After realizing that Auntie Alice wasn’t telling them the truth about her role in stealing Gloria’s sauce, Jay and Gloria head to Auntie Alice’s house to confront her about the situation. She initially tries to lie her way out of the situation, but eventually we learn that Auntie Alice is a cunning businesswoman who swooped in and patented Gloria’s sauce because she already knew that Gloria didn’t have a patent. Patents are intended to reward individuals and businesses who invest resources in developing new products, and they can serve as significant barriers to entry for competition. Owning a patent can create a temporary monopoly on a product, which in turn can generate lots of profits.
Luckily, Phil recognizes a lot of city codes that Auntie Alice is violating and threatens to alert the city if she doesn’t pull the patent for Gloria’s sauce.
Gloria realizes that a new hot sauce by Auntie Alice tastes very similar to hers, so Jay and Gloria go to the supermarket to confront the grandmother. While there, Phil tries to play tough and accidentally eats some of her volcano sauce, which is a bit too much for Phil. Hot sauces are a great example for product differentiation! They are all substitutable and differentiated by heat level, but also by different ingredients. The market for salsa is probably monopolistically competitive since price is an important factor.
A second concept covered in this clip is the role of advertising. According to Auntie Alice, she’s only the spokesperson for a larger corporation who uses her likeness as a branding strategy. The role of branding is part of why monopolistically competitive firms don’t produce at minimum average cost. The use of brands could be to signal some kind of information, but it’s not clear what signal a sweet old lady has with hot sauce. Alice hints that the company has lots of lawyers who will squash any one who challenges them, implying that the company uses this tactic to create barriers to entry. Later in the episode, we learn Auntie Alice may not be telling the whole truth!
It’s Phil’s 50th birthday and Jay decides to try and sneak a gift to Phill that Cam had given him before. What Jay doesn’t realize is that Cam had inscribed the front cover and as Phil begins to red the inscription, Cam recognizes it is the same book that he gave Jay before. Giving gifts can be seen as wasteful if the giver doesn’t fully know the recipients preferences and willingness to pay. The entire family tends to give each other gifts that the others don’t always want, but this time Jay didn’t even take the time to open the book in the first place.
Right next door to where Mitch was taking trumpet lessons was a massage parlor offering massages for the exact same price as trumpet lessons. Cam believes Mitch has been practicing the trumpet for two years now, but it turns out that Mitchell has just been getting regular massages. Utility maximization assumes that when two items are the same price, consumers will chose the item with the higher utility. While Mitch originally thought he wanted to learn how to play the trumpet, he realized each additional massage generated higher levels of utility than another trumpet lesson.
It’s time for the wedding, but Haley and Dylan weren’t expecting this many people, nor were they expecting music. Alex’s boyfriend plays the bagpipes and he has “science” that proves bagpipes are necessary for a good wedding. His mom’s first marriage didn’t have any bagpipes and they got divorced. Her second wedding did have bagpipes and they’ve still been married after 6 months. Unfortunately, this is a weak correlation at best, and most definitely not causal.
Luke is about to drop his history class because he has a major paper due that he hadn’t started yet. It turns out that the topic of this paper is the same topic his mother wrote when she was in college, but she was less than thrilled with her grade on the paper. She asks Luke to turn it in for her to see if she was cheated out of a grade.
In order to get the paper onto a flash drive, Claire had to go through some lengthy measures to convert the file from its original form decades earlier to a flash drive. We see the amount of technological change Claire has experienced in just her lifetime with the multiple computers linked together.
Cam and Mitch are having a nice breakfast with Jay, but it turns out jay only invites them to breakfast because he has to meet a club minimum in order to keep his membership. We learn that Jay also buys people gifts from the club shop so that he can help his balance and even offers to get Cam and Mitch some spa services. This incentive mechanism by the club ensures that people aren’t just joining the club for the golf perks, which have relatively low profit margins.
Alex is unsure of what she should do with her life and she’s avoiding her mom. Jay picks up on the situation and tries to provide some guidance. Alex has been dreaming of becoming a scientist her whole life, but lately she’s dreamed up becoming a singer. She can’t have both and recognizes that to pick a path requires giving up the other option. We’ve seen this indecision with Alex when she was trying to decide whether to spend her summer interning or relaxing. Jay hints that he used to be a daredevil, but he gave it up to become an entrepreneur.
Cam has setup a panel that includes Alex, Haley, Manny, and Luke. His original goal was to showcase alternative options beyond college for the high school. It turns out the principal isn’t a fan of that idea, but only because he’s more interested in winning the “Golden Apple” award, which is for schools that have 60% of their class going on to college. His self-interest may push some students into a path that they aren’t meant to be on.
At the start of the scene, we learn that Cam’s not sure he believes everyone should go to college, but he isn’t sure how to proceed once he finds out that his principal is encouraging him to only talk about the benefits of college. Midway through the show, Mitch convinces Cam that if he can make it wear the principal doesn’t get the Golden Apple award, Cam may be promoted to Head Principal which comes with more perks. Cam goes along with it, and switches the theme of the panel to focus on non-college options.
Haley is in a bind and can’t decide who she should spend her life with. Should she stick with Arvin, the successful scientist who has his life together, or should she go with Dylan, her high school boyfriend who is full of fun? Every decision we make, whether we realize it’s economics or not, has tradeoffs. There’s only so much time in our lives and we must make decisions. One of the difficult parts of “matching” is finding the right rate to minimize conflict and maximizing our happiness. Happiness, in this case, is known as interdependent. Her happiness will eventually be a function of her own utility, but also her spouse’s utility.
Jay and Claire partner up with a local design company to expand their operations. Pritchett’s closet has a lot of space to manufacture, but the design company has new ideas that are revolutionizing the closet industry. They believe this merger is mutually beneficial given each others’ strengths and weaknesses.
It turns out that the design company spends a lot of time on non-pecuniary benefits for its employees to make the company a “cool” place to work, but they lose a lot of money. Jay wants to go back to a more traditional workplace that focuses on production and not fun. The concept of efficiency wages means that firms pay above equilibrium wages in order to motivate and incentivize workers to perform better. Jay doesn’t agree with this management style, and we learn later that the design company wanted to merge because they needed more discipline in their finances.
It’s the 4th of July, and Joe isn’t as excited as his parents are about the holiday. Gloria mentions that Joe should be excited to live in America because she grew up in a banana republic. The zinger is that Banana Republic is the only store available that she could have shopped at, but a banana republic is a political economy term used to describe a country with an economy that is dependent on a single export. Gloria, originally from Columbia, could also have come from a banana republic.
Manny’s girlfriend Sherry is staying with the Pritchett’s for a while and she and Manny have taken up improv in the hopes of becoming an improv actor one day. Jay isn’t amused and feels like Manny should focus on trying to get a different job.
Phil walks in on an Intro to Real Estate course, which is starting the semester off with microeconomic analysis of real estate. Phil isn’t as impressed with the teacher’s style and focusing too much on the boring numbers and not enough on the exciting emotional connections of real estate. Similar to teaching economics as a whole, some instructors get wrapped up in the numbers of the graphs and lose sight of the emotional connections of the theory. For what it’s worth, the instructor isn’t very good at his job given that he has the x-axis labeled on the vertical axis.
The teacher takes this opportunity to give away his class and Phil becomes the newest instructor at the community college.
Claire and Cam want to flip a house, but Phil and Mitch are against it. Phil pretends he is for it leaving Mitch to put his foot down, but eventually Mitch decides to play the good cop as well and leave Phil to put the brakes on the house. If Phil and Mitch had agreed before hand to both be against the plan (cooperate), they could have come to the best outcome, but it was in Phil’s best interest to deviate and act like he supports Claire and Cam, leave Mitchel to take the full cost of the outcome. Mitchel then decides to defect as well and they are now both supporting a project they don’t believe in. This scene represents a more common version of prisoner’s dilemma in which both Phil and Mitchell would be better off cooperating, but they each have an incentive to defect.
Claire feels like she is not contributing to the family because she doesn’t have a job. She has applied to 5 jobs recently, but despite her college degree, she is rejected from all of them. Because she has been out of the labor force for so many years, her human capital has depreciated. The second important component of this scene is to consider the non-pecuniary benefits of work. Not all workers are income maximizers as some have other motivations for working in paid employment.
Jay is shocked that Manny won’t eat pickles, so he won’t let him leave the table until he tried one. Gloria thinks Jay is being a hypocrite and forces him to try blood sausage. Then Jay decides Gloria need to try something new too: scratching the dog, Stella’s, belly. While they all seem to hate what they try at the time, we see Gloria petting Stella’s belly voluntarily and Manny surreptitiously eating a pickle at the end of the episode. This highlights the need for full information in order to know your true preferences.
Cam’s dad, Merle, is fighting with Cam’s mom and they are considering a divorce. While there are utility gains from separating from partners, Merle believes he can do better than his current wife because he sees Jay and Gloria as role models. Gloria, however, paints a bleak picture of Merle’s future. Does Merle really have better options waiting out there or would he maximize his expected utility by staying with his current wife?
The entire family is visiting Australia and has a hike planned for the day. On their way to the van, Cam and Mitch get a text from an old friend inviting them to join him on Hugh Jackman’s yacht that day. Cam and Mitch have to decide between time with their families or time with famous people. They don’t want to seem starstruck, but they also don’t want to be bitten by a snake in the name of family time.
Video cassettes have been replaced by DVDs and streaming services and are slowly becoming an outdated technology. Before getting rid of their VCR, Claire and Phil are going through their VHS collection and watching the movies one last time. Joseph Schumpeter conceived the idea of creative destruction in which new technologies are created at the cost of destroying old industries. From a labor economics perspective, growth in some sectors come at the cost of losing jobs in the industry that is replaced.
Manny puts up a fiberoptic Christmas tree because it is better for the environment, but Jay thinks it is ugly and does not want it in his house. This clip highlights both positive externalities of fiberoptic trees (environmental benefits) and negative externalities of the tree (Jay’s psychic costs). Jay decides instead that he and Manny should go out and cut down a tree for reasons of tradition.
Jay and Manny tried cutting down their own Christmas tree for hours, but it is not budging and keeps ruining their tools. Jay has finally had enough and says Pritchetts know when to give up. All their previous effort represent a sunk cost, and it would take too much effort relative to the reward of a half burned tree to keep going.
Alex has been asked to babysit her cousin Lily. Lily wants to play with dolls during this time, but Alex tries to convince her instead to read a book that involves empowering women. Lily insists on playing with dolls, and the first doll she shows Alex is a wife who does not have a career, but shops.
Gloria and Jay have been having issues with Baby Joe’s behavior, so Gloria consults a priest. Gloria seems to think the men in her family have been kissed by the devil, but the priest insists it is the families that shape who children become. This is a great clip to introduce the nature versus nurture debate and also to consider the role of omitted variable bias in determining the parents’ impact on children. Could there be some other factor that Gloria hasn’t considered?
While Alex is freaking out about her junior year grades, Haley doesn’t need to study because her community college asks her to bring glue sticks. Education may serve as a signal of ability instead of actual skill building, which would be shown by entry requirements or competitiveness in the application process. Haley, on the other hand, may be completing drawn out tasks that don’t improve her productivity after completion. If Haley isn’t really learning skills at community college, but Phil and Claire are paying for her to go there to learn skills, are they really investing in Haley’s education?
It is the first day back to school for the kids, but it’s also Claire’s first day at her new job working for her father, Jay. Phil tries to be supportive, but refers to the last 20 years that Claire has spent as a stay at home mom as a vacation. The Income Leisure Tradeoff model assumes that participants can decide between working at paid employment or spending their time in leisure, but household production is often encapsulated in leisure. The household production model recognizes that time spent at home in productive activities is different than time spent in leisure.
This scene takes place immediately following the Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage. In the marriage market, a law that prevents gay marriage is essentially a quota of 0 marriages, which leads to huge amounts of deadweight loss. At this extreme, the quantity demanded exceeds the quantity supplied, which can be seen in the second portion of the scene when the Jay and Manny arrive at the course house. There is a surprisingly deep conversation about the role of economics in same-sex marriage.
Lily lost her first tooth and got $100 from the Tooth Fairy. Cam and Mitch are trying to convince her that the Tooth Fairy made a mistake and she should give the money back, but Lily wants to keep the money until Haley tells her this would almost certainly put her on Santa’s naughty list. Now Lily has to decide what she values more: $100 or Christmas presents.
It is career day at Luke’s school, and the teacher asks Claire to speak about her job as a stay at home mom. She points out that she actually has a lot of different jobs as a stay-at-home-mom. The household production model assumes that agents decide between working at paid work or working at home and producing things that they could have bought with income. Both yield some level of utility, but some partners will specialize in household production depending on the relative wages of the other partner.
One of the downsides of specializing in household labor is that people lose specific and general human capital associated with market work. While Claire would like to go back to work, it is hard to find a job after you have been out of the labor force for 15 years, mainly because everyone who didn’t drop out would have continued learning new skills. In labor economics, this is known as The Mommy Track.
Lily’s lost a tooth and it’s up to Cam to play the role of the tooth fairy. Perhaps it was late at night, or maybe too much wine, but the Tooth Fairy leaves Lily $100 for her first tooth. While both are in shock, Mitch points out that the going rate must be $5 tops and that the Tooth Fairy must have made a mistake. Delta Dental tracks tooth prices through the Tooth Fairy Poll, and the market rate in the United States is about $3.70.
Phil gets the house to himself for a few days and he’s opted to upgrade the technology in the home. He programs everything in the house to be controlled by his iPad, essentially freeing himself to do other tasks that require his attention. He can now turn on lights, the TV, and the fireplace from his device. Long term growth in economies is often fueled by capital investments, which allows populations to be more productive. The same is true at the household level, such that investments in capital improve the productivity of inhabitants.
Cam and Mitch have decided to get Jay and Gloria a special gift for Gloria’s impending birth. Jay and Gloria have both created a registry of gifts they would like, but Cam has decided to go “off registry” because he believes Jay and Gloria don’t really know what they want. Mitch seems concerned that they will not appreciate it.
One of the issues with gift giving is that the parties have imperfect information about what the other will value the gift at. Economists love to focus on the inefficiency of gift giving and often suggest just exchanging money.
Cam is trying to eat a bit healthier and concocts a soy-based bacon alternative called facon. Phil and Claire have to deal with an emergency, so Cam is in charge of breakfast. He insists that it his facon is indistinguishable from real bacon, but Mitch and Alex are able to tell a difference. Only in competitive markets do substitutes need to be indistinguishable from each other. If companies are operating in imperfect markets, firms can differentiate their product and still be considered a substitute.
Phil wants to ride his street strider, but his whole family thinks it is very uncool. Luke points out that he has friends on the street that might see, and Claire not so subtly threatens to leave him if he rides it suggesting she is not getting any joy from him enjoying his street strider and in fact it is harming their relationship. While Phil derives private benefits from the StreetStrider (like living healthier), he is also imposing social costs on his family. Given that his impact is relatively localized, the Coase Theorem would suggest that the Dunphy family can come to an agreement about whether Phil can keep his bike.
Luke and Manny’s class is having a yard sale to benefit UNICEF, but Jay hates when people haggle. In this scene, some guy had gone into Jay’s house, and then tries to buy his toaster. He’s not sure of the quality of the toaster and isn’t willing to commit to purchasing the toaster unless Jay can prove that it works. In markets with asymmetric information, one party of the transaction has more information about the quality of the product compared to the other party. This makes the market for used goods unique from new goods. It turns out, though, that the toaster was never for sale.
Luke and Manny’s class is having a yard sale to benefit UNICEF. When Mitchel doesn’t want to donate Cam’s pants, Luke tries to re-frame the charity attempt to guilt his uncle into donating more money. Framing is one tactic to get people to do something they may not have done under the original design.
Claire believes Alex’s boyfriend is gay, but Alex doesn’t think that’s the case. She believes that since he invited her to prom and then they kissed, that it must mean he can’t be gay. Signaling is when one party has more information about a transaction than another, but displays some traits or “signals” to convince the other party of the true outcome.
Luke and Manny’s class is having a yard sale to benefit UNICEF, but Jay hates when people haggle. Even though the ash tray is marked at 50 cents, he is unwilling to accept a lower payment from a man who clearly can afford the full ticket price. The man, on the other hand, believes the original price is too high and tries to extract some consumer surplus. Exchange needs to be mutually beneficial in order to occur, but sometimes that doesn’t happen.
Luke and Manny’s class is having a yard sale to benefit UNICEF. Manny thinks the point is for them to learn about global altruism, while Luke thinks to point is to beat the other class. The teachers have used the incentive of a pizza party in order to encourage their classes to do their best in raising money. Jay is unhappy with this method and would prefer to write a check instead.
Claire’s favorite holiday is Halloween, but last year she may have went a little overboard to the point that the homeowners association forbid the Dunphey’s from doing particular things this Halloween. Claire’s goal is each Halloween is to produce a scary experience for trick-or-treaters visiting, but even Phil thinks she may have gone too far investing in professional grade makeup. He suggests that she could be twice as scary without wearing any makeup at all.
Another way to view this clip is through the impact of private benefits and social costs. Claire spends a lot of money each year on Halloween decorations, but her private benefits may not exceed the social costs imposed on neighbors (at least according to the HOA). The social costs of her decisions include someone wetting themselves and someone having a heart attack. While Claire may factor these into her investment decision, the HOA determined that the social costs outweigh the social benefits and has opted for a command-and-control approach to Halloween decorations at the Dunphy house.
The family is headed to Disneyland, but Manny is caught up in a simulated stock market game for school. It’s near the deadline and he wants to make sure he wins the competition, but volatility in the stock market has caused his portfolio to finish below expectations. Even though they’re playing with fake money, Manny dreams of the things he could afford if only he was rich, implying there’s a level of inequality among the haves and the have nots.
Luke is finally tall enough to go on the rollercoasters and Disneyland, but Phil may be at the age where he can’t handle that pressure. The self-proclaimed “King of Rollercoasters” visibly diminishes as Luke seems to be unfazed by the G-force. While each ride adds a bit of additional joy to Phil’s overall utility, the marginal cost is clearly increasing as he continues to ride each ride. It’s not long before Phil’s marginal cost outweighs the marginal benefit of one more ride.
As part of his new job as partner in his own real estate firm, Phil has decided to put on a seminar for new homebuyers. As he’s telling the camera crew what he will be covering during the seminar, he realizes people in the audience could just write down all of his suggestions and then they wouldn’t need his firm anymore. He obviously had not thought this all the way through before setting up the seminar. Unlike physical property, ideas and processes explained in public are often available for anyone to use. Without property rights, Phil’s knowledge has essentially entered the public domain. Companies use intellectual property to maintain market power and extract economic rent from consumers. This market power comes in the form of a barrier to entry.
With Lilly in school and Cam & Mitchell unsure about adopting another baby, Mitchell thinks it’s a good time for Cam to get a job. Mitchell works with his friend Longeness to secure Cam a job at a local boutique under the guise that the shop needs someone to work and Cam just happens to be available. Cam initially accepts because it seems like a great match for his tastes and skill set, but Jeoux lets the cat out of the bag that it wasn’t a sincere offer, and Cam is offended that Mitch thinks he is too lazy to get a job.
In the Household Production model, decision makers must decide whether to supply their labor for paid employment or supply their labor at home in household production. Cam lists many of the household production items that he produces with his labor, including paying bills, grocery shopping, and maintaining the house. Each of these items produce utility for the household, which could be purchased with Cam’s income. A secondary consideration of work, beyond the household production model is nonpecuiniary benefits of work like social interaction and purpose.
Mitch and Cam have promised Lily that they can adopt a cat and name it Larry, but it turns out there is a lot more paperwork than they were hoping for. It turns out the cost of adopting the cat is beyond just paying for it at a shelter, but also involves forms and a site visit. Cam is quick to point out that there are a lot of cats that the shelter appears to be trying to have adopted, implying a surplus of available pets. A surplus occurs when the quantity supplied exceeds the quantity demanded at a particular price. That surplus wouldn’t exist if the adoption process was a bit easier (i.e. the price of adopting was lower).
Cam’s dad is down for a visit, and Jay is upset because he feels like he treats Mitchell like the “woman” in the relationship. Jay confronts Cams dad and they realize that gender roles are not the same today as they were when they were growing up, but it makes both of them feel a little better to ascribe certain traditionally female characteristics to their son’s partner.
Phil went on a gameshow in his early 20s and won a lifetime supply of dual blade razors, which was cutting edge razor technology at the time. Now it is not uncommon to find razors with 3, 4, or 5 blades. It’s hard for people, even economists, to predict advancements in future technologies, which makes comparisons of goods across long time periods more challenging.
A second concept that can be taught through this clip is the concept of the endowment effect. Phil is very disappointed to see that his “lifetime supply” has run out because he infers that it shouldn’t ever end. Many “lifetime” products are actually a fixed number of items spread out over a fixed time period.
Kenneth, an old neighbor who idolized Phil, comes back to visit. He tells the Dunphy family that he dropped out of college and bounced around at small jobs until he started an investment company. Haley who is currently evaluating her college options realizes that if he had gone to college, he would have become successful 4 years later. Kenneth’s opportunity cost of college would have been very high making his decision to drop out a good one.
When a classmate’s house burns down, the Pritchett family bands together to find things to donate to their cause. Manny and Luke are put in charge of a remote controlled helicopter that Manny has been coveting. Luke convinces Manny to fly it and they promptly lose the helicopter. Manny is scared of what Gloria will do when she finds out and threatens to walk to Canada if they do not find it. Luke replies that he hopes Manny likes taxes. Canada does tend to have higher tax rates than the United States, but there are also differences in the services provided by the two governments.
Phil has to decide whether to leave his own firm and start his own with two old co-workers, but he only has a limited amount of time to decide. He remembers that he is not good under pressure by recalling a time that he bought an alpaca because it was the last one and he panicked. Sometimes people may not make rational decisions because of bounded rationality, whereby they have to make a judgement in a hurry and don’t have time to fully weight all of the costs and benefits. Phil appears to fall victim to this fairly regularly, as evidenced by his decision to buy an alpaca once.
Phil finds gift certificates to a spa that he and Claire had won in a charity auction in a drawer, but they expire that day. He wants Claire to use them because otherwise their money just goes to charity, but Claire doesn’t know how she will find the time to be able to go. Phil is falling victim to the sunk cost fallacy, while Claire is thinking in terms of the additional costs and benefits of using the certificates before they expire.
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