Sunday, October 25, 2009

Singles in DC

DC is apparently packed with single men and women, according to the Pew Research Center. With a national average of 52% (men) and 48% (women) married, the District sports a mere 28% (men) and 23% (women) married. The next lowest numbers are 47% (men) for Alaska and 43% (women) for Rhode Island. (These numbers are for the 15 and older crowd.)

One commentator believes this is due to the unique demographics of DC: very high black population (less likely to marry) and very high Democratic population (more likely to marry later). Another points to the 8.2% gay population as the culprit (along with the marry later point). These are certainly factors, but there's a much more obvious reason that I think carries the bulk of the explanation.

Married people tend to want to start families which generally means a bigger home and unless there's also a big raise, that means moving to the suburbs. In most states, moving to the suburbs can but not always means changing your state. But in DC, it always means leaving DC and heading to Maryland or Virgina (or West Virgina). So the states include both the city proper and the suburbs but DC includes only the city proper. Big difference.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Economics of the Movie Ticket

A couple of days ago, Nicholas Tabarrok noted the strange economics of the film industry at MR. Movie theaters do not charge lower prices for movies that are unpopular. Similarly, highly anticipated movies have the same ticket price as movies that are proven flops. Why is that?

If the movie theater charged different prices for movies, it would need to hire individual ticket takers for multiple theater entrances at the multiplex--one for each theater that's seating at the time (otherwise people would just buy the cheapest ticket). This is a drastic increase in costs both in payment to the employees and to management, who must now organize a complex system of employees.

Instead, the theater simply adjusts how long a movie is being shown. Good movies are shown for a while, bad movies leave the theater quickly (making room for theaters showing the good movie). It's not as direct as individual pricing, but it's much more cost effective.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Information on the Margin

According to a study, New York City's new laws requiring calorie counts on fast food restaurants doesn't appearing to be having any net effect on food purchases. One would think this law would get people to steer clear of fast food, but it's easy to see why, in practice, this doesn't make any bit of difference.

Like smoking, the unhealthiness of fast food is common knowledge. Telling them exactly how many calories are in X, Y, and Z change anything because they're not seen as relevant (ignoring that a high calorie count isn't the same thing as being unhealthy). If you already know a Big Mac is bad for you, knowing it has 576, not 500, calories isn't going to change your decision.

It's too costly to calculate everything down to such fine nuance. Instead, people think in broad categories. Now, if estimated calorie count was off by a factor of 2 or 10, we'd see some real movement. But, on the margin, this information adds virtually nothing. People are good at estimating calories by themselves.