Cam’s dad, Merle, is fighting with Cam’s mom and they are considering a divorce. After seeing Jay with Gloria, Merle thinks he might be able to do better, but Gloria paints a bleak picture of his future. Does Merle really have better options waiting out there or would he maximize his expected utility by staying with his current wife?
See more: cost benefit analysis, expectations, opportunity cost, tradeoffs, utility
The family is visiting Australia and has a hike planned for the day. On their way to the van, Cam and Mitch get a text from an old friend inviting them to join him on Hugh Jackman’s yacht that day. Now Cam and Mitch have to decide between time with their families or time with famous people.
See more: cost benefit analysis, opportunity cost, tradeoffs
Video cassettes are being replaced by DVDs and streaming services and are becoming an outdated technology. Before getting rid of their VCR, Claire and Phil are going through their VHS collection and watching the movies one last time.
See more: create destruction, opportunity cost, tastes and preferences, technological change, technology, tradeoffs
It is the first day back to school for the kids, but also Claire’s first day at her new job working for her father, Jay. Claire’s husband 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.
See more: employment, household labor supply, household production, labor force participation, specialization, tradeoffs, unemployment
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 Hayley 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.
See more: opportunity cost, rationality, tradeoffs
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, and while she 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.
See more: household labor supply, household production, human capital depreciation, job search, labor force, labor force participation, labor market, skills, tradeoffs, unemployment
Since Lilly is now in school and Cam and Mitchell are not adopting another baby, Mitchell thinks it is time for Cam to get a job. Their friend Longeness offers him a job at his boutique to help Mitchell out. Cam accepts because it does seem like a great match for his tastes and skill set, but Jeoux let’s the cat out of the bag that it wasn’t a sincere offer, and Cam is very offended that Mitch thinks he is too lazy to get a job.
See more: household production, human capital, labor force, labor-leisure tradeoff, marginally attached, nonpecuniary benefits, search, tastes and preferences, tradeoffs, unemployment
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.
See more: acquisitions, college, education, entrepreneurism, human capital, human capital investments, mergers, opportunity cost, tradeoffs
Phil has to decide whether to leave his own firm and start his own with two old co-workers, but he only has a limited amount of time to decide. He remembers that he is not good under pressure by recalling a time that he bought an alpaca because it was the last one and he panicked.
See more: choices, cost benefit analysis, irrationality, rationality, tradeoffs
Phil finds gift certificates to a spa that he and Claire had won in a charity auction in a drawer, but they expire today. He wants Claire to use them because otherwise their money just goes to charity, but Claire doesn’t know how she will. Phil is falling victim to the sunk cost fallacy, while Claire is thinking in terms of the additional costs and benefits of using the certificates.
See more: irrationality, opportunity cost, rationality, sunk cost, tradeoffs
Pam’s ex-boyfriend is back in town and wants to get back together. Mitchel is all in favor of the reconciliation, but Cam is against it. Why is Mitchell so eager for her to move out? As long as Cam’s sister is in the apartment upstairs, they aren’t able to rent the apartment out and earn extra money. While Cam is trying to be generous for his family, Mitchell sees the missing dollar signs.
See more: altruism, cost of capital, implicit cost, opportunity cost, personal finance, rental income, tradeoffs
Cam convinced Mitchel that he needs to be kinder so Mitch invites a messy colleague who is going through a breakup to spend the night at their place. Unfortunately, she takes him up on it. Determined to keep their beautiful, brand new, designer white sofa (their one nice thing) in mint condition, they give up their bed for her and sleep on the floor. In this clip, they wake up and discover that she has moved onto the couch. This couch is more expensive than one from Rooms to Go and so it counts more towards GDP. Owning an expensive couch is an indication of Mitch and Cam’s high standard of living. Yet, does a high standard of living mean a higher quality of life? Robert Kennedy didn’t think so:
[GDP] counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.
–RFK, Speech at University of Kansas, March 18, 1968.
Another perspective on this clip: resources are scarce. At it’s heart, economics is about how we choose to use those resources. Purchasing this couch moved Mitch and Cam on to a higher indifference curve than before they purchased it so their utility is higher than it used to be. But could they have been on an even higher one if they chose to buy a cheap couch and spend their money on something else? Traditional economics says that Mitch and Cam are rational and made the best decision. Is it possible that they could have made a mistake? What if they incorrectly estimated the cost of maintaining the couch. Could this also demonstrate time inconsistency?
See more: altruism, GDP, gross domestic product, luxury goods, opportunity cost, quality of life, risk, risk aversion, standard of living, tradeoffs
Cam and Mitchell own a duplex. They usually rent the upstairs unit but Cam’s sister, Pam, needed a place to stay when she was pregnant so he offered it to her (rent free). This has put a bit of a strain on their relationship because she’s stayed longer than planned and they need the money from the rental.
See more: cost of capital, implicit cost, opportunity cost, personal finance, rental income, tradeoffs
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.
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 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?)
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, human capital, opportunity cost, preferences, school choice, signaling, skill building, tradeoffs, utility
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.
See more: comparative advantage, division of labor, labor force, labor force participation, labor supply, preferences, specialization, tradeoffs
Alex chooses the cello to play in the orchestra because she thinks cellos are in demand in university orchestras. Claire and Phil had recommended she play the violin so that she wouldn’t have to carry around so much, but Alex thinks she’s made the right choice.
See more: choices, demand, expectations, supply, tradeoffs
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. While each person has their own subjective preferences when it comes to entertainers, nearly everyone faces the same struggle of having to decide between saving family members.
See more: choices, preferences, ranking, subjective value, tradeoffs, transitivity
Alex has landed a dream internship but it’s really high stakes and stressful. Meanwhile, Phil has a tough choice to make in a board game. Every time we choose to do something, we are also choosing NOT to do something else. Does Alex really want the internship? What is its opportunity cost? Also, what should Phil do?
See more: choices, human capital, opportunity cost, preferences, risk aversion, scarcity, tradeoffs
While at work, Haley meets a leisure lover searching for a new husband who will die soon. The woman offers Haley a position as her personal assistant that includes getting paid for leisurely activities. Luke tries to convince Haley to stick with work because it’s better for her future, but she chooses the life of leisure.
See more: employment, labor, leisure, nonpecuniary benefits, tradeoffs, wages