Glue Sticks for College

 

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 the requirements or competitiveness in the application process.

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Prom Signals

 

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.

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Peppers!

 

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)

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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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A Spider in the Courtroom

 

It’s Halloween and Americans love to wear costumes. Sometimes, they wear costumes to work. This scene underscores the importance of professional dress. The way that we dress is a signal to the world about who we are. Is the stenographer sending the right signal to the court by wearing a spider costume? Do you suppose she would have gotten the job if she dressed like this for the interview? Her choice of attire also casts a negative externality in court as Mitchell and the jury aren’t able to concentrate as well. These social costs are likely outweighing her private benefits.

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Ms. Crank

 

Lily has the tough teacher but Cam and Mitch just learned of an opening in the nice teacher’s class. In this scene, they approach Ms. Plank about transferring Lily into Ms. Sparrow’s classroom. Education is one of the markets where consumers have little choice. Some argue that this creates inefficiencies in the market. Others argue that education consumers may not have enough information to make optimal decisions so 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.

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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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Preferences and Tradeoffs for Cal Tech

 

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.

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Preschool Admissions

 

Cam and Mitch are trying to get Lily into the best preschool they can, and preschool admissions are normally very competitive, but they think that being gay and having a minority child will give them a leg up in the admissions process. The market for daycare appears to be a monopolistically competitive environment in which firms differentiate their offerings to appeal to different parents.

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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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Only an Orthopedic Surgeon

 

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.

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2 Failed Marriages

 

Rainer proposes to Haley at dinner, but then the weather turns outside and he’s unsure if he made the right decision. In his back-and-forth about whether this was the right move, he brings up the fact that he’s already messed up one marriage. He notes that messing up one marriage is okay, but if you mess up two marriages then it sends a signal that he’s the problem in the relationship and it will lead to losing a potential sponsorship.

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