College Interviews

 

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.

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The Sauce Maven

 

Gloria and Jay are looking to sell her family’s sauce to a larger company. They each use a different tactic to make the product more appealing. In doing this, they’re trying to increase the demand for the sauce. Unfortunately, they don’t coordinate their strategies in advance and Jay blows the deal. In fact, 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. What do sellers usually do when they have a surplus? Are Gloria’s past actions consistent with traditional economic principles of rationality? Consider sunk cost and marginal costs.

(Note: this scene is an example of adverse selection. 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 magic.)

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Tankless Job

 

Phil is trying to sell the house next door to a couple. In order to make the house as desirable as possible, he wants to put his family’s best foot forward. He wants the buyers to want to live beside his family. So, he has the kids outside gardening. This demonstrates adverse selection, signaling and the importance of spillover effects/positive externalities. Good, helpful neighbors are desirable and can increase a property’s value, especially if they take good care of their yard. Thus, there are positive externalities associated with landscaping. To discuss signaling and adverse selection, consider that someone is less likely to move if the neighbors are good than if they are bad. So, it’s entirely reasonable to consider the housing market as being characterized by adverse selection. Phil is doing all he can to signal that he and his family are good neighbors in order to get the couple to by the house and to pay a high price for it. But are they good neighbors? (At the end of this clip, you’ll see the other possible new neighbors. Which new family would each of the Dunphys prefer to live beside? Why?)

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Interviewing for a Job

 

Haley is interviewing for a job and it isn’t going well. The labor market is often characterized by adverse selection – there are more candidates who are not suited for a particular job than who are well suited and it’s tough to tell them apart. Screening is an action taken by an interviewer to determine whether or not a candidate will be a good fit. Signaling is action taken by the candidate in order to demonstrate that s/he is a good fit. What examples of signaling and screening are in this scene?

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Only Bees in the Home

 

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.

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