Thursday, February 15, 2007

Super Bowl Losers' Gear

Have you ever wondered what happens to all of the t-shirts and hats that say "Chicago Bears: 2007 Super Bowl Champs" after they lose the game? They have the hats and t-shirts available right after the game so they have to produce them for both teams without knowing who the eventual winner will be. Here is the answer:

By order of the National Football League, those items are never to appear on television or on eBay. They are never even to be seen on American soil.They will be shipped Monday morning to a warehouse in Sewickley, Pa., near Pittsburgh, where they will become property of World Vision, a relief organization that will package the clothing in wooden boxes and send it to a developing nation, usually in Africa.

This way, the N.F.L. can help one of its charities and avoid traumatizing one of its teams."Where these items go, the people don’t have electricity or running water," said Jeff Fields, a corporate relations officer for World Vision. "They wouldn’t know who won the Super Bowl. They wouldn’t even know about football."

(Source: The Sports Economist)

Non-Scientific Evidence on Minimum Wage Effects

Here is some anecdotal evidence to support what we have discussed as the main effect of a minimum wage increase: New wage boost puts squeeze on teenage workers across Arizona

That's certainly not the case under the state's new minimum-wage law that went into effect last month. Some Valley employers, especially those in the food industry, say payroll budgets have risen so much that they're cutting hours, instituting hiring freezes and laying off employees.

Mark Messner, owner of Pepi's Pizza in south Phoenix, estimates he has employed more than 2,000 high school students since 1990. But he plans to lay off three teenage workers and decrease hours worked by others. Of his 25-person workforce, roughly 75 percent are in high school. "I've had to go to some of my kids and say, 'Look, my payroll just increased 13 percent,' " he said. " 'Sorry, I don't have any hours for you.' "

Tom Kelly, owner of Mary Coyle Ol' Fashion Ice Cream Parlor in Phoenix, voted for the minimum-wage increase. But he said, "The new law has impacted us quite a bit." It added about $2,000 per month in expenses. The store, which employs mostly teen workers, has cut back on hours and has not replaced a couple of workers who quit.

(Source: Division of Labour)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

More on the Economics of Crime

At the beginning of this semester, we read a chapter out of David Friedman's Hidden Order that discussed how to keep people from burglarizing your house by posting fake signs, etc. Stephen Dubner has a post on the Freakonomics Blog that continues on that same theme. Here are some of the tips he cites:
1. If you do keep cash in the house, leave a little of it where the burglar can find it, in the hope that he’ll think that’s all there is.
2. Leave visible a list showing that all your valuables are tucked away in a safe-deposit box.
3. If you have kids, consider hiding cash in their rooms: they’re too messy for a burglar to bother with and burglars assume that parents wouldn’t take a chance of hiding money where their kids might find it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Congestion Pricing

The NY Times has an article up about congestion pricing on roads and highways. Congestion pricing involves charging a toll to motorists to reduce congestion on roads -- in particular, varying the toll based on how much congestion & traffic there is.

The reasoning behind congestion pricing:
congestion pricing holds out the possibility of harnessing people’s innate economic rationality and self-interest in order to promote a series of public goods. Every time a driver turns onto the Henry Hudson Parkway, she slows down the travel speed of all the other drivers, imposing a cost — or, as economists say, a negative externality — on countless fellow citizens. “Everybody wants fewer people to drive, and everybody wants people to use less gas,” said Gregory L. Rosston, deputy director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research in Palo Alto, Calif.

But so far, high gas prices and concerns about emissions haven’t led Americans to alter their driving patterns significantly. By making people take into account the true cost of driving — beyond gasoline, insurance and lease payments — congestion pricing in theory encourages people to car-pool, or to drive at different times of the day, or to take the train or bus.
The most famous implementation of congestion pricing is in London, where you have to pay a toll to drive in the center of the city. In the United States, most cases of congestion pricing have been implementing a toll to drive in an "express lane."

What do you think of charging tolls in this way? What are the pros and cons?

I particularly like this quote from the article:
“Everyone accepts that if your car is stationary, it’s fine to pay for parking,” said Alexander Tabarrok, professor of economics at George Mason University. “But if you tell people they have to pay to move their car between two points, they think it’s crazy.”
This subject is one that we may also discuss in class because I did some graduate research in this area.

(Source: Greg Mankiw's Blog)