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.
See more: creative destruction, Joseph Schumpeter, technological change, technology
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.
See more: absolute advantage, Banana Republic, comparative advantage, development, exports, inequality, international trade, political economy, trade
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.
See more: college, education, human capital, human capital investments, human capital depreciation, job search, labor force, labor force participation, labor market, nonpecuniary benefits, skills, unemployment
Video cassettes have been replaced by DVDs and streaming services and are slowly becoming an outdated technology.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.
See more: creative destruction, Joseph Schumpeter, opportunity cost, tastes and preferences, technological change, technology, tradeoffs
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
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.
See more: employment, income leisure tradeoff, household labor supply, household production, labor force participation, specialization, tradeoffs, unemployment
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.
See more: household labor supply, household production, human capital depreciation, job search, labor force, labor force participation, labor market, skills, tradeoffs, unemployment
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.
See more: economic growth, marginal product of labor, productivity, standard of living, technological change, technology
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.
See more: altruism, behavioral, charity, framing, incentives, inequality, poverty
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.
See more: income, income inequality, inequality, money, personal finance, stock market, volatility, wealth
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.
See more: household production, human capital, labor force, labor-leisure tradeoff, labor supply, marginally attached, nonpecuniary benefits, search, tastes and preferences, tradeoffs, unemployment
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.
See more: budget balance, comparative systems, inequality, macro, role of government, taxation
It is Phil’s birthday and also the day the iPad is being released. Phil is willing to spend his birthday waiting in line to be sure he gets the new iPad, but Claire offers to do it for him. Instead of getting there early, she ends up falling asleep on the couch. When she finally gets to the store, they are all out, and Phil ends up wishing he had handled it himself.
See more: costs, demand, early adopters, gift giving, innovation, nonpecuniary benefits, preferences, tastes and preferences, technological change, technology
Cam convinced Mitchell that he needs to be kinder so Mitch invites a messy colleague who is going through a breakup to spend the night at their place. Unfortunately, she takes him up on it. Determined to keep their beautiful, brand new, designer white sofa (their one nice thing) in mint condition, they give up their bed for her and sleep on the floor. In this clip, they wake up and discover that she has moved onto the couch. This couch is more expensive than one from Rooms to Go and so it counts more towards GDP. Owning an expensive couch is an indication of Mitch and Cam’s high standard of living. Yet, does a high standard of living mean a higher quality of life? Robert Kennedy didn’t think so:
[GDP] counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.
–RFK, Speech at University of Kansas, March 18, 1968.
Another perspective on this clip: resources are scarce. At its heart, economics is about how we choose to use those resources. Purchasing this couch moved Mitch and Cam on to a higher indifference curve than before they purchased it so their utility is higher than it used to be. But could they have been on an even higher one if they chose to buy a cheap couch and spend their money on something else? Traditional economics says that Mitch and Cam are rational and made the best decision. Is it possible that they could have made a mistake? What if they incorrectly estimated the cost of maintaining the couch. Could this also demonstrate time inconsistency?
See more: altruism, GDP, gross domestic product, luxury goods, opportunity cost, positional good, quality of life, risk, risk aversion, standard of living, tradeoffs
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
Mitch is working on a big case about the rights of vulnerable workers. In it, he argues that a company is preying on the lack of options available to people who are homeless and hiring them for extremely low wages. He believes that this is a violation of labor laws and tries to get the notice of the press. At the same time, Cam is stealing the spotlight as a successful high school football coach who is openly gay.
Traditional economics holds that trades which are voluntary (such as employment) are mutually beneficial. As such, some might argue that the company isn’t taking advantage of its workers since the workers benefit from the employment opportunity. Political economics suggests that you cannot ignore the power inequality between the company and the workers. When a large power imbalance is present, exploitation is possible.
A second use of this clip comes from the role of spouses in the household production model. The happiness of each individual party is important, but the other partner’s utility enters the utility function of each individual. This interdependency is important because it explains why some partners may opt for a decision that doesn’t maximize their own utility, but instead do so because it maximizes their partner’s utility.
See more: altruism, externalities, income inequality, interdependent utility functions, labor law, living wage, negative externalities, political economics, private benefits, social costs, specialization, structural unemployment
Andy currently works as Jay and Gloria’s “manny” (a male nanny), but he’s interested in changing jobs. He’s been spending a lot of time with Haley, which initially makes Phil and Claire suspicious of a budding romance. In this scene, Andy approaches Phil because he wants to become a real estate agent. He knows that he’s going to need to acquire more human capital before he’s able to do that so he asks to work as Phil’s new assistant.
In this scene, we watch Andy interview for this job. It turns out that Haley and Andy have been spending time together practicing their interview skills. Interviewing is like other productive activities and requires a special set of skills that we can get by practice. The better someone is at interviewing, the shorter the amount of time is that they will be among the frictionally unemployed (unemployment that results because it takes time to match the right worker to the right job). Phil makes Andy prove his dedication to becoming an assistant and highlights one of the crucial elements of job markets: the matching process. Firms don’t hire just any workers, but instead want to identify workers that will make a good “match” with their firm.
See more: frictional unemployment, interviewing, human capital, labor market, job search, matching, unemployment
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
After Mitchell quit his job, Cameron went to work to support them. Both Mitchell and Cameron think their partner is happy with this role reversal, but both are miserable and want to return to their original arrangement. Neither wants to say anything to other, because they are focused on maximizing their combined utility rather than their own, but they aren’t share their disutility.
See more: added worker effect, division of labor, household labor supply, household production, interdependent utility functions, labor supply, preferences, specialization, unemployment
Claire is going to meet an old friend from work, but her kids are surprised to find out that she once had a job. She describes why she chose to leave the workforce. The household production model allows for workers to determine if they would prefer to produce items for household consumption or work in the paid labor force to purchase those same item. Claire must have steep indifference curves given she quit the labor force to produce household items.
See more: comparative advantage, division of labor, household labor supply, household production labor force, labor force participation, labor supply, preferences, specialization, tradeoffs
Claire is trying to get the kids downstairs for breakfast and is shouting across the house. Hailey doesn’t understand why Claire won’t just text them, but Claire refuses. Improvements in technology should make everyday life more efficient, but Claire wants to stick with tradition.
See more: efficiency, technological change
Manny lost Luke in a “sketchy” neighborhood. He and Phil enlist Gloria’s help to track him down. When they arrive in the neighborhood, they find that it has changed quite a bit since Gloria lived there. When searching for a girl, they have the option of visiting one of the four area cupcake stores, each specializing in a different area.
See more: gentrification, growth, imperfect competition, incentives, income inequality, market structures, monopolistic competition, preferences, product differentiation
Homes and yards that are improperly maintained decrease the property value of neighbors. This is a negative externality. To prevent this from happening, many modern neighborhoods have an HOA. The HOA decides what changes homeowners are allowed to make to their property and act as a non-market solution to externalities. They only allow changes that either do not impact the property value of other homes (no externalities) or that increase the property value of other homes (a positive externality). In this clip, Claire attends her HOA’s meeting. She submitted a proposal to build a “she shed” in her backyard that was denied. She believes this was not appropriate because the shed won’t be visible from the street and will not impact neighbor property values. What she doesn’t know is that her son, Luke, intercepted the request and responded with a fake denial so the HOA doesn’t understand why she is so belligerent. Phil shows up to warn her but is a little late…
See more: Coase theorem, collective action, government regulation, negative externalities, non-market solutions, permits, regulation, role of government
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
Cam is desperate to win the football game and be a winner. He overhears the opposing team’s coach plans for the next play. Does he act on this insider information? Yes. Using insider information in buying and selling financial securities is illegal because it gives someone an unfair advantage. Similarly, many would consider Cam’s actions cheating. In fact, Cam feels really guilty about it but Mitch encourages him to keep up the facade because winning is also important to him. The decision making process involves weighing the costs (his morals) versus the benefits (winning).
See more: cost benefit analysis, ethics, insider trading, morals, self interest
Haley is in a bind and needs some money real fast. She goes to Luke, but he isn’t really in a position to give her any money because he’s decided to freeze his cash. He even remarks to Haley that he isn’t very liquid right now, but we’re not convinced he actually knows about liquidity.
See more: assets, frozen assets, liquidity, medium of exchange, money, store of 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