the new substation reflects a growth in Seattle’s tech industry, it still imposes an economic burden on the city. It cost Continue reading New Seattle substation powers tech industry

Organic Food: Worth the Cost?

Multiple health trends have risen in popularity over the past decades, but few have persisted as long as the organic food movement.  According to the USDA and, “organic” produce must be grown without synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animal products must come from animals that have not taken antibiotics or growth hormones and have been fed 100 percent organic feed. In order for products to receive the “made with organic products” seal, they must contain at least 70 percent organic products, and the remaining 30 percent must not use certain prohibited practices, Continue reading Organic Food: Worth the Cost?

Thesis Corner: Finn Dobkin

Today’s Thesis Corner features Sound Economics’ very own Finn Dobkin. His thesis examines why the Great Depression affected Washington State more severely than the rest of the country. Upon further analysis, the history of Washington’s economy explains its collapse. In 1821, the Hudson Bay Company merged with the Pacific Northwest Company during the period of European colonization. Since the Hudson Bay Company was located overseas in London, it exerted no in-person control over Washington’s economy. The company focused more on exploiting Washington’s resources for short-term profit, particularly fur and timber, which continued throughout most of the state’s history. During WWI, Continue reading Thesis Corner: Finn Dobkin

Metropolitan Market, Supermarket Layouts, and Impulse Purchases

During a lecture about food, my French professor mentioned that Metropolitan Market’s displays make it difficult for her to avoid spending more than necessary at the grocery store. I too am guilty of purchasing many impulse buys at the Met, especially if I shop while hungry. The bakery greets guests at both doors, the cheese aisle sits against the entrance wall, and customers must pass the hot foods and already prepared meals in order to reach the produce, meat, and seafood. The Met creates the perfect atmosphere for impulse buys. Grocery stores lay out products in configurations that optimize consumer Continue reading Metropolitan Market, Supermarket Layouts, and Impulse Purchases

Network Externalities: Mom Jeans, Man Buns, and the Snob Effect

Seattle boasts a thriving hipster culture. Its music venues, coffee shops, and small businesses provide alternatives to large-scale corporations. Hipsters generally reject mainstream culture in favor for the “underground”: small, up and coming businesses, musicians, and trends that have yet to gain considerable traction. This behavior is explained by network externalities, or additional effects on the utilities of goods that rely on the number of consumers. Network externalities can be both positive (bandwagon effect) and negative (snob effect). In the bandwagon effect, as the quantity of consumers increases, one’s utility increases. This effect appears when someone wants to fit in Continue reading Network Externalities: Mom Jeans, Man Buns, and the Snob Effect

Tariff Engineering and America’s Favorite Shoe

Beloved by 1960s basketball stars, weightlifters, skaters, and teenagers alike, Converse All-Stars have become an American staple. I love my Chuck Taylors (I have owned the same pair since seventh grade) and have worn the soles to bare treads. All-Star fanatics may notice felt on the sole of their shoes along the outline, toe, and heel. While at first glance the fuzzy lining seems deliberately placed, in reality it serves no functional purpose. Converse (now owned by Nike) uses tariff engineering to import shoes at a lower cost. As of 2015, the tariff on imported shoes in the United States Continue reading Tariff Engineering and America’s Favorite Shoe

Spotify: the Economics of Streaming

Music platforms are evolving at breakneck speed, but is the increasing consumer utility destroying artist profit? CDs replaced records, digital downloads replaced CDs, and now streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music thrust the purchased digital copies of iTunes onto the edge of obsolescence. Spotify’s 2011 debut in America offered music fans a new way to listen to their favorite artists. Instead of purchasing individual songs or albums, users can stream music from a phone or laptop. Spotify offers multiple options: a free version where music is interrupted by advertisements and a premium version where users pay a monthly subscription Continue reading Spotify: the Economics of Streaming