When people leave Ohio, where do they go?

A few months ago newspapers in Columbus and Dayton trumpted stories with headlines like “More People Moving Out of Ohio.”  Both stories relied on data from large moving companies.  While data from United Van Lines and Atlas Van Lines is interesting, relying on moving companies for migration information presents a biased view of migration.  Continue reading

Update for 2017 on the “Cost of Going to the Prom”

In both 2014 and 2015 I wrote about the cost of going to the Prom. I found the results surprising. The cost of going to the prom from 1998 to 2015 was going up much slower than the cost of inflation. The findings appeared in outlets like the Washington Post, US News and The Conversation. It is now two years later.

What has happened since 2015 to the cost of attending the prom? Continue reading

What Has Happened to Maternity Leave Over Time?

The recent presidential campaign reminded us that the U.S. is one of only a handful of countries that doesn’t require companies to provide paid maternity leave. Maternity leave is important. One of the key reasons is because medical researchers have shown overwhelmingly positive effects when parents are able to spend time with their newborn children.
Continue reading

Has Black Friday’s death been greatly exaggerated?

Black Friday is hyped as one of the biggest in-store shopping days of the year, with stores trumpeting giant sales and even bigger advertising campaigns.  Some pundits claim that Black Friday is dying and is no longer relevant. However, the National Retail Federation issued a strong denunciation of these articles and declared that Black Friday is “far from gone.”  Which is the true story? Is Black Friday dying or still relevant? Continue reading

How to get the most candy on Halloween (without resorting to extortion)

Halloween is here, the night every year when children dress up in costumes and go “trick or treating.”  On the surface, that activity appears to be a relatively benign one. What could be more innocent than cute youngsters collecting sweets?

Halloween, however, is actually one of our only holidays based on extortion. When children scream “trick or treat,” they are essentially demanding candy in exchange for not doing a prank or something else that is nasty. Continue reading

Why is taking photographs banned in many museums and historic places?

Have you ever pulled out your camera or phone in a museum or historic place and suddenly found a staff person telling you “no photographs”?  I was in London recently and it happened repeatedly in places like Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and Parliament. The no-photos policy is not limited to just England but is a worldwide phenomenon. Visitors cannot take photos in places like the Sistine Chapel in Rome, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam or inside Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home.

Continue reading

How to kiss babies, Donald Trump style

Politicians have a long history of trying to be elected by kissing babies. However, with about four million babies being born in the U.S. each year, there isn’t enough time in the current presidential race to kiss enough newborns to make any real difference. So Trump is trying to find another way to convince Americans he cares about babies. Continue reading

Do Businesses Have to Accept Cash?

We’ve been talking about society’s transition to a cashless society for a long time, but it begs an important question: Can stores and other retail establishments refuse to take your dollars and cents?  As odd as it sounds, this is not hypothetical anymore as a small number of stores and industries have stopped accepting cash and allow payment only by credit card, debit card or via a smartphone app. Continue reading

Explainer: why does the price for turkeys fall just before Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is a great US holiday during which people consume huge quantities of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pie.  One of the stranger things about this holiday, however, is that a few days before everyone starts cooking, whole turkeys are suddenly discounted by supermarkets and grocery stores (see examples here or here).

And this happens every holiday season: the price falls just before Thanksgiving and stays low until Christmas. For example, November 2014’s price per pound for turkey was almost 20% lower than the price the previous March.  Why does the price come down at the one time of the year when demand for the product spikes the most – before a holiday that’s literally dubbed “Turkey Day”? Continue reading

Are Turkeys Getting More Expensive Over Time?

It is almost time for Thanksgiving, the holiday when many people in the USA cook and eat turkey.  As I was walking up and down the aisles of the supermarket yesterday, buying food for the holiday, I was wondering what has happened to the price of turkeys over time.

Continue reading

Why Google’s plan to blanket wilderness with Wi-Fi is a bad idea

Facebook wants to blanket rural India in cheap Wi-Fi. Google is launching balloons to do the same around the globe. Soon, it seems, there won’t be a square inch of Earth or the heavens that isn’t connected.

These ambitious plans beg the question: should there be places in the world where cellphones, tablets and other high-tech pieces of modern communications are off-limits and their use curtailed to emergencies only? Continue reading

Plain cigarette packaging: healthier citizens, sicker state finances?

Over the last few years, a new idea for improving public health has been slowly spreading across the world: a ban on selling cigarettes in packages with custom brand designs. Instead of selling branded tobacco, all cigarettes are sold in either plain packages or packages with grotesque pictures showing the health consequences of smoking.

The obvious question is: is it effective at reducing smoking rates? The less obvious one: what are the economic consequences of a healthier population? Continue reading

The tale of Uber and a 19th-century French economist

The French government and French taxi drivers are furious with Uber, the US car-hailing company.  At the end of June, the government arrested two top executives of the French division of Uber and is planning to bring them to trial. That came a few days after taxi drivers staged violent protests in Paris, burning cars and attacking other drivers who they thought worked for Uber. Continue reading

Why do stocks fall when the Fed considers raising interest rates?

A top-level committee of the Federal Reserve, the US’ central bank, is meeting this week to discuss when it should begin raising interest rates.  Why do stock prices fall when a country’s central bank boosts interest rates?

Continue reading

Are we overscheduling our children even from the moment of their birth?

Are we overscheduling our children even from the moment of their birth?

We live in an on-demand world. Movies are shown on request, food is delivered on call and drivers arrive when beckoned. As an economist, not a medical doctor, I was surprised to find new data that suggest more babies are showing up when scheduled rather than on their own time frame.

Numerous writers have suggested that parents, teenagers and children are all overscheduled. Should birth be scheduled too? Continue reading

Why Are Martha’s Vineyard and Other Island Getaways So Expensive?

President Barack Obama is currently taking a two week vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, a small island off the coast of New England. My wife and I took a short vacation on the same island and left a few days before the President and his entourage landed. The island has lovely scenery, warm water and many quiet places to relax. The island also is very expensive. While I didn’t do a professional survey since I was on vacation it seemed that almost all prices I paid were about 50% higher than what exists 45 minutes away on the mainland. On the ferry back to the mainland I came up with three reasons why Martha’s Vineyard and other island getaways like Nantucket are so expensive. Continue reading

What do zombies, pandemics and the price of eggs have in common?

What would you do if a Zombie Apocalypse occurred? I recommend going to the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Zombie website for information. It is incredible (see it here). While the Zombie website is real, the CDC is not actually concerned about an outbreak of the undead walking around the country. Instead, it uses the website to help create awareness for what to do in pandemics and other emergencies. Continue reading

Is it time to ban all individuals from shooting off fireworks?

Another Fourth of July is here, the time for backyard barbecues, picnics, cookouts, parades, swimming and fireworks.  One of those Independence Day pastimes, however, stands apart: fireworks. They’re a somewhat controversial topic in the US and are covered by a patchwork of different laws.
Continue reading