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!
See more: advertising, barriers to entry, brand names, branding, efficiency, imperfect competition, marketing, market power, monopolistic competition, patents, preferences, product differentiation, profit
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
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
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!
See more: behavioral, game theory, imperfect competition, intrinsic rewards, preferences, sequential moves, tastes and preferences, time inconsistency
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
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.
See more: education, human capital, human capital investments, information economics, market failure, preferences, school choice, signaling, skill building, textbook choice, tradeoffs
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 buy the house and to pay a high price for it. But are they good neighbors?
At the end of the scene, you’ll see the other possible new neighbors. It’s clear which family each of the Dunphys would prefer to live nextdoor.
See more: adverse selection, externalities, housing markets, negative externalities, positive externalities, preferences, private benefits, private costs, self interest, signaling, social benefits, social costs, spillover benefits, tradeoffs
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.
See more: cost benefit analysis, incentives, human capital, nonpecuniary benefits, opportunity cost, preferences, self interest, school choice, signaling, skill building, tradeoffs, utility
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
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
The Dunphy’s call Phil’s parents in the sweaters they were given as gifts. The call goes awry when Claire sees what looks like a cigarette burn in the sofa. In her anger she calls the sweaters ugly while still on the phone with Phil’s dad. One of the issues with gift giving is that the receivers wouldn’t purchase the items they receive for the same price that the buyers paid for the item. On top of the inefficiency from an exchange point of view, there are psychic costs associated with acting like you enjoy the gift as well.
See more: altruism, gift giving, irrationality, preferences, rationality
Phil surprises Claire with a new bracelet for their anniversary and Claire reciprocates with coupons for 5 free hugs, which Phil points out are usually free already. Claire is proud of her gift because Phil never wants anything, but Phil can list off many things he would like. Gift giving can be inefficient if it’s the two givers aren’t fully aware of the others’ preferences.
See more: coupons, exchange, gift giving, inefficiency, irrationality, medium of exchange, preferences, store of value, unit of account, wants
Cam and Mitchell are on their way to Costco for some diapers, but Mitchell is surprised that they purchase items at Costco. He questions when this started happening and Cam jokingly acts like he means to act of purchasing diapers. Cam implies that the new baby has caused an increase in their demand for diapers. It turns out that Mitchell really likes Costco!
See more: demand, elasticity, necessities, preferences, quantity demanded
Cam is talking to a lady at Lily’s play class about movies to make small talk, and they have very different opinions on how talented Meryl Streep is. Cam loved her performance in Sophie’s Choice and has a hard time thinking about having to choose between Lily and Mitchell. The first concept in the opening scene covers subjective preferences of individuals. Cam believes Meryl Streep is the best actress, implying he’s able to rank performers, a necessary condition of utility theory.
The ending scene ties back with the movie, Sophie’s Choice, where Streep must chose between her child or her spouse. Cam weighs the same issues and realizes he would struggle having to decide between saving family members. While most tradeoffs are not as serious, each decision we make includes opportunity costs, which must be considered in the decision making process.
See more: choices, preferences, ranking, opportunity cost, subjective value, tradeoffs, transitivity, utility
Alex has worked hard her entire life preparing for the perfect future, even learning how to play cello while playing lacrosse. She’s landed her dream internship, but it’s a very high stakes position and an extremely stressful environment.
While this decision troubles Alex, Phil steps into play a board game that Alex was just about to win. Alex has set Phil into a position to all but guarantee victory, but Phil decides to do something unexpected. While Phil uses this as a metaphor for Alex’s internship, it also represents the role of opportunity costs in our everyday decisions.
Every time we choose to do something, we are also choosing NOT to do something else. SO if Alex takes the internship, she’s giving up a relaxing summer that could be a much needed break for her. On the other hand, if she takes the summer offer, she may be missing out of an internship that could greatly influence her future career.
See more: choices, human capital, opportunity cost, preferences, risk aversion, scarcity, tradeoffs
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
Mitch and Cam have a house guest who made breakfast using the expensive caviar that they had been saving for a special occasion. While enjoying their wonderful meal, they realize that there are all sorts of things that they have never used because they were waiting for the perfect time. This demonstrates choice paralysis. Cam and Mitch have seemingly endless choices for when to consume these special things but they never actually do. Choice paralysis says that we have a difficult time making a choice when there are too many options. As a result, we cannot chose and end up with a sub-par outcome.
See more: choice paralysis, choices, framing, positional goods, preferences, utility, utility maximization
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
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
Gloria is sick and Cam tries to help around the house. Gloria’s family remedy for colds is a bit smelly and Cam accidentally uses Joe’s cape in the process. Gloria immediately recognizes this will be and issue and points out that Joe has a strict ranking set when it comes to that cape. Joe loves the cape so much more that he even places the cape above his own father. Part of utility theory requires transitivity, which is the ranking requirement of consumption.
See more: preferences, ranking, subjective value, transitivity, utility
Cam and Mitch have been married 3 months, but it seems like their honeymoon will never end. Cam continues to give Mitchell flowers even though he clearly doesn’t enjoy them as much as he used to. He may have loved the first bouquet, but eventually he may start to hate them.
See more: diminishing marginal returns, gift giving, inefficiency, preferences, rationality, utility