Interesting Economics

If you’ve enrolled in an average Economics 101 classes,  you’d probably be spending time on (deceptively) simple-looking graphs and chanting mantras like ‘quantity demanded falls as price increases’ and such. But questions like those below are what (I think) makes the subject much more interesting:

  • Why do women endure the discomfort of high heels?
  • Why is milk sold in rectangular containers, while soft drinks are sold in round ones?
  • Why are DVDs sold in much larger packages than CDs, even though the two types of disc are exactly the same size?
  • Why do shops put up signs in their windows saying that guide dogs are permitted inside?

Robert H Frank, an Economics professor at Cornell University hands off this assignment to his students :

Use a principle, or principles, discussed in the course to pose and answer an interesting question about some pattern of events or behaviour that you personally have observed.”

In addition, they were not to use academic buzzwords (which I personally think Economics have too much of). “Imagine yourself talking to a relative who has never had a course in economics. The best papers are ones that would be clearly intelligible to such a person, and typically these papers do not use any algebra or graphs”.

There are some rather interesting results from the assignment, as students attempt to explain the apparent paradoxes of life using economic lenses. Not sure how much of them are really true – but interesting perspectives nonetheless, I think. Here’s the link to about 15 examples.

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