In socialist Venezuela, rising inflation & a ban on currency trading are leaving many struggling to survive. A few industrious groups of workers have been lucky enough to combat this:

"Those with access to dollars such as prostitutes, tour agents, airport taxi drivers and expatriates are able to shield themselves from inflation by trading their greenbacks at ever higher rates. "

In fact, for prostitutes currency trading is now more lucrative than selling their bodies:

"Prostitutes more than double their earnings by moonlighting as currency traders in Puerto Cabello. They are the foreign exchange counter for sailors in a country where buying and selling dollars in the streets is a crime -- and prostitution isn’t. Greenbacks in the black market are worth 11 times more than the official rate as dollars become more scarce in an economy that imports 70 percent of the goods it consumes."

While their resourcefulness is to be lauded, the tragedy of the situation remains. The mounting inflation in Venezuela has meant that minimum wages people  scraped by on before no longer even cover food. Inflation can seem like an abstract issue, but for the inhabitants of Venezuela it has left them in a very real scenario where (legal!) prostitution is the most lucrative career. 

In America, lucrative careers typically are influenced by what a student majored in during college. Duly, student loan payments (or lack thereof) are influenced by college major and college prestige. Businessweek provides an interesting take on the student loan market, saying that student loan interest rates (which equate to the cost of acquiring the loan funding) should vary based on likelihood to default. For students graduating Stanford with a computer science degree, rates would be extremely low - they are likely to get a lucrative job and pay off their loans quickly. However, for a student at University of Phoenix (26% default rate) studying Art, the cost of acquiring loan funding should be much higher. This is sad, but true. Pricing based on risk typically will create the most efficient market (something applicable to insurance pricing, as well). However, it is unfortunate that pricing based on expected future earnings will have a distinct deterrent effect for those wishing to study fields that are less lucrative but very critical to cultural awareness (sociology, anthropology, psychology, etc). This goes back to the idea of society picking "winners" and "losers", and by declaring only lucrative fields as worthwhile, we label much of the humanities as a waste of time and money. Unfortunately, this is inevitable as long as society remains in its current framework (i.e., deeply centered around money), and pricing student loans more accurately would allow thousands (millions?) of students to get a more affordable education. (OR colleges could start giving more scholarships and stop increasing tuition prices...)

The web has been all aflutter regarding mysterious company Cynk that on paper appears to suddenly be worth $6 billion. Except for the fact it has only one employee, no revenue, no assets, and probably no clients. Cynk claims to be a social network where you can pay for friends (seriously) and thus connect with high profile figures. But again, no one is using Cynk. The company trades on an alternative exchange and has rocketed up in value to put it at this sky-high valuation. The SEC halted trading for Cynk on Thursday, June 10th. Another older article from Business Insider provides further perspective. 

Tech bubble? What tech bubble?  Image from The Wall Street Journal 

Tech bubble? What tech bubble? 

Image from The Wall Street Journal 

If you have ever had a little bit of an overpacking problem (guilty!), you are probably aware airlines frown upon bringing extra weight on planes. It's simple physics that a heavier plane costs more to fly, as it burns more fuel, but even minute weight differences can have a big impact on overall airline profitability. FiveThirtyEight writes about the challenges of reducing weight on airlines, exploring questions such as: "What if everyone went to the bathroom before getting on a plane?" 

The cost  of carrying (or savings for not carrying) various items for Southwest Airlines Graphic from FiveThirtyEight

The cost  of carrying (or savings for not carrying) various items for Southwest Airlines

Graphic from FiveThirtyEight

If you don't think this is interesting, just remember that there are a bunch of middle-aged airline executives sitting around somewhere discussing the minutiae of motivating passengers to pee before flying. 

A new paper released by NBER explores "educational assortive mating", that is, the tendency of people to mate with someone at their same education level. Many have argued this is a contributing factor to income inequality, as college graduates make much more money and when combining forces, will make even more. However, the report indicates that educational assortive mating for those with college degrees has decreased, and increased for those with only a high school education. FiveThirtyEight explains

"In 1980, Americans with a college degree were three times more likely to marry a spouse with a college degree, compared to what would be expected based on random chance; in 2007, they were only twice as likely. Rather than reflecting changing preferences, the increased probability of college graduates marrying is simply due to there being more graduates, period. At the bottom of the educational spectrum, on the other hand, assortative patterns have become stronger: High school dropouts have become increasingly likely to marry other dropouts. The trends cancel each other out, so changing marriage patterns can’t explain the rise in income inequality. What can, the authors argue, is the increasing payoff from a college degree: Income inequality in the U.S. (as measured by the Gini coefficient) would be 23 percent lower if the economic return to a college degree had remained at 1980 levels."

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AuthorIsabel Munson