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Who says economists aren't fun?

February 27, 2012: 4:53 PM ET

President Obama seems to have a penchant for economists with a fun side. Not a bad call considering that since he took office, the state of the American economy could make a clown cry.

In 2010, he nominated Austan Goolsbee, Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago and noted funnyman, as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. But shortly thereafter, Goolsbee decided to step down and return to his academic career -- and presumably his stand-up act -- and announced his resignation from the administration in the summer of 2011.

As his replacement, Obama named Alan Krueger, a Princeton University labor economist.

While Krueger might not be telling jokes and making regular "Daily Show" appearances, he has his own methods of making the dismal science palatable to America's youth.

That's one reason why, in 2005, Krueger, along with co-author and fellow Princeton economist Marie Connolly, wrote a paper on a new "subfield" of economics which the pair wittily coined "Rockonomics."

The paper is a legit study that analyzes concert revenues, complete with tables sourcing Rolling Stone magazine, and quotes from such industry paragons as Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, and Jack Black's character from the film School of Rock


Here, the authors attempt to define the term "popular music" as something that is both current and profitable:

A well of economic data.

"It includes rock and roll, pop, rap, bebop, jazz, blues and many other genres. What about Pavarotti? Well, we warned you that the border of the definition can be fuzzy. If the three tenors attract a large following and are financially viable, we would include them in the popular music industry as well."

The paper goes on to identify various revenue streams for popular musicians. For example, one table shows that in 2002, the majority of Elton John's earnings came from concerts ($20.2 million). Meanwhile, Eminem brought in much more money from recordings ($10.4 million), than live performances ($5.5 million).

Krueger and Connolly reference different methods of contract enforcement between parties. One, described as "the Osbourne method," recounts a story that suggests Sharon Osbourne kneed a concert promoter in the groin because of his shady business practices.

In 2006, Krueger partnered with Princeton's Daniel Kahneman and penned "Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being" a study that concludes that more money does not necessarily make people happier.

"While various measures of well-being are useful for some purposes, it is important to recognize that subjective well-being measures features of individuals' perceptions of their experiences, not their utility as economists typically conceive of it."

Hot stuff. Perhaps John Stewart will come calling?

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