Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Is Student Debt Too High?

Economist Gary Becker asks that question on his blog. He concludes that student is not too high, especially considering:
On the other side of the ledger, higher tuition over time was related to sharply higher financial benefits from a college education. The typical college graduate earned per hour about 50 per cent more than the typical high school graduate in 1980, and the gap is now about 95 per cent. Earnings of graduates with a professional degree or other post-graduate education grew even faster over time than did earnings of college graduates.
His main conclusion is that interest rates on student loans should be determined by the amount of income you make after graduating from college:

Within any category of graduates, earnings vary considerably by type of job-- teachers and clergymen earn a lot less than investment bankers--and by degree of success within jobs. Fixed interest loans are not the best way to borrow when loans are used for risky activities. Returns on higher education are rather risky, even after adjusting for how they co-vary with returns on assets. Businesses often borrow with the equivalent of equity to finance start-ups and other risky activities, where the equity pays off well if the venture is successful, and pays little if the venture fails.

This suggests that student loans should not have fixed interest rates that require a fixed amount to be repaid per $1.000 borrowed, but rather should have the equivalent of an "equity" repayment system. That would mean that persons who earn very little repay little, while those who earn a lot repay a lot (per $1,000 borrowed). Requiring individuals who are repaying student loans to submit their income tax statements each year, so that lenders could document what the borrowers earned, could enforce such an income-contingent repayment system.

(Source: Becker-Posner Blog)

Economics of Procrastination

Marginal Revolution links to an article that looks for reasons why procrastination may be rational from an economic perspective:

But is it possible that there is also a rational component to our procrastination habits? There are at least three reasons why this might be the case. The first is that there are fixed costs to doing homework. Suppose that in order to do homework you have to run to Kohlberg for a mocha latté...and check your favorite five media outlets as a preemptive distraction. In that case, it makes sense to have longer homework sessions in order to reduce the total number of sessions (and number of fixed costs to pay). Thus, putting things off in order to concentrate the work for a paper in one epic block means that you don’t have to waste time setting up to write again and again.

The second reason is that there may be decreasing marginal costs to doing homework. Suppose that the second hour of doing homework is much easier than the first, and the third easier yet and so on. You get in the homework zone. Then it makes sense to make your homework sessions as long as possible in order to take advantage of these returns to scale in doing homework...

The third reason is that there might be “thick-market externalities” in doing homework. The idea is that if everyone else is doing the same thing that you are, it gets easier and more enjoyable. If all of your friends are procrastinating at the same time, then the opportunity cost of doing work is that you miss an excruciatingly funny episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”... Similarly, when everyone is doing work, the opportunity cost of work is very low. After all, “Curb” is far less excruciatingly funny when watched alone. So it makes sense to do work when your friends do work, and avoid work when your friends avoid work.

It is fitting to make this post now because I am cramming several posts into one post-wrestling match evening, after neglecting this blog for the past several days...

Any other possible reasons why procrastination could be rational?

(Source: Marginal Revolution)

Interesting eBay Price

Here is a gift card selling on eBay for more than face value. Why?

(Source: Marginal Revolution)

Why a Free Gift Bag?

A question from Austin:

Why do you always get free gifts with perfume, cologne, and makeup?

The answer cannot just be: "because it encourages people to buy more." Why is giving free gifts with a purchase very common with those products, but not others? What is it about those goods or the consumers that they are targeting that makes the companies provide free gifts?

(Source: Austin L.)