Alex is unsure of what she should do with her life and she’s avoiding her mom. Jay picks up on the situation and tries to provide some guidance. Alex has been dreaming of becoming a scientist her whole life, but lately she’s dreamed up becoming a singer. She can’t have both and recognizes that to pick a path requires giving up the other option. We’ve seen this indecision with Alex when she was trying to decide whether to spend her summer interning or relaxing. Jay hints that he used to be a daredevil, but he gave it up to become an entrepreneur.
See more: counterfactual, entrepreneurism, opportunity cost, sunk cost, tradeoffs
Haley is in a bind and can’t decide who she should spend her life with. Should she stick with Arvin, the successful scientist who has his life together, or should she go with Dylan, her high school boyfriend who is full of fun? Every decision we make, whether we realize it’s economics or not, has tradeoffs. There’s only so much time in our lives and we must make decisions. One of the difficult parts of “matching” is finding the right rate to minimize conflict and maximizing our happiness. Happiness, in this case, is known as interdependent. Her happiness will eventually be a function of her own utility, but also her spouse’s utility.
See more: assortative mating, interdependent utility functions, matching, opportunity costs, tradeoffs
Cam’s dad, Merle, is fighting with Cam’s mom and they are considering a divorce. While there are utility gains from separating from partners, Merle believes he can do better than his current wife because he sees Jay and Gloria as role models. Gloria, however, paints a bleak picture of Merle’s 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 entire 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. Cam and Mitch have to decide between time with their families or time with famous people. They don’t want to seem starstruck, but they also don’t want to be bitten by a snake in the name of family time.
See more: cost benefit analysis, opportunity cost, tradeoffs
Video cassettes have been replaced by DVDs and streaming services and are slowly becoming an outdated technology.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. Joseph Schumpeter conceived the idea of creative destruction in which new technologies are created at the cost of destroying old industries. From a labor economics perspective, growth in some sectors come at the cost of losing jobs in the industry that is replaced.
See more: creative destruction, Joseph Schumpeter, opportunity cost, tastes and preferences, technological change, technology, tradeoffs
It is the first day back to school for the kids, but it’s also Claire’s first day at her new job working for her father, Jay. 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. The Income Leisure Tradeoff model assumes that participants can decide between working at paid employment or spending their time in leisure, but household production is often encapsulated in leisure. The household production model recognizes that time spent at home in productive activities is different than time spent in leisure.
See more: employment, income leisure tradeoff, 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 Haley 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 as a stay-at-home-mom. The household production model assumes that agents decide between working at paid work or working at home and producing things that they could have bought with income. Both yield some level of utility, but some partners will specialize in household production depending on the relative wages of the other partner.
One of the downsides of specializing in household labor is that people lose specific and general human capital associated with market work. While Claire 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, mainly because everyone who didn’t drop out would have continued learning new skills. In labor economics, this is known as The Mommy Track.
See more: household labor supply, household production, human capital depreciation, job search, labor force, labor force participation, labor market, skills, tradeoffs, unemployment
With Lilly in school and Cam & Mitchell unsure about adopting another baby, Mitchell thinks it’s a good time for Cam to get a job. Mitchell works with his friend Longeness to secure Cam a job at a local boutique under the guise that the shop needs someone to work and Cam just happens to be available. Cam initially accepts because it seems like a great match for his tastes and skill set, but Jeoux lets the cat out of the bag that it wasn’t a sincere offer, and Cam is offended that Mitch thinks he is too lazy to get a job.
In the Household Production model, decision makers must decide whether to supply their labor for paid employment or supply their labor at home in household production. Cam lists many of the household production items that he produces with his labor, including paying bills, grocery shopping, and maintaining the house. Each of these items produce utility for the household, which could be purchased with Cam’s income. A secondary consideration of work, beyond the household production model is nonpecuiniary benefits of work like social interaction and purpose.
See more: household production, human capital, labor force, labor-leisure tradeoff, labor supply, 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. Sometimes people may not make rational decisions because of bounded rationality, whereby they have to make a judgement in a hurry and don’t have time to fully weight all of the costs and benefits. Phil appears to fall victim to this fairly regularly, as evidenced by his decision to buy an alpaca once.
See more: bounded rationality, 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 that day. He wants Claire to use them because otherwise their money just goes to charity, but Claire doesn’t know how she will find the time to be able to go. 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 before they expire.
See more: altruism, 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 Mitchell 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 its 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, positional good, quality of life, risk, risk aversion, standard of living, tradeoffs
Cam and Mitchell own a duplex, which they would normally rent to someone so that they could earn a bit of extra income. This time around, Cam’s sister, Pam, needs a place to stay while pregnant, so Cam offers it to her rent free. This has put a bit of a strain on Cam and Mitch’s relationship because Cam’s sister has stayed longer than they planned and they need the money from the rental.
See more: cost of capital, implicit cost, interdependent utility functions, 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, 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
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
Alex is hyper-aware of her future path into college and she knows playing an instrument will help her land in a prestigious college. Her parents had recommended she play the violin since it wasn’t as heavy, but Alex believes cellos are in demand in university orchestras, which should help her admission application. Part of the role of playing an instrument or sport (notice Alex’s lacrosse stick) is not necessarily that they are correlated with better students, but rather they serve as signal that students can maintain a rigorous academic load while also balancing extracurriculars.
See more: choices, college, demand, expectations, signaling, 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. 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
There are two concepts shown in this clip that can be used based on the portion of the course. First, Haley weighs two different career options and must consider the costs of each. Haley meets a woman who is interested in searching for a new husband who will die soon so that she can take their inheritance. The woman essentially offers to hire Haley as her personal assistant, but she’ll get to do leisurely activities. Luke tries to convince Haley to stick with the golf course because it provides a better future for her. Selecting one jobs means she can’t enjoy the benefits of the other.
The second concept covers the notion of labor-leisure tradeoffs. In the standard Income Leisure Tradeoff model, consumers are given a choice of determining their distribution of time based on the available number of hours in a day. Haley considers similar options here in terms of one job, with Luke, that requires a more work, but higher income while the other job provides more leisure activities. In this section, it helps students to realize that leisure has value similar to income and decisions makers are willing to give up income in exchange for leisure.
See more: employment, income leisure tradeoff, indifference curves, labor, leisure, nonpecuniary benefits, preferences, tradeoffs, wages
Phil has decided that decisions that can’t come to a resolution should be solved by flipping a coin. Phil has gotten one of those special coins for disputes between him and Claire. The two have been arguing for an hour about whether to be cremated and after being unable to land on a decision, Phil opts to flip the coin. As a final dispute, the two flip the coin to determine how they should spend their retirement account. Unfortunately for the kids, the coin decides that they spend it on a beach condo. Typical either-or-decision making involves a careful consideration of costs and benefits, but interdependent decision making may not be so easy.
See more: cost benefit analysis, decision making, either-or-decisions interdependent utility functions, tradeoffs