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.
See more: deadweight loss, exchange, gift giving, inefficiency, irrationality, self interest, subjective value
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.
See more: altruism, gift giving, incentives, self interest
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.
See more: counterfactual, entrepreneurism, opportunity cost, sunk cost, tradeoffs
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.
See More: comparative advantage, compensation, costs, efficiency wages, labor, mergers, nonpecuniary benefits, production, worklife balance
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.
See more: labor, nonpecuniary benefits, preferences, skills, talent
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.
See more: behavioral, full information, preferences, tastes and preferences, utility
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.
See more: behavioral, negative externalities, positive externalities, private benefits, private costs, social benefits, sunk cost, technological change
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?
See more: causation, correlation, nature vs. nurture, omitted variable bias
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.
See more: demand, efficiency, inefficiency, markets, quotas, role of government, supply, transaction barriers
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.
See more: asymmetric information, exchange, insurance, market for lemons, used goods, willingness to buy, willingness to sell
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.
See more: consumer surplus, exchange, negotiation, prices, producer surplus, reservation price, transactions, willingness to buy, willingness to sell
Claire and Jay are visiting a competitor’s business. The competitor wants to buy Pritchett Closets, but Claire and Jay have a different idea. The new company is focused on creating smart closets that can pick outfits for the person based on the weather and their current size. They have great technology, but they don’t have the manufacturing capabilities to fulfill all their orders. Pritchett Closets, on the other hand, has the manufacturing space, but they haven’t invested much in technology. Claire proposes that they merge instead.
See more: acquisitions, industrial organization, mergers, proprietary technological knowledge, technological change, technological knowledge, technology
Haley is at a staff meeting. She’s worried that she hasn’t had enough good ideas lately. Her fear is that this will lead her boss to believe that she isn’t working hard on behalf of the company. Haley signals that she’s a good worker by suggesting that Gloria sell a family recipe to the company (NERP). Gloria has long held the recipe secret. The recipe is an example of private technological knowledge. The recipe is valuable to Gloria because of the family tradition. The recipe is valuable to NERP because it could give them an edge in the lifestyle industry. Will Gloria sell? (Note: Jay also makes a fantastic joke about the value of a bachelor’s degree that can be used for discussion on human capital).
See more: entrepreneurism, human capital, human capital investments, moral hazard, signaling, signals, technological knowledge
Phil has plans to give Haley the perfect git for her 21st birthday – a new car. He has spent months doing research and planning without actually going in to a dealership. His work has been online and he landed an incredible deal. But Jay is convinced that he can do better. In this scene, Phil is sad because Jay made his deal fall through but Jay has a surprise. Jay did some hard core negotiating and beat that unbeatable deal…. or did he? Buying a car is different from many other markets. The price on the sticker is rarely what people pay. Instead, both buyer and seller go in to the transaction with the understanding that they will negotiate the price and features of the car.
See more: bargaining power, economic signals, gift giving, imperfect competition, negotiations, prices, self interest
After receiving a nomination to a major closet expo, Jay receives a phone call who expects to be full of congratulatory remarks. He instead finds the dial tone from a fax machine that has misdialed the number the intended. Jay, who isn’t the most technologically savvy member of the family, wonders why anyone might still be using a fax machine.
See more: demand, growth, innovation, technological change
There’s a lot going on in this clip. The main focus is on Claire and Jay. Pritchett Closets (which Jay founded and Claire runs) has been selected to participate in the Expo Internationale du Closet! Both Claire and Jay are over the moon excited. But why? Participating in this event exposes them to an international market. They can expect a big increase in demand for their product. The second focus is on Manny. Manny has moved out but found that there are certain things about living at home that he really misses. This is something that a lot of people discover when they move out. These early lessons in personal finance can be tough!
See more: demand, expectations, international trade, personal finance, trade
Gloria wants to sell her family’s sauce to a larger company. Jay and Gloria each use a different tactic to make the product more appealing, in essence trying to drive up the demand for the sauce. Unfortunately, they don’t coordinate their strategies in advance and Jay blows the deal.
It turns out there’s a lot of information that Gloria has hidden from Jay. She has long had a surplus of sauce that she has been keeping in storage lockers across town. Gloria has likely paid a lot of money for all of the storage. When firms normally have a surplus, it means that the price for the product is above the equilibrium price.
This scene is also a good example of adverse selection in exchange. Gloria knows that her product is no good, but they are trying to signal not only that it’s good, but also that it’s special, almost magical.
See more: adverse selection, advertising, asymmetric information, demand, double coincidence of wants, information economics, marketing, preferences, product differentiation, profit, rationality, sunk cost, supply, tastes and preferences
Its Halloween and Gloria often ties to coordinate her costume with Jay, but he usually just accepts whatever Gloria picks for him. At this point in their marriage, he’s tired of being the “ugly” sidekick while Gloria goes as some beautiful character. The two would like to coordinate their outfits so that they are both happy, but what they may not be able to match correctly. Consider this a modern version of the Battle of the Sexes game.
See more: Battle of the Sexes, choices, coordination game, game theory, interdependent utility functions, payoff matrix, preferences, utility
Jay has a great new invention that he believes will revolutionize the closet industry. He believes he’s created a sock dispenser that will rotate his socks so that he isn’t always wearing the same socks over and over. In competitive industries, product differentiation like this can lead to short term profits – especially for early adopters.
Unfortunately, Manny brings his friend over he recognizes the potential that this new sock dispenser could provide her uncle Earn, who is also in the closet industry. Earl is a major competitor (and former partner) of Jay and he now realizes that his proprietary idea may be stolen if he doesn’t act fast.
See more: competition, entrepreneurism, innovation, market power, monopolistic competition, patents, product differentiation, proprietary technological knowledge, trade names
Jay got new glasses that make him look like an old man but they work really well. So well that he realizes that Gloria’s family members in Columbia are wearing his old clothes. Notice that Gloria says that they sometimes send the clothes back. In the US, people frequently donate clothing to people in less developed countries. Many economists argue that this is counterproductive and leads to a surplus of clothing in these countries. That surplus can hurt markets and cost jobs.
See more: charity, donations, efficiency, emerging markets, gift giving, growth, interdependent utility functions, preferences, utility
Mitchell complains to Jay about Cam being too nice, and Jay complains to Mitchell about Gloria not liking his dog butler. In the beginning of the scene, the two complain about the actions of their partners and how it imposes a cost on them that they feel their partner is not considering. Jay loves his dog butler, but he also doesn’t want to upset his wife. Cam spends a lot of time helping people and animal, but Mitchell feels it is sometimes a burden.
Jay notes that they are both with people who are very different and that maybe that makes their relationships better. The concept of interdependent utility functions is that people maximize combined utility of a household/relationship even though that means they way not be maximizing their own individual utility functions.
See more: assortative mating, gains from trade, gains to marriage, interdependent utility functions, matching, preferences, utility
After a successful trip to Vegas, Jay decides to purchase a dog butler statue as a gift for himself. He thinks everyone loves it, but Gloria detests it and tries to get rid of it. Every time she comes home, she’s reminded of the dog and it ends up scaring her. While Jay clearly receives private benefits from his purchase (and he also thinks there are social benefits), Barkley has imposed an external cost on Gloria, which Jay has clearly not considered.
The Coase Theorem would suggest that if Gloria is truly unhappy about Barkley, she could arrange some form of payment to get Jay to put him away. We learn later that the fight between them was enough for Jay to recognize that he’s imposing a cost on Gloria, and instead decides to get rid of the butler.
See more: Coase Theorem, external costs, externalities, negative externalities, preferences, utility
Phil has a pair of slippers that Claire isn’t too fond of. While they bring private benefits to Phil in the form of comfort and easy jokes, it imposes a cost on Claire. Under the Coase Theorem, we’d suspect that Claire could pay Phil to stop wearing them or Phil could pay Claire to let him keep wearing them, but Claire has instead opted for a creative (and often illegal…) way to dispose of Phil’s possessions that she does not like.
See more: external costs, externalities, negative externalities, subjective value, tastes and preferences
Claire tried to make friends with the owner of Closets, Closets, Closets, Closets (CCCC) but Jay convinced her that the friendship was just a ruse to steal information about the business. In retaliation, Claire and Jay decide to “poach” CCCC’s most valuable employee, Lazlo. While trying to recruit him to their closet business, they learn that the friendship was genuine. But now, they really can’t trust each other and both businesses will be hurt.
See more: competition, cooperation, duopoly, game theory, labor, oligopoly, preferences, Prisoner’s dilemma, tit-for-tat strategy
Jay takes Joe out to the driving range and discovers that Joe is a natural. Joe’s natural skill is a form of human capital that gives him the potential to earn a large salary in the future. Human capital is often acquired through years of training, education and hard work. But sometimes, luck gives some people an edge over others. If Joe works hard and practices, he could follow the path of other young golfers with natural talent like Tiger Woods and Lexi Thompson. Jay wants to do all he can to make that happen.
See more: human capital, incentives, income inequality, labor, productivity, tournaments, wages, winner take all
Jay and Claire discover that Alex and Luke have started a business selling used shoes online. Jay praises Luke for taking the initiative to build a business from nothing. Claire praises Alex for making the business successful. An argument ensues that makes it clear that this is personal for Jay and Claire. Jay built a closet business but retired a few years ago and let Claire take over. Under Claire’s leadership, the company becomes even more successful and receives international acclaim. They fight over who deserves credit for the success and honors that the business currently has. The reality is that both are responsible. They both demonstrate entrepreneurialism and each played a different and equally important role in building the business. Entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. But can they admit this to each other?
See more: entrepreneurism, human capital, labor, management
Phil is desperate to sell this house. The buyer loves it but is afraid that it is haunted. Phil brings in Gloria to cleanse the house of unfriendly spirits. What they find isn’t spirits – it’s not ghost. It’s only bees! This demonstrates adverse selection and screening. Economics suggests that a market where the buyers know less than the sellers will result in adverse selection. That is, there will be more “bads” (haunted) houses on the market than “goods” (non-haunted). One way the ways that the problem of adverse selection can be reduced is through signaling. Phil (the seller) takes an action (asks Gloria to inspect the home) in order to reveal that this home is a “good” (not haunted) home.
See more: adverse selection, asymmetric information, preferences, signaling
Economists often suggests that competition improves efficiency in markets and Jay seems to agree. He fosters competition within his family to help them achieve their goals. At this moment in the episode, he appears that his motivation worked out and everyone has been successful, but later in the episode, we find out that there were some unintended consequences of his actions.
See more: competition, extrinsic rewards, incentives, intrinsic rewards, labor, motivation, perverse incentives, unintended consequences
Economists often suggests that competition improves efficiency in markets and Jay seems to agree. He fosters competition within his family to help them achieve their goals. In an earlier scene, we learn that Jay withholds praise to encourage his family, but this year they have all seemingly surpassed his expectations. But are they really achieving those goals? The truth comes out in this clip. It turns out that they’re a family of cheaters and not a family of winners. Jay’s decision to incentivize them with praise has some stark unintended consequences.
See more: cheating, competition, ethics, incentives, moral hazard, motivation, self interest, unintended consequences
Manny is the first member of the family to graduate from high school despite the fact that he has an uncle who “just does orthopedic surgery.” Apparently you only need a degree to do heart and brain surgery.
See more: ability bias, education, human capital, human capital investments, signaling
Manny is about to receive an award for perfect attendance at graduation and his step dad shows up to help him celebrate that night. Before leaving, Manny and his father walk through a strong mist of cologne. Gloria notes that despite the terrible smell, she’s never seen him get a mosquito bite. The cologne imposes external benefits (no mosquito bites) also external costs (the awful smell) on the remaining members of the household.
See more: externalities, negative externalities, private benefits, social benefits, social costs
Jay spends some time in the sauna au naturale, but Mitchell doesn’t appreciate the eyefull. Their awkward exchanges have been impacting other guests at the spa as well. Jay clearly gets private benefits from entering the sauna the way he has, and he doesn’t seem to care too much for the external costs he has imposed on his son. The Coase Theorem would suggest that the two should be able to come to some agreement.
See more: Coase theorem, externalities, negative externalities, private benefits, social costs
In order to get some alone time from their partners, Mitchell and Jay decide to head to the desert, but they didn’t think they’d run into each other at the same spa. In the middle of reading the same book, Mitchell comes across a shocking detail and spoils part of the book for Jay who is sitting across the pool. The gasp provides two examples of economic content. First, Mitchell’s gasp imposes and external cost on Jay because they are reading the same book and Mitchell has ruined the surprise of what happens later in the book. The second is a form of asymmetric information. Mitchell has knowledge about something that will happen in the book later that Jay doesn’t know yet. The power won’t last long as Jay just needs to read a bit more to gain that insight.
See more: asymmetric information, externalities, negative externalities, private benefits, social costs
Phil and Jay operate a parking lot together and hired a talkative woman to operate the booth (thanks to a coin flip!). Her chattiness causes a car behind Jay to drive away, which means the two don’t earn $8 from that one additional car. This simple clip is a good introduction to the concept of marginal revenue in that each car to the parking lot represents “another $8” to the firm.
See more: marginal analysis, marginal profit, marginal revenue
Phil and Jay are stuck in a dispute about which of the two job candidates to hire as their newest parking lot attendant. The two candidates have vastly different personalities, but Jay and Phil believe their preferred candidate’s personality is best for the job. Instead of considering the costs and benefits are hiring each worker, they opt to flip a coin with their two heads on it. While marginal analysis focuses on “one more” of an item, either-or-decision making typically involves weighing costs and benefits to determine which would have the highest economic profit.
See more: cost benefit analysis, decision making, either-or-decisions, labor
Cam and Mitch went on vacation to celebrate their Honeymoon and brought back “gifts” to the family. Mitchell claims to have gotten sick because he wore socks on the beach, but his virus spread to the entire family. Each member goes through the pain they endured because Mitch didn’t quarantine himself. Only later in the episode do they find out that Mitch wasn’t even patient zero.
See more: externalities, gift giving, health care, negative externalities, private benefits, social costs, substitutes
Cam and Mitch went on vacation to celebrate their Honeymoon and brought back gifts to the family. For Jay, they brought a cheesy golfing frog statue, but also with an illness. Jay views the frog statue so poorly that considers it possible the illness is a better gift. Economists like to discuss irrationality of gift giving because we often spend money on gifts for people at a higher value than they would spend on themselves. A second concept at play in the clip is that Cam & Mitch’s trip to Mexico added additional costs on the family through the spread of an illness. Had Mitchell known he would have gotten the family sick, he may not have left.
See more: exchange, externalities, gift giving, inefficiency, irrationality, negative externalities, subjective value
It’s time for Jay and Gloria to exchange gifts and Jay is anxious about his gift from his wife. He struggles finding the right gift because it always seems like a competition. If the two didn’t exchange gifts then the extra psychic costs wouldn’t exist. It turns out that Gloria actually really loves Jay’s gift, but Jay really wanted that watch.
See more: gift giving, inefficiency, irrationality, psychic costs, subjective value
One of the tougher topics to get across to students is why older Americans start to leave the labor force. One explanation for the leave is that they see a decrease in their human capital and that some of their previous training is no longer relevant. This clip does a good job bringing humor to a topic that often sounds derogatory.
See more: human capital depreciation, innovation, labor, life cycle considerations, technological change, technological knowledge