Tuesday, October 27, 2020

econlife - Does a Calorie Label Make Us Eat Less? by Elaine Schwartz


According to the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), 2011 was the year that specified food vendors and restaurant chains with more than 20 locations had to post calorie counts. But because of “Big Pizza’s” resistance, they waited until 2018. Domino’s even said that their custom pizzas could have 34 million calorie permutations. Pizza Hut said it had 2 billon possibilities. (Is that possible?)

The ACA goal was to get us to eat fewer calories.

The Impact of Calorie Labels

In a recent study at one restaurant, researchers compared 1546 diners who did and did not have calorie labels on their menus. After the meal, the participants were asked about their calorie consumption.

A significant number of the group without the labels underestimated their calorie intake. Whereas they ordered meals with an average of 1341 calories, their average estimate was 1080. The size of the error ranged from 10 percent to more than 50 percent.

You can see below that the higher the calorie count, the larger the under-estimation:


Predictably, the group that had the menus with the calorie labels were more accurate. But not entirely.  Accuracy was up by 4 percent. Still, some underestimated their calorie intake and others overestimated. Men tended to pay less attention to the calorie totals.

At this point I was curious about the impact of knowing your calories. According to one recent study on what we order at fast food outlets, it did not make a huge difference. Using data from 104 restaurants before and after implementing the labeling law, researchers wound up with three years’ of transactions. From 50 million purchases, they observed that there was an initial decrease of approximately 60 calories. However, the decline was not sustained. It soon dwindled down to 23.

Our Bottom Line: Present Bias

A behavioral economist might have suggested that the calorie labels required by the Affordable Care Act will have a minimal impact because of our tendency toward a present bias. In the present, the cost of caloric restraint is considerable. We have a bias toward our current benefits and postponing the cost for later.

My sources and more: Always handy, this month’s NBER Digest alerted me to the calorie study. Then the BMJ had the fast food study.


Ideal for the classroom, econlife.com reflects Elaine Schwartz’s work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.




Thursday, October 22, 2020

Put Away the Tech, Part 4 by Scott Harris

For many Silicon Valley parents, the new “must have” is a nanny contract that requires the nanny to expose their charges to either very limited or no-technology during the day. There are even nanny-spies who will use technology to report nannies in public parks if the nanny happens to be on their phone. 

Several articles on this are behind paywalls, but here’s one that isn’t: https://www.activistpost.com/2018/11/silicon-valley-parents-spy-on-nannies-to-make-sure-they-arent-using-screens-around-their-kids-and-make-them-sign-no-screens-contracts.html

This follows the 2011 New York Times article (https://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/technology/at-waldorf-school-in-silicon-valley-technology-can-wait.html) that showed how the very people that create the digital technology that we love so much – and that if our children don’t master will certainly be left behind – prevent their own children from being exposed to it. 

They prevent them from being exposed to technology not just in their homes, but in their schools! The NYT article is a must read. It explains how people who know technology better than all of us, often with degrees in computer science, find technology to be not only distracting to learning, but even unnecessary to learning. They then hire teachers who philosophically believe that humans are better at teaching math than computers.

Before we cast them (and me) off as Luddites, the Waldorf teachers cited in the article ask an interesting question: where is the empirical evidence? Where is the overwhelming evidence that all of this technology used in the delivery of instruction has delivered the massive gains? Why aren’t the tech-parents afraid that their kids will “fall behind”? Perhaps they’ve realized that technology-in-the-delivery-of-instruction-as-savior is the latest educational moral panic.

This author is old enough to remember in the early 1990s when articles were showing that Japanese schools already had kindergarteners (!) using computers. We were just phasing them into universities. How would we ever catch up?! And yet the republic endured. 

Defenders of technology-as-savior, typically public-school teachers (of which I am one) and administrators sound the same alarm: digital divide, we need more funding, iPads for everyone! But where are the empirical educational gains such technology promised to bring?

One administrator in Texas I read about in the newspapers said he wasn’t too concerned about the empirical evidence. “All I know,” he said, “is that we’re putting iPads in the hands of a child.” And so it has been spoken. Technology as talisman, a source from which all good things in education spring. 

Technology is a tool, not a savior. Use as appropriate.


Scott K. Harris teaches The Moral Sciences: A.P. Macroeconomics, A.P. Psychology, and Philosophy. He holds a B.A. in History/Psychology and a M.Ed. in Teacher Leadership. He has also taught U.S. History, World History, International Baccalaureate’s Theory of Knowledge, and coached swimming and water polo. He piloted curriculum for Stossel-in-the-Classroom and is an associate producer for izzit.org. 

econlife - Why Zoom Needs the “Mr. Rogers Effect” by Elaine Schwartz

We always knew that Fred Rogers would change into his sweater and sneakers as he asked, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

I hope that you will enjoy this minute with Mr. Rogers: 

Psychologists tell us that there might be a “Mr. Rogers effect.” Changing your clothing can influence how you think and what you produce.

Dressing For Work

It turns out sweat pants and hoodies might not be ideal for working at home.

In a 2012 paper, two Northwestern business school cognitive psychologists investigated the impact of what we wear. Trying to observe the connection between our behavior and our clothing, they used a white lab coat. The goal was to see if focused attention improved when you wore a physician’s white lab coat, a painter’s white lab coat (identical to the physician’s), and when you looked at the white lab coat.

The results have been called enclothed cognition. When people wear certain clothing, their behavior adjusts to what the clothing means. So, when they wore the physician’s lab coat they demonstrated more attentively careful behavior. But, when they thought an identical white coat was for a painter and when they looked at the doctor’s white lab coat, they reverted to less of a focus.

Somewhat similarly, in a 2015 paper, scholars looked at the impact of formal clothing. Starting with the assumption that formal clothing can signal professionalism, they assumed it would add to performance but not friendliness. There, too, they saw a cognitive impact. They found that abstract processing became more acute when people were more formally dressed. Dressed formally, the study’s participants perceived actions on a higher level. Rather than “locking the door,” they were “securing the house.”

Our Bottom Line: Productivity

These cognitive clothing studies return us to the pandemic, our remote work, and our Zoom conference calls. They suggest that dressing for work, even when we remain at home, could boost our productivity. More professional clothing could enhance our attention spans, our abstract thinking, and even how we compare short term immediate gains to longer term benefits. Defined as getting more output from land, labor, and capital inputs, our productivity could increase.

As for Mr. Rogers, his sweater and sneakers, took him to the behavior he wanted to bring to his neighborhood.

My sources and more: The daily morning WSJ podcast always comes in handy. Conveying big and small ideas, yesterday it alerted me to clothing research. Enhancing my productivity, the WSJ news article linked to two academic papers, here and here. I hit a glitch when the first paper was gated but then found this article with the perfect summary.


Ideal for the classroom, econlife.com reflects Elaine Schwartz’s work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.





Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Civics with Dean – Class 4 – Dred Scott Case



On October 13, my Civics class at Big Fish Learning participated in an exclusive Zoom call with Lynne M. Jackson, the great-great-granddaughter of Harriet and Dred Scott of the 1857 Supreme Court Dred Scott Decision. 


The focus of the class was a post-discussion of the Constitution and Black History, examining how the laws of the United States, starting with the Constitution itself, have impacted the history of black Americans. We covered important legal cases besides Dred Scott, like Plessy v. Ferguson, and Brown v. Board of Ed. We explored how we've moved toward a more inclusive nation that strives to live up to the words Thomas Jefferson penned in the Declaration of Independence, "…all men (people!) are created equal" and accord all equal protection of the law. Lynne shared some interesting insights and talked about the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation in today’s world. She reminded us that there were real people behind the famous case, and that history isn't quite as far away as we often think. (Her father was babysat by Dred and Harriet's daughter, Lizzie.) 

Special dignitaries joined us:  NH Department of Education Commissioner, Frank Edleblut. In addition, US Senator Jeanne Shaheen sent a letter to the class as she was unable to be there in person.


Dean Graziano is the Vice-President of izzit.org. He is a multi-state, award-winning educator and former Curriculum Specialist Teacher grades 6-12 Social Studies, with over 25 years in education. He served on the Massachusetts MCAS Standard Setting Panel, and also selected by the College Board to be an Advanced Placement Reader for U.S. History. He worked on the historical inquiry model and a national presenter for ABC-Clio, a Social Studies data base company. 


In 2007, in a surprise visit to his school, he was awarded the United States Department of Educations' American Star of Teaching Award. Dean was selected as the 2017 State of New Hampshire's Extended Learning Opportunity Coordinator- of -the Year. Dean’s pilot program in Rochester, NH was singled out by NH Governor, Chris Sununu as the model for the State of N.H. Career Academies. In 2019, he developed and implemented a proposal to purchase a Mobile Classroom ( a new & remodeled 36’ RV, aka M.A.P.s) utilizing Perkins V funding, to bring CTE/WBL programming - leveling the playing field/equity for ALL NH students and spoke nationally at several ACTE Conferences on this model.


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

econlife - The Great Lid Shortage of 2020 by Elaine Schwartz


Perhaps reflecting its necessity, wartime canning was most mentioned in books during 1942. But because this Google Ngram end date is 2019, we cannot see what surely would be an upswing for 2020:

Stuck at home because of the pandemic, people have been planting their own gardens and then pickling the peppers and preserving the peaches. They are canning tomatoes and making blackberry jam.

However, canning’s recent popularity has created a problem.


The Lid Shortage

Soaring seed orders were the first clue that a canning surge was imminent. Ball, the go-to company for canning supplies, says a lot of its items are on back order. A hardware firm in Kidron, Ohio reports a 600 percent pop in canning category sales.

Canners know that jars can be repeatedly refilled. But, since lids cannot be reused, in 1975 and now, there have been shortages.

Forty-five years ago, shoppers responded to rising food prices by doing more canning. In many parts of the country canning kits were available. However, in rural areas like Fayetteville, Arkansas and Whiteville, North Carolina, women wanted to reuse their old jars. That meant they only needed the lids that local stores had run out of. A 1975 NY Times article reports that the House Small Business Committee even scheduled hearings and concluded that there was no hoarding conspiracy.

Instead, the problem was and is supply inelasticity.

Our Bottom Line: Supply Elasticity

In 1975, even with 24/7 production churning out 6.2 million lids a day from 3 major suppliers, there was a lid shortage. I suspect we have the same phenomenon today.

Given short notice, supply cannot stretch. Called supply inelasticity, producers are constrained by their land, labor, and capital. For all three factors of production to increase within weeks is usually impossible. The quantity supplied responds minimally to more demand and even higher prices because in the short run, supply is inelastic. It takes time to add more land, labor, and capital.

I’ve copied this illustration of supply inelasticity from my textbook, Understanding Our Economy:


So, if someone you know needs a lid, just explain he will have to wait a bit for supply to become elastic.

My sources and more: Thanks to NPR’s “Weekend Edition” for alerting me to the lid shortage. From there, I discovered more in The Washington Post and in this 1975 NY Times article.

Our featured image is from The Washington Post.

Ideal for the classroom, econlife.com reflects Elaine Schwartz’s work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

What We're Hearing from the Field

We received some feedback about our new weekly series with Dean Graziano, Vice President of Education at izzit.org, called Civics with Dean.



Have you had a chance to check out these new blogs? If not, read our latest blog here.

econlife - Is it Okay to Go Cashless During a Pandemic? by Elaine Schwartz


In 1978, Massachusetts became the first and only state to ban cashless transactions in retail establishments. Then, 41 years later, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, followed its lead.


After that, the cashless bans multiplied. Including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Berkeley, and NYC (on Nov. 20), a growing list of U.S. cities are saying that plastic alone or just digitized payments are not okay. Cash has to be acceptable.


However, the pandemic is creating some questions.


The Cashless Debate


When the U.S. government got a delivery of Federal Reserve notes from Asia, it said circulation would be delayed for at least 7 to 10 days. They wanted to be sure no virus lurked on any surface. Similarly, referring to Covid-19, a Rhode Island college professor suggests that her state reverse its cashless ban. She cites the governor’s recommendation that all restaurants become cashless when they reopen. Perhaps knowing that a typical rectangle of “paper” money can be the home of 3,000 kinds of bacteria (though I’m not sure about the coronavirus), both believe no cash is a healthier alternative.


Also opposing the cashless bans, opponents say they stifle payment innovation. Others point out that cash adds to business minutiae. They have to count bills, deposit them, maintain safety precautions. Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Stadium saved $350,000 after going cashless during March 2019. Meanwhile, Harvard economist Ken Rogoff adds that large bills contribute to global crime.


On the other side, the cashless bans diminish inequality. They support the fifth of all Americans who have no bank accounts. They help the people and small businesses with limited internet access. In addition, psychologists remind us that cash can be a restraint. When we are aware of the cash we remove from a wallet, we spend less.


Cashless Transactions


Moving beyond the U.S., we can travel to Canada to see a more cashless country. Sweden also is high on the list. (Several years ago I told the wonderful story of an aspiring bank robber who was told he had selected a cash-free location. Sadly leaving with nothing, he asked a teller, “Where else can I go?”)


In the U.K. the share of cashless sellers jumped to almost 60 percent during the pandemic:


Our Bottom Line: Pandemic Money

So yes, the pandemic has encouraged us to replace cash with digital payments. But we should note that our digital device is not necessarily money; the transaction could be followed by a money transfer.


To be money, a payment needs these characteristics:


1. A medium of exchange (It is widely accepted for payment.)

2. A measure of value (People know what a certain denomination will buy.)

3. A store of value (It will retain its value.)

Returning to where we began, is it okay to go cashless during (and after) a pandemic? I suggest yes, if only for the time and money savings that might support struggling retailers. However, as we inexorably move toward a cashless society, we need to knock down its exclusionary barriers.


My sources and more: This NY Times column on cashless transactions took me to countless possibilities.  I went to a National Law Review article, to Payments Source, Pew, and Politico. I also looked at this paper from Harvard economist Ken Rogoff, the Dirty Money project and fisglobal. In addition, the Providence Journal told of the governor’s reversal. But if you just read one article, do go to Bloomberg CityLab.


Please note a key factual correction since publication about the Rhode Island governor’s policy reversal, supporting cashless businesses.


Check out this program, A World of Money from izzit.org that talks about the history of money, in its many forms.



Ideal for the classroom, econlife.com reflects Elaine Schwartz’s work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Civics with Dean – Class 3 – First Amendment & Freedom of the Press


For this week's class on the First Amendment, I was truly fortunate to have a special guest visit with us. Kim Haas is a reporter for the Union Leader, the largest newspaper in New Hampshire. I've worked with Kim for five years. (She once gave one of my ELO students an awesome opportunity – doing photography with the newspaper.)

I began with simple questions about the First Amendment. Did students know what rights are protected by it? We then zeroed in on freedom of the press due to our guest. I asked students why it was important to have freedom of the press. Kim chimed in with, "Great question. Why is it?"

Today's lesson featured the izzit.org video, Read All About It!, which explores freedom of the press. (Along with the interesting slant that Sweden was actually the first country to codify a free press in their constitution!) 

Here are some discussion questions from the Teacher's Guide that accompanies Read All About It!:

1.What are some responsibilities that come with freedom of the press?
2. Why do people or organizations suppress expression of speech or thought? 
3. How is the access to information and human advancement connected?

Another special guest, Rob Chatfield, President and CEO of izzit.org, was astounded at what the class came up with. One student mentioned that a free press provides a check on the government. Another said it provides citizens in America with the knowledge of what's really going on, without fear of reprisal.

Kim mentioned that our First Amendment freedoms come down to freedom of thought as well. Rob mentioned how these liberties matter on an every-day basis, impacting many aspects of our lives.

We talked about our individual, natural rights, our property rights, and how all these allow a person to direct their own life. How can we even discuss these rights - or issues or infringements against our other rights – if we don't have freedom of speech? Answer: we can't.

Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our society. Of any free society.

For homework, I assigned students to take the quiz that goes with Read All About It! (Another part of the very comprehensive Teacher's Guide that accompanies the video!) The class average was 90%! (That's a successful lesson!)

Big thanks to Kim Haas for being part of our exploration of freedom of the press, and Rob Chatfield for coming to class as well!

Dean Graziano is the Vice-President of izzit.org. He is a multi-state, award-winning educator and former Curriculum Specialist Teacher grades 6-12 Social Studies, with over 25 years in education. He served on the Massachusetts MCAS Standard Setting Panel, and also selected by the College Board to be an Advanced Placement Reader for U.S. History. He worked on the historical inquiry model and a national presenter for ABC-Clio, a Social Studies data base company. 


In 2007, in a surprise visit to his school, he was awarded the United States Department of Educations' American Star of Teaching Award. Dean was selected as the 2017 State of New Hampshire's Extended Learning Opportunity Coordinator- of -the Year. Dean’s pilot program in Rochester, NH was singled out by NH Governor, Chris Sununu as the model for the State of N.H. Career Academies. In 2019, he developed and implemented a proposal to purchase a Mobile Classroom ( a new & remodeled 36’ RV, aka M.A.P.s) utilizing Perkins V funding, to bring CTE/WBL programming - leveling the playing field/equity for ALL NH students and spoke nationally at several ACTE Conferences on this model.


Thursday, October 1, 2020

Civics with Dean - Class 2

 


Just short of a week after Constitution Day, we were already at class number two! 233 years ago, thirty-nine delegates met in secrecy in Philadelphia and signed a document establishing the basis of our government and way of life. But another story is the trust and “on a promise” that a bill of rights would be included into that document - after ratification and apprehension of those opposed.

My opening question to the class was, “Could you imagine in politics today either side trusting the other to carry out what was a mere agreement, a promise to include the Bill of Rights?" Suffice to say, the answers were a resounding, “NO WAY!"

So then, why were they included?

As students pondered that question, we spoke of the federalists and anti-federalists, the desire to design a central government, while also ensuring states’ rights. This list, or enumeration of these prescribed rights is really protection of those rights! As classroom discussion became more centered on how the Bill of Rights was meant to ensure that our newly formed central government WOULD NOT overstep its authority by violating them, we turned to current events (found in izzit.org archives – "Executive order to ban two social media platforms," August 2020) and pondered - what steps do you take to protect your online privacy? [Truth be told, I have a Union Leader reporter, Kim Haas, as a guest speaker next class. She will be discussing a NH case regarding social media and this was a perfect introduction for class 3.]

Realizing you start with number one sequentially; we began discussing the First Amendment. After a brief overview, students watched First Amendment, Why a Bill of Rights? izzit.org’s educational video from the minicourse, First Amendment. They were to think and respond to the following questions (From the First Amendment minicourse Discussion/Essay questions):

  • Why did some of the Framers resist the idea of a bill of rights? Why did some insist it was needed? Which group do you agree with? Explain your position.
  • Do you agree with the woman in the video that we often take our rights, especially our First Amendment rights, for granted? Why or why not?

Interestingly, students knew most of the Bill of Rights, perhaps not by exact number, but were truly unaware they were really protections of the rights within each amendment. In addition, reviewing the Declaration of Independence I had on the board showed students that many of the grievances against King George III (quartering of troops, excessive bail, speedy trial, etc.) could also be found in the Bill of Rights. This only solidified the passion and need to make sure these injustices would not be replicated in the new government of the United States.

The trust back then was solid. The Constitution passed on the promise that a Bill of Rights would be added. The Framers lived up to their word, and the United States got its protection of natural rights.

Next class, we'll be diving into Freedom of the Press with our reporter guest speaker!


Dean Graziano is the Vice-President of izzit.org. He is a multi-state, award-winning educator and former Curriculum Specialist Teacher grades 6-12 Social Studies, with over 25 years in education. He served on the Massachusetts MCAS Standard Setting Panel, and also selected by the College Board to be an Advanced Placement Reader for U.S. History. He worked on the historical inquiry model and a national presenter for ABC-Clio, a Social Studies data base company. 


In 2007, in a surprise visit to his school, he was awarded the United States Department of Educations' American Star of Teaching Award. Dean was selected as the 2017 State of New Hampshire's Extended Learning Opportunity Coordinator- of -the Year. Dean’s pilot program in Rochester, NH was singled out by NH Governor, Chris Sununu as the model for the State of N.H. Career Academies. In 2019, he developed and implemented a proposal to purchase a Mobile Classroom ( a new & remodeled 36’ RV, aka M.A.P.s) utilizing Perkins V funding, to bring CTE/WBL programming - leveling the playing field/equity for ALL NH students and spoke nationally at several ACTE Conferences on this model.