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Higher Ed and 'The Price of Everything'
February 23, 2011 - 9:30pm

What is it about economics (behavioral and classical) and psychology that generates great books for non-academic readers? Where is the sociology? (although I guess Venkatesh did okay). Where is the demography? Where is the educational technology?

According to Porter, the reason we have more popular books about economic research is that people are willing to pay for popular books on economic research. The higher "price" (or demand), drives the supply of these books.

The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do, by Eduardo Porter, synthesizes a large body both classical and experimental (behavioral) economics research. Porter strikes a good balance between illustrating economic concepts around prices with stories about people and stories about events. We learn about when prices fail, such as the housing bubble, as well as when they succeed (such as the incredible growth of prosperity in Asia that came with market reforms).

This is another one of those books that would work for an intro econ course, something to give some life to the textbooks and the supply and demand curves. However, The Price of Everything should be read more widely than by economists and their students.

We could probably use an opportunity to think more critically about prices throughout campus.

Why is it, for instance, that we usually fail to put a price on our time - resulting in the "meeting culture" that dominates so much of higher ed?

When selecting a new ed tech platform or service to bring to campus do we think hard enough about opportunity costs, what we are not able to do with our resources (dollars and time) when making our selections?

Are we in a tuition price bubble as some have suggested? (I don't think so, but that is for another post).

What are you reading?


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