Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Are Economists Insensitive?

I posted yesterday about an op-ed piece by Ed Lazear. I met Lazear over twenty years ago at Lousiana State University. A colleague had visited at the University of Chicago and was able to bring a couple of economists from Chicago to LSU for a few days. Lazear came the day after he ran in the Chicago Marathon. He was hobbling around quite a bit. We took him to lunch at a restaurant in the student union, which was in the middle of campus. It was about a ten minute walk. The next day as we got ready to go to lunch, he asked if we could go somewhere by car. No one thought to take into consideration the obvious pain he was in when walking after the marathon. So my answer to the question in the title is, "Yes."

He presented a paper on "Sales". He began by talking about paying the bills and noticing that his wife's shoes were more expensive than his. She said that women's shoes tend to be more expensive. But why? he wondered. His shoes had more material in them, were more durable, and one would think would cost more. This is someting I had discussed with my wife on more than one occasion. Men's shoes should be more expensive but are not. What is going on? Lazear went on to develop a model to explain why, other things equal, women's clothes had higher prices than men's clothes. It made sense when he went through the model. It was published later in the American Economic Review. This anecdote illustrates one of many differences between economists who end up at the University of Chicago and economists who end up at places like LSU.

Salieri is my patron saint.

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