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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
Alex is practicing her college interview for Princeton in the mirror when Haley comes in to style her hair. Princeton is an Ivy League school that is very prestigious and gets a lot of applications. Princeton does not know which applicants it should let in so it screens them. Screening is an action taken by an uninformed party in a situation characterized by adverse selection. There are many things that colleges do to screen applicants. They require high school transcripts, a certain GPA, test scores and they conduct an interview. When someone is interviewed, it’s an opportunity for them to send a signal. A signal is an action taken by an informed party in a situation characterized by adverse selection. Alex wants to signal to Princeton that she’s a good candidate for admission into the university. Haley shares her thoughts about the message that Alex is actually sending.
It’s Haley’s 21st birthday. She and Claire have decided to get coordinating tattoos. Claire got hers first and now Haley is having a change of heart. In this scene, we see time inconsistency and imperfect information. Haley is concerned that her preferences will change over time so she decides against getting the tattoo. Meanwhile, Claire already regrets her tattoo because Haley won’t be getting one – but it’s too late for Claire. Tattoos do not have a return policy! If Claire had known that Haley would change her mind, she would not have gotten a tattoo (imperfect information). This clip can also be used to compare and contrast two types of games in game theory – sequential games and simultaneous games. If you decide to get a tattoo with a friend but only because you’re doing it with a friend, make sure you get them simultaneously!
It’s Thanksgiving. For the first time, Claire is leaving the cooking to Phil…. or is she? She’s not. She made a fallback turkey, just in case Phil’s doesn’t work out. This demonstrates fallback position. Economists who study the family suggest that a person will stay in a relationship as long as the in-relationship utility is higher than the fallback position. While Claire isn’t considering leaving Phil for her fallback turkey, this clip can be used to discuss fallback positions. Claire has entered into a contract with Phil in allowing him to cook the family turkey. She will remain in that contract only as long as the benefit of eating Phil’s turkey is greater than the utility of eating her own turkey.
After a fight about decision making between Phil and Claire regarding Phil’s opportunity to manager a magic shop early in their marriage, Claire surprises Phil by buying the magic shop he originally wanted. One of the things that jumps out to Claire initially is that the previous owner sold her the shop for a very low price, which she now wonders why he was willing to do that. The economic concept of asymmetric information relates to knowledge that one party has in a transaction that the other does not possess. The concept of information asymmetry was the basis for the 2001 Nobel Prize to George Akerlof, Michael Spence, and Joseph Stiglitz.
Second to the information asymmetry, this clip serves as a basis for the discussion on entrepreneurship and competition in markets. While some businesses are started to serve the needs of an area, others are started as passion projects. The ability to owners of businesses to buy and sell their property is a critical requirement of competitive markets.
Claire and Phil go to a magic shop and talk business with the legendary Mister Ekshun. The magician laments that he can’t be at the shop everyday because he’s booking “road jobs” which we should infer have a higher payoff than the shop’s profits. Phil is curious about how a magic trick works, but they need to make sure Claire (a non-magic person) isn’t able to hear the trick. Phil learns that he had an opportunity to become a magician on a cruise ship earlier in life, but Claire had never told him about the call because of how busy their lives had been. One of the issues in determining the impact of an event is the lack of a good counterfactual to compare decisions to.
Haley auditions for work on a cruise ship. She didn’t get the job but why? Is it because she’s not in the right sorority or was it because she wasn’t as skilled as the others auditioning. If she was equally skilled and not selected because of some other characteristics (like not being in a sorority) then she would have been discriminated against.
Luke hires Haley to work for him at the golf club. Sometimes, her service is a little off putting but she is still his best worker and brings in good tips. She’s going through the process so that she can save up and move out of her parent’s home.
Haley works for a lifestyle company with a history of selling dodgy products. The latest one is stickers that improve people’s moods. Haley’s boss wants them tested, but can’t use animals so she uses the next best thing – her assistants.
This clip demonstrates the importance of labor law and regulations. Without enforceable regulations, some employers might require workers to complete dangerous tasks. Even with regulations, this still happens. Haley’s boss may know about the danger of the product and the importance of regulation, but perhaps doesn’t care?
Luke thinks he’s ready for college and meets with a community college admissions officer. He asks all the important questions like “how hard is it?” and gets some tough but realistic answers. The admissions officers tells him that after years of hard work, he’ll graduate and be qualified for an entry level job and steadily get promoted until, around age 45, he can expect a 3 bedroom house. Luke compares his current situation with this potential future and decides that maybe college isn’t right for him. But that may not be the correct counterfactual for his decision. The items that he considers free (meals, cable, and laundry) are just being paid for by his parents.
The Dunphy girls both have new boyfriends, but they are opposite of their traditional matches, and Phil and Claire would like to get to know them better. Haley’s dating an astrophysics professors and Alex is dating a firefighter. Astrophysics professors require years of high level education, while firefighters don’t require a college degree, but are skilled and well trained in their speciality.
The debate at dinner (and even among economists) is who has the most human capital? Human capital is the intangible assets that each member has, but since each work in different fields, their assets are not directly comparable. In the middle of lunch, Claire and Phil are also trying to determine who’s the smarter one between the two of them, and Arvin (Haley’s boyfriend) is upset because his theory has been debunked. Luke stirs up the drama with trivia questions, even referencing another popular clip to teach economics.
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.
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.
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.
Lily has the tough teacher but Cam and Mitch just learned of an opening in the “nice” teacher’s class. In this scene, the two approach Ms. Plank about transferring their daughter into Ms. Sparrow’s classroom. Education is one market where consumers have little choice. Some critics argue that this creates inefficiencies in the market while others argue that education consumers may not have enough information to make optimal decisions. Critics insist that giving consumers more choice would not necessarily lead to an improvement in efficiency. This sort of problem is discussed at many levels in education – from school choice to book choice. In this scene, it was clear that the Cam and Mitch were ill-informed of even their daughter’s preferences, but assume that Lily would have done better in the other teacher’s class despite not actually knowing Ms. Plank’s ability.
Haley, Phil and Luke are participating in a psychology study. Luke has convinced Phil that they should push the big red button that says “DO NOT PUSH” but Haley stops them. She says one in a million college drop outs go on to become Steve Jobs. The other 99 thousand don’t (her math is a little off). She recently dropped out of college and is having a crisis. This demonstrates several economic concepts including the importance of human capital and time inconsistency. Human capital comes from going to college but Phil reminds her that there are other sources of human capital. Time inconsistency occurs when you regret a decision in the past.
Alex is graduating from high school soon so Phil, Claire and the kids are visiting Cal Tech. Claire thinks Cal Tech is the perfect place for Alex but she’ll find out soon that she and Alex have different preferences. College is one of the ways that we build human capital. As we learn more things, we become more productive and our labor is more valuable. Alex is already really bright and loves academics so college is a good fit to set her up for doing impressive things in the future.
Claire wants a great school that’s close. Alex wants a great school that’s far away. We also learn that Cal Tech has 5 Nobel Laureates on staff, suggesting that Cal Tech itself has a lot of human capital, making it a highly productive college.
Alex learns why Cal Tech might be a better choice for her than an East Coast school. What is more important: the quality of the program or proximity to home? Choices are tough and everything has a cost. Here’s Alex’s current dilemma: stay close to home and attend the best program in the country OR go to a college on the east coast with a weaker program.
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.
Cameron gets Lilly a job as a child actor, but Mitchell is not excited about it and says no. Cameron doesn’t understand why Mitchell thinks he should have the final say in household decisions. Theoretically, decision making in the household production model tends to lean toward the spouse with greater access to resources (which Cam notes in the clip), but it doesn’t mean that partner gets to make all of the decisions. The unitary model assumes one spouse makes all the decisions as a social planner, but the bargaining model means that decisions are shared between partners.
Claire is feeling under the weather but has too much to do. Phil offers to help her out with her errands and pick up some slack until she feels better. One of the gains of partnerships is that if one person goes down, the other can pick up the slack.
Phil is trying to sell the family’s station wagon, but it has some issues that he knows would lower the value of the car. Phil words the advertisement in a way to make the car seem unique instead of defective. Akerlof famously questioned the existence of used markets in his famous Market for Lemons paper.
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.
Cameron gets a new job at a greeting card store and loves it because he is able to buy greeting cards with the employee discount. This greatly increases his greeting card purchases, and Mitchell points out that it is not saving them money, but costing them money. The discount represents a price reduction, which causes Cam to increase the quantity of cards he purchases. This can also be seen as a form of mental accounting where Cam prioritizes the savings instead of seeing the cost of each card.
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.
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.
You must be logged in to post a comment.