The Economics Of Busking

October 5, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

Charles Shafaieh wrote about the buskers, or street performers, of New York City:

  • To maximize profits buskers can’t dress too nice – or else people will think they don’t need money. But they can’t be dirty either – or else the crowd will think of them as beggars.
  • Thus buskers go for the simple – a plain clean shirt and perhaps jeans.
  • Commuters value work ethic more than individuals. Those who are there at the same place at the same time every day will draw more contributions.
  • For about six hours of work during the peak hours between 7 and 10am, and 4 and 7pm, a busker can make anywhere between $50 and $200.
  • This could potentially make busking more lucrative than being popular on Spotify.
  • Odd things like the level of terror threat, or the performer’s mindset can affect donations in a given day.
  • If a crowd see’s one person giving money to a performer more tips will likely follow as the performer’s skill has thus been validated.
  • Some of the buskers see what they do as genuine art. This is why they may play in narrow hallways where pedestrian traffic is low but acoustics are ideal.

Read more about the compositions that earn the most money, and other details here.

Source: Hopes & Fears

The Shadow Economy Building Up Around The Refugee Crisis

October 4, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

Where there are thousands of people in close proximity there is an untapped market. Ben Hubbard looked at market infrastructure springing up as refugees continue to make their way to Europe:

  • In the coastal towns of North Africa, stores display lifejackets for sale on their mannequins.
  • They also offer inflatable rafts and other flotation devices.
  • Sadly many of these products are of low quality. Some of the lifejackets, for example, are made of a foam that absorb water rather than float on it.
  • But the real money is filling boats. Migrants pay about $1,200 per seat on a boat. Children cost half.
  • A raft can hold about 45 passengers, and after paying for commissions, the cost of boat and motor, and bribes, human smugglers can earn about $30,000 per boatload.
  • Migrants are terrified of paying their lifesavings to get on a boat, only to have the money stolen from them. This is why the money is held in escrow accounts, and is only transferred once the crossing is complete.
  • There are clauses in the contracts that allow agents to collect payment even if those on the boat drown.

Read more about this shadow economy over here.

Source: The New York Times

Via: Marginal Revolution

Inequality In Car Accidents

October 2, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

Emily Badger and Christopher Ingraham wrote about inequality on the road:

  • While deaths as a result of traffic accidents have been dropping over the years, the declines have been focused on the most educated.
  • For those under 25 the rates of fatalities have actually increased.
  • In 1995 deaths from accidents were 2.5 times higher for those at the bottom of the education spectrum compared to those at the top. In 2010 the ratio was 4.3.
  • This is because those with less education are likely poorer and thus have older cars without modern safety features like side air bags and rear cameras.
  • Poorer areas also have fewer hospitals.
  • And poorer residents may not be able to muster the political strength to lobby for road safety features such as crosswalks, speed bumps and stop signs.
  • It’s unclear if seat belts or alcohol play a role in the differences.
  • This ratio will likely get worse as self-driving autonomous cars will, at first, only be affordable for the rich.

Read more over here.

Source: The Washington Post

Personal Cheerleaders

October 1, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

Lauren O’Neil wrote about a troubling practice in Chinese tech companies that’s gaining attention:

  • It’s been reported that some Chinese tech companies are hiding attractive young women to act as “programming cheerleaders”.
  • These girls are there to socialize with employees during their breaks, play ping-pong with them, and bring them things like food when they need it.
  • The HR department of a company that hired three of them stated that it was because its male programmers had troubles socializing, and the girls were there to increase motivation.

Read about the outrage and fallout here.

Source: CBC News

Via: Marginal Revolution

How Subway Strikes Can Reduce Your Commute Time

September 30, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

London has had about 50 subway underground, strikes since 2000. The Economist looked at a study on what this did to commuting patterns:

  • In February last year 171 of the system’s 270 stations shut down due to a strike.
  • While 75% of commuters had to alter their route as a result of the strike, only 70% of travelers returned to their old route after the strike was over.
  • The remaining 5% seem to have inadvertently found quicker commuting paths during the strike.
  • Subway maps aren’t always the best representation of a city’s geography. Therefore a route that seems to make sense on a subway map may not actually be the fastest way to get to a destination.
  • Strikes force commuters to think of alternate stations that they can use – and for a surprising number the alternate route is actually faster.
  • On average therefore those who were affected by the strike shaved 20 seconds of off their commute time once the strike was over.
  • Summed over time these benefits will more than make up for the cost of the strike.

Read more about the study and its conclusions over here.

Source: The Economist

Banning Alcohol Increases Drug Abuse

September 29, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

Christopher Ingraham reported on a study about drug abuse:

  • “Dry” counties – places where the sale of alcohol is banned outright – seem to have more meth labs than “wet” ones.
  • This could be because those who break the law to buy alcohol anyway may also be more likely to consider breaking the law to purchase meth.
  • The evidence indicates that removing the ban on alcohol could reduce the number of meth labs by as much as 25%.
  • This means that, in a twist on conventional wisdom, banning alcohol becomes a gateway to harder drugs.
  • There are other areas where such bans have unintended consequences. Dry counties have higher DUI related crashes than wet ones – likely because you have to go further to get your alcohol.
  • They are also more likely to have high rates of binge drinking.

Read more about the study, its conclusions, what happens when you merely restrict the sale of alcohol, and other fascinating insights here.

Source: The Washington Post

Why The Nuclear Deal Is Actually Currently Hurting Iran’s Economy

September 28, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

Iran and global powers came to a historic agreement exchanging relief from economic sanctions for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program. While this is meant to provide a massive economic boost to Iran’s economy once the sanctions are fully lifted, for now the deal is hurting the economy wrote Najmeh Bozorgmehr:

  • Iranians now expect that cheaper, better quality international goods will soon flood the market, causing them to hold off on buying things in the present, hurting the economy.
  • Car sales in particular have crashed, declining by 15%, as Iranians realize that they’ll soon have a wider selection to choose from when making a multi-year purchasing commitment.
  • It’ll be several months before benefits from the nuclear deal are realized meaning that the prospect of the lifting of sanctions could inadvertently trigger a recession.
  • Things aren’t helped by plunging oil prices which are straining the government’s budget.

Read more over here.

Source: Financial Times

Via: Marginal Revolution

The Economics Of Stadium Vendors

September 27, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

Robyn Passante spoke with a stadium vendor to understand what their day looks like:

  • They begin well before the game starts by helping to prepare the drinks and snacks.
  • Over the course of a game they walk around 12,000 steps while lugging around 70 pounds of refreshments.
  • This means about 1,300 calories expended and can lead to up to a 10 pound weight loss.
  • For their labour they get a 15% commission on sales, and average about $2,000 in profits per game.
  • It’s important for vendors to pace themselves so that they’re not too tired for half-time – when profits are highest.
  • Location matters. Stands filled with cash poor students are worth less than those who can afford tickets on the 50 yard line.

Read more from the interview here.

Source: GQ

Why Donut Holes Have Shrunk Over The Years

September 25, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

As the chart above shows, it seems like donut holes have been shrinking. Phil Edwards looked into some of the potential reasons why:

  • Donut holes were originally put in there to make sure the treat was fried evenly. If it didn’t have a hole then the inside would be less well cooked than the outside.
  • Improved technology meant that it was possible to get a more even fry without a big hole.
  • Smaller holes mean that a donut is less likely to break.
  • People may have become used to cream or chocolate filled donuts, making the ring-like large-hole donuts seem like anachronisms.
  • Chains each had their own standardized vision of what a donut should look like. We may now expect donuts to have small holes simply because small donut hole chains like Krispy Kreme won the donut chain wars.

Read other theories, and some caveats over here.

Source: Vox

Writing Fortune Cookies

September 24, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

Olga Oksman wrote about where fortune cookie fortunes come from:

  • The companies that make fortune cookies have massive databases with tens of thousands of fortunes that are randomly selected and printed.
  • They continuously seek to expand this database by paying high schoolers and failed writers to come up with more.
  • One company pays about 75 cents a fortune and requires at least 700 of them.
  • The fortunes have to be bland because each of the 3 billion cookies that are consumed need to have a fortune that could apply to anybody.
  • The lucky numbers that show up on fortunes are computer generated.
  • People put a lot of faith in the cookies – 110 people won the Powerball in 2005 because they all played the numbers they got in their fortune cookies.

Read more here.

Source: The Guardian