Thursday, February 28, 2013

What Will College Students Do For Money?

See The Student Body, for Sale: To meet the rising cost of college, students can call on at least one resource all their own by Don Troop of The Chronicle of Higer Education. If you can't access all of the article, I might be able to email it to you.

Students sell their plasma. Female students sell their eggs. Male students sell their sperm. Both females and males strip. They also get paid to be guinea pigs in medical studies. Excerpts:
"...60 percent of American college students graduate in the red, owing an average of $25,300..."

A male stripper said about his saturday night gigs: "I'd walk out with maybe $600 or $700 a night,"

"The sale of bodily goods or services—"body commodification"—is nothing new among college students. But strides in medical technology, the encroachment of market values on all facets of life, and the reach and culture of the Internet have combined to create a fertile environment for people who want or need to exploit the value of their skin or what lies beneath it..."

"Students sell plasma, take requests to perform custom erotic acts on Web cameras, or offer themselves as guinea pigs in paid drug trials. A master's student in Penfield, N.Y., says she was kicked out of her social-work program last June for snuggling with strangers—no sex allowed—for $60 an hour. A handful of Web sites, like, promise introductions to young and attractive men and women—often students—for "mutually beneficial relationships." An advertisement in campus newspapers at three elite colleges offers $35,000 for the eggs of a young woman with an SAT score above 1400."

"A 27-year-old woman in a suburban mid-Atlantic area dropped out of community college two and a half years ago to pay off bills and save up for a degree in graphic design. We'll call her "J." She had been eking out a living as a waitress when she decided to take a turn on the stage of a local strip club that paid $500 to the winner of its weekly amateur night. She remembers little about that night, except that she won the contest and brought home $700 in prize money and tips."

"The manager offered her a job on the spot, and she began dancing one or two nights a week, bringing home $200 to $700 per shift, ..."

""Students who strip can alleviate some of the stigma from their occupation by rationalizing their work," the two scholars wrote (Mary Nell Trautner & Jessica L. Collett). "Whether or not they rely on their earnings for tuition, these women believe that stripping is supporting a series of positive life choices they have been making," in contrast to "what they see as negative life choices of 'other' dancers." But there is a downside. Student strippers typically keep the job secret from family members, classmates, and professors, Ms. Trautner and Ms. Collett wrote, an arrangement that can leave them feeling alienated and estranged..."

"College newspapers and Craigslist carry advertisements seeking women and men, particularly students with high GPAs and SATs, who are willing to "donate" their gametes."

"Egg donors in the United States are typically paid $5,000 to $10,000, a voluntary ceiling established by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Sperm donors get about $100 per donation;..."

Is all of this degrading? "Economic sociologists such as Ms. Almeling, at Yale, and Viviana A. Zelizer, at Princeton University, believe that the reality is more complex. A transaction that many would see as corrupting might be viewed less judgmentally if it creates the potential for a positive result.

For example, says Ms. Zelizer, if a student exchanges sex for cash to cover her college expenses, she will regard that decision differently. "By saying, 'I'm doing it for tuition,' it kind of cleanses the money," says Ms. Zelizer, author of The Purchase of Intimacy (Princeton, 2005). "Prostitutes themselves differentiate between the money they earn from prostitution and the money they earn from clean sources, and they spend it differently.""

"The United States has become the world's biggest supplier of plasma in part because, unlike Britain and Canada, that part of its blood supply has remained a for-profit system. Mr. Healy says the poor, not college students, continue to be the largest proportion of plasma donors. But many students are on the lower end of the economic spectrum, and the proximity of plasma-donation centers to many colleges hardly seems coincidental." (one student got $25-$30 per donation)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Do Oscar Nominations Mean Money At The Box Office?

See Best Picture Contenders Earn Over $300 Million After Nominations. Excerpt:
"Much more so than in past years, the 2012 Best Picture Oscar contenders have collectively put up strong box office numbers in the six weeks since nominations were announced.

From nomination day (January 10th) through the Thursday before Oscars (February 21), the nine Best Picture nominees have grossed over $305 million at the domestic box office. That's a new record ahead of 1997's $260.9 million in the post-nomination, pre-awards period (over half of which came from Titanic).

There are a handful of factors that help explain this phenomenon, many of which simply have to do with scheduling. This year the nominations were announced earlier, giving a full 12 days more in the post-nomination, pre-awards period than there was the last two years. Also, seven of the nine Best Picture nominees opened in November or December, which is noticeably more than the five from 2010/2011 and the four from 2009. Finally, this is only the fourth year in the modern era in which there were more than five Best Picture nominees, which gives 2012 a major advantage."
I had a similar post last year. See What’s an Oscar Really Worth? One thing the article I quoted said was: "Oscar winners bring in 7.6 percent higher box office return on average than nominees that don’t win."

Friday, February 22, 2013

Is There Really A Honey Bee Shortage?

Fewer bees in US a threat to world's almond supply By GOSIA WOZNIACKA. The bees are needed for pollination and they have been suffering from colony collapse disorder in recent years.Excerpt:
"Bee brokers, beekeepers and almond growers around the state say there's a shortage of healthy honeybees for this year's pollination, especially after colony collapse disorder took a higher toll this winter. The disorder, in which honey bees suddenly disappear or die, wipes out thousands of colonies each year.

The shortage has some growers scrambling for bees — even sub-performers — as trees are about to bloom, driving up bee prices again this year, to an all-time high of more than $200 per colony.

"There's definitely a shortage of strong bee colonies," said Joe Traynor, owner of Scientific Ag, which connects growers with beekeepers. "There is a problem covering all the acres of almonds in the state.""
It is not clear that there is really a shortage. For a shortage, there has to be a greater quantity demanded than supplied at a given price. But as the supply of bees has decreased, the price as risen, as the article says. That is how markets work. Yes, there are fewer bees than there used to be, but that does not mean we have a shortage.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Do Illegal Immigrants Actually Hurt the U.S. Economy?

Click here to read the article from today's NY Times magazine. Excerpts:
"Illegal immigration does have some undeniably negative economic effects. Similarly skilled native-born workers are faced with a choice of either accepting lower pay or not working in the field at all. Labor economists have concluded that undocumented workers have lowered the wages of U.S. adults without a high-school diploma — 25 million of them — by anywhere between 0.4 to 7.4 percent.
The impact on everyone else, though, is surprisingly positive. Giovanni Peri, an economist at the University of California, Davis, has written a series of influential papers comparing the labor markets in states with high immigration levels to those with low ones. He concluded that undocumented workers do not compete with skilled laborers — instead, they complement them. Economies, as Adam Smith argued in “Wealth of Nations,” work best when workers become specialized and divide up tasks among themselves."
"In states with more undocumented immigrants, Peri said, skilled workers made more money and worked more hours; the economy’s productivity grew. From 1990 to 2007, undocumented workers increased legal workers’ pay in complementary jobs by up to 10 percent."
"There are many ways to debate immigration, but when it comes to economics, there isn’t much of a debate at all. Nearly all economists, of all political persuasions, agree that immigrants — those here legally or not — benefit the overall economy. “That is not controversial,” Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, told me. Shierholz also said that “there is a consensus that, on average, the incomes of families in this country are increased by a small, but clearly positive amount, because of immigration.”
The benefit multiplies over the long haul. As the baby boomers retire, the post-boom generation’s burden to finance their retirement is greatly alleviated by undocumented immigrants. Stephen Goss, chief actuary for the Social Security Administration, told me that undocumented workers contribute about $15 billion a year to Social Security through payroll taxes. They only take out $1 billion (very few undocumented workers are eligible to receive benefits). Over the years, undocumented workers have contributed up to $300 billion, or nearly 10 percent, of the $2.7 trillion Social Security Trust Fund."

Friday, February 15, 2013

Does Qatar Have The Highest Per Capita GDP Or Is It Another Country?

Click here to see the CIA rankings on capita GDP. Here is the current top 15:

Falkland Islands
Hong Kong
United States
United Arab Emirates

The estimates for a few of these countries is for a year before 2012. Qatar has been number 1 for 2-3 years.

But, Monaco, which is listed on the CIA page ranking total GDP, has a per capita GDP of about $179,000. It is not clear why Monaco is listed in the total GDP rankings but not in the per capita GDP rankings. Click here to see the CIA rankings for total GDP.

Monaco has a population of 30,510. It has a total GDP of $5,470,000,000. Both figures are according to the CIA. That would be a per capita GDP of about $179,000, much higher than any other country. But I have never seen Monaco in the per capita GDP rankings.

Click here to see the Monaco page at the CIA.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Special Valentine's Message On Romantic Love

Below is a repeat of last year's Valentine's day post. I am not sure if the links are still working:

The first one is Researchers at AAAS Annual Meeting Explore the Science of Kissing . The following quote gives you an idea of what it is all about: "Kissing, it turns out, unleashes chemicals that ease stress hormones in both sexes and encourage bonding in men, though not so much in women." I guess economists call this "interdependent utility functions." Meaning that what brings one person pleasure brings brings the other person pleasure, and vice-versa.

The other is Cocoa Prices Create Chocolate Dilemma. The article opens with "Soaring cocoa prices are creating a Valentine's Day dilemma for chocolate makers. They don't want to raise retail prices when recession-weary consumers are trying to limit their spending." The problem is crop diseases in Ivory Coast and Ghana. You might need to be a WSJ subscriber to read the whole article.

Here is a new article from yesterday's San Antonio Express-News (2-13-2011). Romance in bloom at workplace: Survey indicates 59% have taken the risk-filled leap. It seems like many people admit to having a romance at work and/or meeting their spouse at work. So what starts out as economic activity leads to some other needs being met.

Now the economic definition of romantic love.

Abstract: "Romantic love is characterized by a preoccupation with a deliberately restricted set of perceived characteristics in the love object which are viewed as means to some ideal ends. In the process of selecting the set of perceived characteristics and the process of determining the ideal ends, there is also a systematic failure to assess the accuracy of the perceived characteristics and the feasibility of achieving the ideal ends given the selected set of means and other pre-existing ends.

The study of romantic love can provide insight into the general process of introducing novelty into a system of interacting variables. Novelty, however, is functional only in an open system characterized by uncertainty where the variables have not all been functionally looped and system slacks are readily available to accommodate new things. In a closed system where all the objective functions and variables must be compatible to achieve stability and viability, adjustments in the value of some variables through romantic idealization may be dysfunctional if they represent merely residual responses to the creative combination of the variables in the open sub-system."

The author was K. K. Fung of the Department of Economics, Memphis State University, Memphis. It was from a journal article in 1979. More info on it is at this link. The entire article, which is not too long, can be found at this link.

Then there was this related article: Love really is blind, U.S. study finds. Here is an exerpt:

"Love really is blind, at least when it comes to looking at others, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.

College students who reported they were in love were less likely to take careful notice of other attractive men or women, the team at the University of California Los Angeles and dating Web site eHarmony found.

"Feeling love for your romantic partner appears to make everybody else less attractive, and the emotion appears to work in very specific ways in enabling you to push thoughts of that tempting other out of your mind," said Gian Gonzaga of eHarmony, whose study is published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.

"It's almost like love puts blinders on people," added Martie Haselton, an associate professor of psychology and communication studies at UCLA."

Monday, February 11, 2013

What College Majors Pay The Highest?

See this report from  

Click here to see more info from Yahoo Finance

Here are the top 15

Here is an excerpt from the Yahoo article
"Regardless of what career path you choose, Katharine Brooks, author of "You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career," says students need to think beyond their bachelor's degrees.

"Start acquiring experience early on in your academic career. Don't wait until your senior year to look for an internship," she says.

To get a jump on the job hunt, Brooks recommends students create a LinkedIn account, make contacts and reach out to professional associations in their field as soon as possible."

""Economics majors tend to pursue business and finance-related fields," says Brooks. "Banking and finance are in the top of the salary strata."

While econ majors do land lucrative gigs with banks and other financial institutions, the degree is also frequently used to establish careers in law, consulting, education, research, government, nonprofit and public policy work, reports the American Economic Association.

Brooks adds that how much you make corresponds more to your career field than your major. For example, an economics major who goes into nonprofit work may earn less than a liberal arts major who enters the financial sector. When choosing a major, Brooks encourages students to think about their desired career field and how well skills developed in a given major might parlay into different occupations."
But neuroscience says that maybe you will be more successful if you do something you love. Click here to read about that

Friday, February 08, 2013

Public universities spend more per athlete than they do per student

See Report Describes Big Gaps in Athletic vs. Academic Spending by Brad Wolverton of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Excerpts:
"Public universities in the six most powerful NCAA conferences surpassed $100,000 per player in median annual athletic spending in 2010, a new study has found—six to 12 times the amount those colleges spent per student on academics."

"According to the report, “Academic Spending Versus Athletic Spending: Who Wins?,” athletic departments in the Southeastern Conference—which have some of the swankest facilities and best-paid coaches—spent nearly $164,000 per athlete in 2010. That was 12 times as much as those institutions spent per student on academic expenses..."

"Only a couple of dozen athletic programs operate in the black, with many major-college programs requiring a substantial institutional subsidy to remain competitive. The less-wealthy FBS programs now spend $11-million to $14-million a year to subsidize sports..."

"Athletic costs increased at least twice as fast as academic spending, on a per-capita basis, across each of the three Division I subdivisions."
There are alot of interesting comments. One is from Chris Marrou (and it might be the former San Antonio news anchor). Here is his comment:
"When an academic criticized Darrel Royal's salary at the U. of Texas in the 1960s, he replied, "When a math professor can draw 80,000 people at Memorial Stadium by working out equations on a blackboard at midfield, I'll take a lower salary." And so it continues..."

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

IHOP Gives Away Free Pancakes And Gets Slammed

See Bird Road IHOP Slammed Yesterday During Free Pancake Day by Ily Goyanes of the Miami New Times. They wanted to raise money for charity. Excerpt:
"Cherry, a server who has been with IHOP for 13 years, told us they had been swamped the entire day. "From 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., it was like this. Then when school let out, it started again and has been this way nonstop."

""This way" refers to there not being a single table available and a waiting list. Did they raise a lot for charity, though? "We had a lot of teenagers.""

"Even though the majority of patrons were flapjack freeloaders, the restaurant was able to raise some funds for Miami Children's Hospital." "Most of the employees had been there since early in the morning. During our interviews, they were going on 15 hours of cooking, serving, and cleaning..."
Yes, strange things happen when you give a scarce good away for free. There is not enough to go around so people have to wait.

Click here to read about a mom who had a bad experience last year on free pancake day

Monday, February 04, 2013

Yesterday Was The 100th Anniversary Of The Ratification Of The 16th Amendment To The Constitution

It authorized a federal income tax. See Many Unhappy Returns—Millions of Them: It's the 100th anniversary of the 16th Amendment. Don't forget to file your taxes By JAY STARKMAN, from Saturday's WSJ. Excerpt:
"The country's first income tax was implemented to raise money during the Civil War. The tax was repealed in 1872 because the revenues were no longer needed. The idea was resurrected in 1894 as a populist measure to tax the rich when William Jennings Bryan successfully championed passage of a 2% income tax on annual income over $4,000. The rich denounced it as communistic and predicted that many would flee the country rather than pay the tax."

"Over the years, the personal exemption and standard deduction have not kept pace with inflation, so today 70% of the population is subject to income taxes. Almost 60 million returns, mostly under $20,000 in gross income, pay no income tax, largely the result of the earned-income and child tax credits. The individual income tax today raises $950 billion annually through 144 million tax returns. Of this, the top 40 million returns pay about $856 billion and the bottom 104 million returns only about $94 billion."
See also Mickelson and the Sports Star Tax Migration: If Lefty moves to a state with no income tax like Florida, he'll find he has plenty of elite athlete company by ALLYSIA FINLEY, from the WSJ, 1-27-2013. If you can't access either article, email me. I might be able to email them to you.

To see the history of federal income tax rates, go to U.S. Federal Individual Income Tax Rates History, 1913-2013 (Nominal and Inflation-Adjusted Brackets) from the Tax Foundation. In 1913, you paid 1% on all income up to $20,000. Any amount over $500,000 you paid 7%.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Fake Economist Fools Portugal

See The fraudster who fooled a whole nation: Portuguese media pundit exposed as conman: Artur Baptista da Silva faces prosecution after faking his 'career' as an economics expert by Alasdair Fotheringham of The Independent.

What a heinous crime, impersonating an economist. There surely is no punishment too great for this outrage. His behavior is an insult to all real economists. Make him walk the plank. Throw him to the lions in the Coliseum.

"As an ex-presidential consultant, a former adviser to the World Bank, a financial researcher for the United Nations and a professor in the US, Artur Baptista da Silva's outspoken attacks on Portugal's austerity cuts made the bespectacled 61-year-old one of the country's leading media pundits last year.

The only problem was that Mr Baptista da Silva is none of the above. He turned out to be a convicted forger with fake credentials and, following his spectacular hoodwinking of Portuguese society, he could soon face fraud charges.

Mr Baptista da Silva's conversion into the latest must-interview figure on the media circuit began when he turned up last April at Lisbon's main philanthropic institution, the Academia do Bacalhau, with a large supply of business cards – which, it later turned out, bore false credentials – and an impressive-sounding dissertation entitled Growth, Inequality and Poverty. Looking Beyond Averages which, it also transpired, was "borrowed" from its writer, a World Bank employee, via the internet.

At the time, Mr Baptista da Silva also claimed to be a social economics professor at Milton College – a private university in Wisconsin, US, which actually closed in 1982 – and to be masterminding a UN research project into the effects of the recession on southern European countries. He even, some reports say, tried to pass himself off as a former adviser to Portugal's President, Joaio Sampaio, and the World Bank."
Now if only more people watched more Law Order: Criminal Intent. Click on the link to see more information about that episode from 2002 titled "Phantom." Here is the description:
"Goren and Eames must untangle the story behind a mysterious man living a double life while telling his family that he is an economist for the United Nations. As his world of lies unravels, murder seems to be his only way out."
Here are links with more information on that episode:


Law Order Wiki