Wednesday, April 25, 2018

From the Homeschool Front … To go or not to go, that is the question by Colleen Hroncich

My oldest daughter is a junior in high school this year. As you might suspect, that means the college search is upon us in earnest. When my husband and I were her age, the only question was which school to attend. My daughter is wrestling with a much tougher decision … to go or not to go.

The world is changing. That sounds trite, but it’s true. These days, people are likely to change jobs several times; that wasn’t the case when I was growing up. Thus a four-year degree in one field might not be as helpful as it once was.

Rapidly changing technology means that what you learn in school might not be applicable when you graduate. This is particularly true in computer fields. I have a cousin who works in computers; he has no college degree and never gets asked about it. Potential employers just want to know his certifications and experience.

There are some careers, like medicine and law, which still require a college degree and that isn’t likely to change soon. However, for many other professions, experience can be just as valuable. Spending four years at an entry level position in your chosen field – gaining experience and earning an income – may be more useful than spending those years in school. Moreover, the internet has opened up massive entrepreneurial opportunities to anyone with a computer, a good idea, and a willingness to work.

On the flip side, college can be a lot of fun – and I don’t just mean for party animals. There are friends to meet, clubs to join, trips to take. I studied in Ireland for three semesters and it was a great experience. I’d like my kids to have the chance to study abroad.

Through classes and other college experiences, I learned a lot about my field (economics) and life during my time in school. I matured and grew more confident in my abilities. Of course, working can confer many of those same benefits without the debt, so the debate continues.

My daughter is smart enough to know she doesn’t want to graduate with a mountain of debt, so part of her decision will be made based on how she does in the scholarship and financial aid hunt. She is also looking into an exciting apprenticeship program called Praxis that helps jumpstart young adults in startup careers. I’ll share more about this program in a future post.

To go or not to go. In the end, I suspect my daughter will decide to go to college. There are good arguments to be made on both sides, though, so it isn’t an easy decision. 


Colleen Hroncich loves that homeschooling allows her to learn right alongside her children. A published author and former policy analyst, Colleen’s favorite subjects are economics/public policy and history. She has been active in several homeschool co-ops and is a speech and debate coach.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

econlife - What We Don’t Know About Dirt by Elaine Schwartz


Next time you go to a Major League Baseball game or even a local stadium, take a good look at the infield. There’s no such thing as normal dirt anymore.

Where are we going? To how dirt dealers compete for baseball business.

But first, some infield insight…


How Dirt Differs


Our story starts at Slippery Rock University. Located in Western Pennsylvania, the school needed an infield for its new baseball stadium. A nearby dirt dealer, who had never done an infield before, got the job. But then he had to figure out which dirt to use. Bringing samples to the field, he appears to have wound up with a unique silt, clay, and sand mixture.

You can imagine what the goals are. You don’t want “a trail of chunks” from baserunners. You want the surface to remain smooth so the ball doesn’t take some weird hops. Meanwhile the pitcher needs a gloppier mix for a more secure foothold. And then there’s the weather. With a sufficiently absorbent surface, you can minimize the rain delays and cancellations.

DuraEdge Products was the Pennsylvania firm with a new dirt recipe. From Slippery Rock, their business expanded to the Philadelphia Phillies and to other Major League stadiums. The following map shows some teams that have their infields:


Why_Western_Pennsylvania_dirt_is_used_in_the_infields_of_most_MLB_stadiums___Pittsburgh_Post-Gazette-3


Our Bottom Line: Monopolistic Competition


In monopolistically competitive markets, small and medium size firms sell very similar products. So it makes sense that they try to differentiate themselves. If you are in the infield surface business, then you might say your clay is unusual or your silt is special. Your goal is to move to the right on a competitive market structure continuum to get some pricing power:

Edit_Post_‹_Econlife_—_WordPress-2

The result? Even dirt can provide a competitive advantage.

My sources and more: Since we’ve already looked at sand, I was curious about this WSJ article on dirt. And that took me to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Hazlegrove-6763_6b
Ideal for the classroom, econlife.com reflects Elaine Schwartz’s work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

econlife - The One Thing We Should Know About Making Sneakers by Elaine Schwartz



Like an iPhone, your sneaker is really a bunch of components that wind up in one factory.

Now though, all of that is changing.


The Old and New Way to Make a Sneaker


The Old Sneaker Supply Chain

Starting with design and ending with the manufactured shoe, we have an 18-month supply chain. A new shoe needs a design, a pattern and prototype testing. From there factories need specs, tooling and sample production. Once ready, the shoe moves through a manufacturing process and shipping that can take 120 days.

Take the “outsole.” It begins as some rubber that comes from one place and is shaped somewhere else. Add to that some stitching and gluing and a midsole in still another factory.  The process at that point is pretty labor intensive and remains that way until we have a sneaker, a cargo ship, and a 60-day journey to a U.S. retail destination.

After design, this is the four-month supply chain:

Adidas_built_a_highly_efficient__Speedfactory__to_make_its_shoes_—_Quartz-2




















The New Sneaker Supply Chain

Knowing that consumers expect speedy fashion cycles, sneaker planners are trying to accelerate their supply chain.

At the design stage, the need for sample testing is being replaced by a virtual reality. Here, Nike working with NOVA (DreamWorks animation) has created virtual prototypes. Here also, 3-D printing is a time saver when it eliminates the need for factory-made samples.

Meanwhile, Adidas has been experimenting with a state-of-the-art “Speedfactory.” Shifting from labor intensive procedures to a capital intensive process, Adidas not only combined the old links but also took them closer to the consumer:

Adidas_built_a_highly_efficient__Speedfactory__to_make_its_shoes_—_Quartz-4

The goal is to compress the old supply chain down to four months:

Nike_and_Adidas_are_reimagining_the_way_they_make_and_distribute_sneakers_—_Quartz-1

Our Bottom Line: Structural Change


A speedy sneaker supply chain is about much more than one industry. Called structural change, that new supply chain affects landlabor and capital. It means that labor could need different skills and upgraded capital might boost productivity. Together, they jumpstart economic growth and upset the status quo.

The moving assembly line at Ford Motor was one of many reasons we’ve had structural change in the past. With the moving assembly line, chassis assembly time decreased by a whopping 9.7 hours per car. Combine that with consumers clamoring for the Model T during the 1920s and you get the perfect economic synergy between demand and supply.

Structural change that fuels economic growth could be shown through the following production possibilities graph. The arrow points to a new maximum potential output:

Production-Possibilties-Frontier
So, when you think about making sneakers, the one thing to remember is structural change.

My sources and more: H/T to the Marketplace podcast for alerting me to Quartz’s sneaker articles, here and here.

Hazlegrove-6763_6bIdeal for the classroom, econlife.com reflects Elaine Schwartz’s work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Barriers to Critical Thinking by Jim Triplett

I’ve taught at a number of colleges and universities, both online and in-person, in different locations in the eastern half of the United States.  Part of addressing challenging dilemmas found in critical thinking and ethics classes involves carefully selecting one's words, as the message one conveys should be clear, well-supported, and easy to understand for the intended audience.  A concern about offending others is a topic of debate these days on many college campuses:


Now consider a psychiatrist's perspective on the challenges of trigger warnings and microagressions as well as how critical thinking is one of a number of means to address them in this Psychology Today article.

Along with the failure of our education system to properly teach critical thinking, as Dr. Pomeroy suggested in the trigger warning article, one commonly finds defense mechanisms present in the outrage at others' perspectives with which one does not agree.  Defense mechanisms are a means of deceiving oneself in the presence of discomfort related to multiple competing perspectives, including one’s opinion on something that is countered by another equally or more valid perspective.  Splitting, a form of self-deceptions, is something common to politics.  Dr. Burton (2012) noted splitting “reinforces our sense of self as good and virtuous by effectively demonizing all those who do not share in our opinions and values” (para.  8).  He elaborates on splitting in this Psychology Today article.

Dr. Burton referenced groupthink as a potential problem with the limited thinking associated with splitting.  The challenges of groupthink also arise in environments where alternative perspectives are limited for fear of offending others.  While we want to consider how some topics may contain elements that are uncomfortable to some, it’s also important to learn from the uncomfortable elements as a means of making better decisions in the future.  Human history does not rhyme; however, there are quite a few similarities that with some critical thinking may be diminished.  As you reflect on microaggressions and splitting, consider some means to identify these in news broadcasts and school.

Burton, N.  (2012, March 13).  Hide and seek:  Understanding self-deception, self-sabotage, and more.  Psychology Today.  Retrieved from:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201203/self-deception-ii-splitting

Triplett - cover pictureJim Triplett is an author, instructional designer, and instructor in the areas of finance, economics, ethics, and critical thinking. Jim holds Masters Degrees in Finance, Organizational Leadership, and Instructional Design Technology, is ABD / PhD in Organization and Management, and is currently completing a doctoral degree, Ed.D, in Educational Leadership with a focus on Educational Technology.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

econlife - econlife Quiz: Do You Know Your Baseball Economics

With the baseball season soon to start, the econlife team is looking at the money, the players, and even the music in our latest quiz.



Our sources and more: ForbesStatista for MLB ticket prices, Statista for average MLB player ages, hot-dog.orgReutersThe Hardball TimesMLB.comMental Floss, and one of our own econlife blogs on umpire decision-making.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

From the Homeschool Front … The Law by Colleen Hroncich

In a previous post I discussed Frederic Bastiat, a French economist and politician who lived from 1801-1850.  One of his seminal works, The Law, was published not long before his death in 1850. At the time he wrote The Law, socialists in France were proposing government program after government program to “solve” perceived social and economic problems. Bastiat was trying to show people that the law is meant to protect their rights not violate them.

“The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!” Bastiat gets off to a roaring start on the first page of The Law.

Bastiat goes on to note, “Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty , and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.” The law is the “collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.” Thus the law should not be used for any purpose other than to defend the life, liberty, and property of all.

When the law is used to take from one group and give to another, Bastiat calls this “legal plunder” and denounces the practice. When the law permits the government to do to citizens what would be illegal for citizens to do to each other then the law has been perverted. Bastiat provides numerous examples of the injustices perpetrated by the government under the socialists’ plans: protective tariffs, subsidies, guaranteed profits, guaranteed jobs, and more. Examine these, he says, and you will find they are always based on “legal plunder, organized injustice.”

The best summary of The Law is probably Bastiat’s frequently repeated phrase, “The law is justice.” More precisely, he points out, the purpose of the law is to prevent injustice. If governments could stick to this definition of the law, freedom would abound.


Colleen Hroncich loves that homeschooling allows her to learn right alongside her children. A published author and former policy analyst, Colleen’s favorite subjects are economics/public policy and history. She has been active in several homeschool co-ops and is a speech and debate coach.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

econlife - What Census Takers Can Learn From Birdwatchers by Elaine Schwartz



On a South Australian beach, researchers placed thousands of fake terns. Arranging the birds in colonies of 460 to 1020, the scientists orchestrated a count…actually two counts. One would come from drone images and the other from birdwatchers. The goal was to see which was more accurate.

The winner was the drones.

When people counted the birds in the drone snaps, the results were 43% to 96% more accurate than what the birdwatchers reported. Because drones are increasingly used to gather data like whale populations in the Pacific and orangutans in Nepal, their accuracy matters. But we do have a second issue. Eagles have been observed attacking drones and bear populations have responded with heart attacks.

So, there is more behind a bird census than just counting. How you do it affects accuracy and the well being of the population you are measuring.

And that takes us to the 2020 decennial census.


The 2020 Census


We’ve been measuring the U.S. population every 10 years since 1790. Mandated by the Constitution, its basic purpose is allocating seats in the House of Representatives. However, we could say that the census is also an economic document. It costs the Congress money and provides data that tells where to spend money.

Cost

It is expensive to count more than 325 million people who live in 126 million households (2016). In 2000, the census cost close to $8 billion while in 2010, it was in the vicinity of $14 billion. Covering a 12-year life cycle, estimates for the 2020 census have ranged from $12 billion to more than $15 billion.

You can see that cost soars in 2020:

2020_Census_LCCE_Executive_Summary-1

Spending

Whereas the stated goal for the 2020 decennial census is population and housing data, that is only the beginning. From there federal agencies can determine how an estimated $675 billion will be allocated. They just need the data to identify their target communities.

HUD for example uses income and housing information for its assistance programs. One source of that information is the ACS (American Community Survey). But the ACS is an offshoot of the decennial. Published annually, the ACS gets its “sampling frame” from the decennial.

There are countless examples of how the decennial data are used. Federal, state and local governments use the data to make spending decisions about education, highways, Medicaid..the list is unending. Meanwhile, even small businesses can decide where to locate and invest. They can get handy demographic information on customers and even where low income concentrations might get them preferential tax treatment.


Our Bottom Line: Accuracy

The big worry for the 2020 census takers is accuracy. Looking back at 2010, they tell us that they undercounted renters, the black population, Hispanics and children under five years old.

Looking ahead, they cite the following problems:

2020_Census_LCCE_Executive_Summary

So, returning to our Australian fake terns, we just need to remember that how you collect the data matters for accuracy and well being.

My sources and more: My top recommendation is this Wired article on the bird watchers. But if you want to learn more about the decennial, the possibilities include articles from Brookings here and here. You also might go to the Congressional Research Service and of course, census.gov, here and here.


Hazlegrove-6763_6b
Ideal for the classroom, econlife.com reflects Elaine Schwartz’s work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.