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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.