Alumni College Talk

Speaking of Professor Finkler, on Friday he will be giving a talk for the Alumni College.   Here are the particulars:

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Care (aka Obamacare):
An Efficient and Equitable Path to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Health?

Professor Marty Finkler

Warch Campus Center Cinema
2:10-3:00 p.m.
Friday, June 17

Master of Supply & Demand… and Lots of Other Stuff

In a twist on the “Life After Lawrence” meme, Professor Merton D. “Marty” Finkler officially retired yesterday, after serving on the economics faculty for more than 30 years.  Professor Finkler is the consummate economist, always interested in talking about economics and ideas whether in class or at the ball game.   He also has a remarkable versatility, from his principal field of health economics to his core (and terrifying?) macro theory course to urban economics to sports economics to environmental economics and on to China.  It certainly is not possible to replace his expertise, at least not with one person.  Fortunately, he will continue to teach and engage with our students as an emeritus professor, beginning this fall with his Investments class.

Here he is pictured in his new hood (!), along with our faculty and one of our more photogenic students.   His Honorary Degree citation is below the break.

Last Hurrah

Continue reading Master of Supply & Demand… and Lots of Other Stuff

Masters of Supply & Demand

Congratulations to our 2016 graduates, many of whom walked the stage yesterday.  We were happy to see so many of you and your families at the Saturday reception.   We trust we will hear back from you at some point (and not just because you are applying for graduate school and need a recommendation(!)).

IMG_2401 (Small)

The Economics Department distributes (?) a number of awards each year, and here are the particulars:

The Iden Charles Champion Award in Commerce and Industry (Paper Prize)

  • Mishal Ayz, Astoria, NY, “A Game Theoretic Analysis of International Justice Disputes.”
  • Perrin Tourangeuau, Denver, CO, “Why Forests Fail: Exploring the Relationship between Institutions and Forest Management Outcomes in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.”

The William A. McConagha Prize for excellence in economics (Seniors)

  • Ruby Dickson, Louisville, CO
  • Zachary Martin, Brookfield, WI
  • Perrin Tourangeuau, Denver, CO

The Philip and Rosemary Wiley Bradley Achievement Scholarship in Economics (Juniors)

  • Dylan Geary, Overland Park, KS
  • Mattias Soderqvist, Stockholm, Sweeden


Supply & Demand in the News

From *both* of my final exams administered today….

Illustrate each of the following using “comparative static” analysis.   That is, draw a supply and demand graph, show a shift in supply or demand consistent with the headline.

Even with lots of fish, halibut prices high,” Homer News, June 7, 2016

Salmon prices are rising due to the death of millions of fish in Chile,” Daily Mail, June 7, 2016

Lumber Prices Tumble as Demand From China Falls,” 24/7 Wall Street, January 20, 2016

And my personal fave:

Germany had so much renewable energy on Sunday that it had to pay people to use electricity,” Quartz May 10, 2016

Finally, for the environmental students, we give you:

Fish Factor: Permits plummet, halibut prices soar,” Juneau Empire, March 16, 2016


The New Economics of Religion

That’s the title of a June 2016 Journal of Economic Literature piece, available at a website near you.   Typically, this wouldn’t warrant a response from the Lawrence Economics Blog, but typically you don’t see accolades like this directed towards one of our own:

One of the classic papers written on the economics of religion, Azzi and Ehrenberg (1975), summarized the literature on what the empirical correlates of religiosity had discovered about the United States until then.

Wow, classic papers!  If you see Professor Azzi, be sure to ask him about the genesis of that paper.

  • Sriya Iyer. 2016. “The New Economics of Religion.” Journal of Economic Literature, 54(2): 395-441.
  • Corry Azzi and Ronald Ehrenberg. 1975. “Household Allocation of Time and Church Attendance.” Journal of Political Economy 83 (1): 27–56.

Economics / Science Hall Colloquium, Monday at 4:30, Wriston Auditorium

Professor Elizabeth J. Wilson from the Humphrey School of Public Policy at the University of Minnesota will be here Monday to talk about the (potential) future of electricity systems.

Professor Wilson is a rather extraordinary interdisciplinary scholar, with a background in environmental science and a Ph.D. in Engineering & Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.  She is the recipient of one of the inaugural (2016) Andrew Carnegie Fellowships for her project “Nuclear Futures in a Windy World: A Comparative Analysis Balancing Energy Security, Climate Change, and Economic Development.”  She will spend the 2016-17 academic year in Denmark working on that.

Here is a blurb of her talking about sustainability and interdisciplinary research.

We will see you there.




10 Ways to Tell If You Are Sitting Next to an Economist

keynes and friedmanYou may have heard that an economist was taken off an airplane for working on equations that employed Greek letters.  It turned out to be an Italian economist working out a differential equation.  The Buttonwood column of the Economist provides some advice for those who might not know if they are sitting next to an economist (or who the two people pictured above are.)

For starters, here’s one clue.

He keeps telling you that “there is no such thing” as a “complimentary refreshment service.”

For the rest, check out the Buttonwood column.


Five Big Truths About Trade

In a recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Princeton economist and former vice-chair of the Federal Reserve, Alan Blinder attempts to add constructive insight to the political discussion regarding international trade.  Below you will find the Five Big Truth he cited.  I encourage you to read the details.

  1. Most job losses are not due to international trade.
  2. Trade is more about efficiency – and hence wages – than about the number of jobs.
  3. Bilateral trade imbalances are inevitable and mostly uninteresting.
  4. Running an overall trade deficit does not make us “losers.”
  5. Trade agreements barely affect a nation’s trade balance.

If you can’t access the Wall Street Journal, use the entry on Greg Mankiw’s blog.

Springing Forward

It is that time of year where the days get longer, aided by a single leap and bound.  This Saturday into Sunday, much of the US will push its clocks forward by one hour.  Despite the “Daylight Savings” moniker, there is no actual daylight saved — it just shifts an hour from the morning to the evening.   The consequences of this likely will affect whether some people live through the rest of March or not, as I pointed out in the New York Times Room for Debate section a few years ago.  My contribution has to do with the changes in pedestrian fatality risks and total fatalities associated with the time change.  I also wrote a more general piece for the Appleton Post-Crescent.  Below is my semi-annual rehash of a previous post…

So, what does a time change look like?  Glad you asked:  The figure from the sunshine authority,, shows daylight patterns for our own Appleton, Wisconsin.  Each day starts with midnight at the bottom and goes to the top, and the months go left to right.  The blue line is the dawn and the red the dusk.

The Appleton Day
Appleton Time

The switch to DST in March and the switch back to standard time in November are clear — they are the discontinuities (the “breaks”) in the sunrise and sunset curves.  Because we “spring ahead” one hour, the sunrise time on Sunday morning will be one hour later than it was on Saturday.  An early morning walk that was in that daylight on Saturday will be in the dark on Sunday.  To have a sunrise at the same time as Saturday’s, we will have to wait until early April.  The opposite happens in the evening.  Sunset will be one hour later starting on Sunday.  There will be less light in the morning, but more light in the evening.

Light and visibility are extremely important determinants of traffic safety, particularly for pedestrians.  Paul Fischbeck and I looked at data from 1999-2005 on fatalities and travel patterns, and determined that the morning risk increases about 30% per mile walked, while the afternoon risk falls close to 80%.

The figure below shows pedestrian fatality risks from 1999-2005.  The blue and maroon bars show fatality risks per 100 million miles walked in March and April, respectively.  Note that for the 6 a.m. time slot the risks increase about 30%, whereas for the 6 p.m. time slot the risks take a sharp nosedive.  At midday the risks stay right about the same (we found no statistically significant difference in risks for that time period).  Overall, total pedestrian fatalities decrease in the Spring both because risks fall more in the evening than they rise in the morning, and there are many more people out later in the day.

Ped Spring

These data are rather crude in the presentation, as they do not focus specifically on the days leading up to and immediately following the time shifts, which is how researchers typically isolate the effects of the time change.

Here are some references for those interested:

S A Ferguson, D F Preusser, A K Lund, P L Zador, and R G Ulmer “Daylight saving time and motor vehicle crashes: the reduction in pedestrian and vehicle occupant fatalities,” American Journal of Public Health 1995 85:1, 92-95

J M Sullivan and M J Flannagan, “The role of ambient light level in fatal crashes: inferences from daylight saving time transitions,” Accident Analysis & Prevention, 2002 34:4, 487-498

D Coate and S Markowitz, “The effects of daylight and daylight saving time on US pedestrian fatalities and motor vehicle occupant fatalities,” Accident Analysis & Prevention, 2004, 36: 3 351-357

2016-17 Draft Schedule

Click here for the Draft 2016-17 schedule.   There will be some changes to this, but that is effectively what we are looking at for next year.


Fall Term 2016 ** DRAFT **
Fall Term 2016 ECON 100 (5483) INTRODUCTORY MICROECONOMICS (Q) (L:40 R:0 W:0) ● 09:50-11:00 MWF Jonathan Lhost

Fall Term 2016 ECON 245 (5484) LAW AND ECONOMICS (L:25 R:0 W:0) ● 12:30-02:20 TR Jonathan Lhost

Fall Term 2016 ECON 300 (5485) MICROECONOMIC THEORY (Q) 08:30-09:40 MTWF Adam Galambos
Fall Term 2016 ● ECON 421 (5486) ● INVESTMENTS ● 09:00-10:50 TR ● Merton D. Finkler
Fall Term 2016 ● ECON 481 (5487) ● ADV ECONOMETRICS & MODELING ● (L:15 R:0 W:0) APR ● 01:50-03:00 MWF ● Hillary Caruthers
Winter Term 2017 ** DRAFT **
Winter Term 2017 ECON 100 (1482) INTRODUCTORY MICROECONOMICS (Q) (L:40 R:0 W:0) ● 01:50-03:00 MWF Hillary Caruthers
Winter Term 2017 ECON 205 (1483) INTRO TO INTERNATNL ECONOMICS (G) (L:25 R:0 W:0) ● 09:50-11:00 MWF Hillary Caruthers
Winter Term 2017 ECON 215 (1484) COMPARATIVE ECONOMIC SYSTEMS (G) 11:10-12:20 MWF Adam Galambos
Winter Term 2017 ECON 255 (1480) START-UP THEATRE APR ● 01:50-03:00 MWF Staff
Winter Term 2017 ECON 380 (1489) ECONOMETRICS (Q) 09:50-11:00 MTWR Jonathan Lhost
Winter Term 2017 ECON 380 (1505) ECONOMETRICS (Q) 03:10-04:20 MTWR Jonathan Lhost
Winter Term 2017 ECON 450 (1485) ECONOMICS OF THE FIRM (Q) Arranged David Gerard
Winter Term 2017 ECON 495 (1486) TOP: NEW INSTITUTNL ECONOMICS Arranged David Gerard
Winter Term 2017 ECON 601 (1487) SENIOR EXPERIENCE: READING OPT 12:30-02:20 T Adam Galambos
Winter Term 2017 ECON 602 (1488) SENIOR EXPERIENCE: PAPER APR ● Arranged Jonathan Lhost
Spring Term 2017 ** DRAFT **
Spring Term 2017 ECON 100 (3520) INTRODUCTORY MICROECONOMICS (Q) (L:40 R:0 W:0) ● 08:30-09:40 MTWR David Gerard
Spring Term 2017 ECON 225 (3521) DECISION THEORY 11:10-12:20 MWF Adam Galambos
Spring Term 2017 ECON 280 (3522) ENVIRONMENTAL ECONOMICS (L:25 R:0 W:0) ● 12:30-02:20 TR David Gerard
Spring Term 2017 ECON 320 (3525) MACROECONOMIC THEORY (Q) 09:50-11:00 MTWR Hillary Caruthers
Spring Term 2017 ECON 320 (3542) MACROECONOMIC THEORY (Q) 03:10-04:20 MTWR Hillary Caruthers
Spring Term 2017 ECON 400 (3523) INDUSTRIAL ORGANIZATION (Q) (L:15 R:0 W:0) ● 11:10-12:20 MWF Jonathan Lhost
Spring Term 2017 ECON 405 (3524) INNOVATION & ENTREPRENEURSHIP 08:30-09:40 MWF Adam Galambos
Spring Term 2017 ECON 415 INDIVIDUALITY & COMMUNITY (L:18 R:0 W:0) ● 12:30-02:20 TR Steven Wulf

Click here for course descriptions.

The Evangelical (and Wisconsonian) Roots of American Economics

Bradley W. Bateman, President of Randolph College, Keynesian scholar, and frequent visitor to Lawrence, has a piece up at The Atlantic Monthly today on the surprising religious past of American economics.

A big part of the story is the leadership of Richard T. Ely, an extremely controversial figure who spent more than thirty years of his career at the University of Wisconsin directing the School of Economics, Political Science, and History.

Of course, the religious roots were not long-lived, as President Bateman notes:

It is, of course, hard to recognize this earlier type of economist in today’s profession. Like the university, the discipline of economics was secularized after 1920. Around this time, the discipline of philosophy came to be dominated by logical positivism—essentially, the idea that the scientific method is the only way to arrive at true, factual knowledge—and this school of thought greatly influenced American economists as the landscape of their own discipline was changing. They developed the idea that their new analytical focus was value-free—a premise still taught in most introductory economic textbooks.

But, of course, is not, which is important to recognize.

Bateman doesn’t really comment on whether the Wisconsonian influence has been diminished.  You can find The Atlantic piece here.

For more thorough treatment, check out (then) Professor Bateman in the Journal of Economic Perspectives.

An easy subject at which very few excel!

The study of economics does not seem to require any specialised gifts of an unusually high order. Is it not, intellectually regarded, a very easy subject compared with the higher branches of philosophy and pure science? Yet good, or even competent, economists are the rarest of birds. An easy subject, at which very few excel!  — John Maynard Keynes

I came across this gem at Brad Delong’s website, where he is having a dialog with Paul Krugman about the use of graphs in Econ 101, and specifically whether Production Possibilities and Edgeworth Boxes should be introduced at the introductory level.

This is certainly a conversation we are having on our floor.  I think we generally introduce PPFs, but not the Edgeworth Boxes in our introductory courses, and our Econ 300 students get the Ysidro Edgeworth treatment.  I guess I’m all ears if you have thoughts on the topic.

As for the more obnoxious point that economics is a seemingly lightweight subject that few are good at, huh.  Keynes continues:

The paradox finds its explanation, perhaps, in that the master-economist must possess a rare combination of gifts. He must reach a high standard in several different directions and must combine talents not often found together. He must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher-in some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must contemplate the particular in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future.

That’s from his obituary for Alfred Marshall, author of the incredible Principles of Economics, the profession’s first textbook, and namesake of Marshallian Demand!  Truly a pioneer and an intellectual giant, regardless of what Keynes says here.

It’s nice to see someone say something nice about economists, even it if is an economist, and even if it was 90 years ago.