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Country Music singers’ chins and general hard times

Friday, January 9th, 2015

Professor Terry Frank Pettijohn II, of Coastal Carolina University, is the lead author of a new study which investigates the ‘Chin Area’ (and other facial features such as ‘Eye Width’) of US country Music singers between 1946 and 2010 – and examines possible correlations with an index of economic and social conditions called the General Hard Times Measure (GHTM).Country-Music-Chins

“When conditions were relatively poor, country music artists with more mature facial features of smaller eyes and larger chins were popular, and when conditions were more prosperous, country music artists with more baby-faced features of larger eyes and smaller chins were popular.”

See: ‘Facial Feature Assessment of Popular U.S. Country Music Singers Across Social and Economic Conditions’ by: Terry F. Pettijohn II, Jamie N. Glass, Carly A. Bordino, and Jason T. Eastman, in: Current Psychology, December 2014, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 451-459

Note: The paper costs $39.95 (for non-subscribers) to read, but a handout by the same authors (a poster presented at the 25th Annual Association for Psychological Science Convention) is available here, free of charge.

Also see: More from Professor Terry Frank Pettijohn II  ‘Hungry people prefer maturer mates?’


Ig Nobel winner triumphs: “Italy lifts out of recession thanks to hookers, drugs”

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

istatCongratulations to this year’s Ig Nobel economics prize winner — ISAT — both on its Ig Nobel Prize and on ISTAT’s influence on the Italian economy.

The AFP news agency reports, on October 15, 2014:

Italy lifts out of recession thanks to hookers, drugs

Italy learnt it was no longer in a recession on Wednesday thanks to a change in data calculations across the European Union which includes illegal economic activities such as prostitution and drugs in the GDP measure.

Adding illegal revenue from hookers, narcotics and black market cigarettes and alcohol to the eurozone’s third-biggest economy boosted gross domestic product figures.

GDP rose slightly from a 0.1 percent decline for the first quarter to a flat reading, the national institute of statistics said.

Although ISTAT confirmed a 0.2 percent decline for the second quarter, the revision of the first quarter data meant Italy had escaped its third recession in the last six years….

This comes just four weeks after this year’s Ig Nobel Prize winners were announced at the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, at Harvard University. The 2014 Ig Nobel Prize for economics was awarded to ISTAT — the Italian government’s National Institute of Statistics, for proudly taking the lead in fulfilling the European Union mandate for each country to increase the official size of its national economy by including revenues from prostitution, illegal drug sales, smuggling, and all other unlawful financial transactions between willing participants.

The relevant documents, in the awarding of that prize, are “Cambia il Sistema europeo dei conti nazionali e regionali – Sec2010” (ISTAT, 2014) and “European System of National and Regional Accounts (ESA 2010)” (Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2013).

BONUS: “Droghe e prostituzione nel Pil, all’Istat il premio IgNobel per l’Economia” [La Repubblica]

Economics of the undead, arise bookishly!

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Dismal news: Last year we published a link to a Call for Abstracts about “Economics of the Undead”. Tomorrow the resulting book, Economics of the Undead: Zombies, Vampires, and the Dismal Science, will be published. The authors, who are themselves in a technical sense undead, also birthed a web site.


‘A Video Lesson on the Price of Movie Popcorn’

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Richard B. McKenzie is the Walter B. Gerken Professor Emeritus of Enterprise and Society at The Paul Merage School of Business, University of California, Irvine. Here he is presenting ‘A Video Lesson on the Price of Movie Popcorn’

Also see: ‘Why Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies’ by Richard B. McKenzie and Gordon Tullock,  The New World of Economics, 2012, Part 4, Chapter 14, pp. 219-234,

“ […] because theaters cannot be owned by movie producers and distributors (because of a series of court orders that date to the late 1940s), theaters have an incentive to hold down (relatively speaking) all ticket prices in order to increase the demand for popcorn (and other concessions), thus allowing theaters to hike their prices on popcorn and other concessions and their profits.”

 NOTE: Paul Merage co-invented the Hot Pocket microwaveable turnover.

Smirkness in Economics

Friday, August 2nd, 2013


Those who follow developments in the derivatives market, and particularly in its sub-section, the options market, may be aware of the concept of Smirkness. It was first proposed at the 2005 China International Conference in Finance, where professors Jin Zhang and Yi Xiang presented their paper ‘Implied Volatility Smirk’

“In this paper, we propose a new concept of smirkness, which is defined as a triplet of at-the-money implied volatility, skewness (slope at the money) and smileness (curvature at the money) of implied volatility-moneyness curve.”

The paper not only covered ‘The Dynamics of Smirkness’ [page 18] but also laid out ‘The Applications of Smirkness’ [page 19]. For clarification, another publication from professor Jin Zhang – also titled ‘Implied Volatility Smirk’ gives an etymological history of the term :

“After the market crash in 1987, the implied volatility as a function of strike price is skewed towards the left. The phenomenon is regarded as implied volatility smirk.  Smirk = skew + smile

And a third paper from the team, this one called : ‘The Implied Volatility Smirk’ went into even greater detail – and this time provided graphs like the one above which showed : “The flat, skewed and smirked implied volatility functions together with market implied volatilities (shown as dots) on 4 November 2003 for SPX options that mature on 21 November 2003.”

BONUS : Another viewpoint on derivatives : from Philip Coggan writing in his book ‘Paper Promises : Money, Debt and the New World Order’, (Allen Lane, 2011, Hardback, p. 170)

“Banks may have had an ulterior motive for the growth of derivatives. The more complex the product, the harder it was for investors to see the price. The result was fat fees for the banking sector.”

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