This website uses cookies to ensure the best user experience.
                          Privacy & Coo

What If Railroads Didn’t Change the World?

submited by
Style Pass
2022-12-03 17:30:36

This website uses cookies to ensure the best user experience. Privacy & Cookies Notice Accept Cookies

In the Population and the Economy course that I had the privilege of teaching alongside him at Booth, I would present various long-term trends, including the rise in health-care spending. Robert W. Fogel, who was Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of American Institutions at Chicago Booth until he passed away in June, would interrupt, recalling how he was sent as a boy by his mother to buy spinach at the local market. Fetching the vegetable was only the beginning of this chore: when he got home, he would have to laboriously clean the spinach, which usually was, by weight, more sand than actual leaves.

The story left some students initially puzzled as to what this had to do with economics, but Fogel was illustrating a powerful point about data and measurement. We might be able to collect data about spinach consumption over the past 100 years, but in doing so we could easily miss that this product, while labeled the same thing now as it was then, has evolved into something quite different. The spinach we buy in the supermarket nowadays is bundled with a lot more labor services. Not only do we not pay for sand, we also pay for a product that requires little labor to clean it.

Leave a Comment