Category Archives: General

The business of being at home

I took an extended Winter Break from the blog, apparently. Shortly before the breadstick index post, I started work in earnest on my thesis. And then of course the holidays that eat your brain. Which would be an interesting holiday although not one with the purchasing power of Christmas. Between that, and various other things, the days got away from me.

But I’m making a committment to post here at least once a week this year. Since the Chinese New Year was yesterday – Go Year of the Dragon! – I can get away with saying that this is the first post of the new year.

Also, the first six months of the stay-at-home part of this adventure have passed. In that time I have learned two new hobbies – crocheting and canning – and ‘earned ‘$12,000 by not sending the Professor to daycare.

This is a calculation that I feel very few people do when they consider the cost of having kids. The average cost of daycare in the United States (center-based) is about $12,000/year, but clearly it has a wide range. In PA in 2004, I paid $6000/year, and in Seattle in 2012, I would pay $24,000/year. Considering my expected earnings are the same in both years, essentially, it should make sense that in 2004 I worked full time, and in 2012, I don’t.

The average income for females in this country is $36,000/year, and for males is $42,000. While the causation is not definitive, it does make economic sense then, that females tend to be the primary stay at home caregivers. However, in many places, it makes no sense that they work at all, given that they will be spending the majority of their income on childcare.

Now, there are some caveats, of course. If you have a career that would not benefit by taking any time off, or you work some place that has benefits in the future, like reduced tuition, etc. , then it could make sense why you choose to work even when the numbers don’t play out. I hope that soon I have that calculation to make. Or if you are the only breadwinner – then clearly there are few options.

But for now, I will earn my money by not spending it on daycare. And think of all the canning I can do!

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Edamame Economics

So I’m starting to reap the fruits of my garden. Ok, mostly the vegetables of my garden, as I didn’t plant any fruits other than tomatoes, which can legally be classified as a vegetable. In any event, the harvest is here. I’m planting a few late season lettuces and carrots, but most everything is finished.

One of the arguments for starting a garden is quality produce at low cost. How does this actually play out?

I planted carrots, lettuce, edamame, leeks, green beans, green onions, tomatoes, and peppers. We had a ridiculously cold summer, and everything was in a raised bed. Not counting the beds, which were a capital investment, of course, I spent about $30 on the seeds and plants for the veggies. I haven’t properly accounted for the watering, but we used a soaker hose, and didn’t run it more than we would have normally.

The harvest thus far:

We got lettuce every week for about 2 months. So, given that we would have bought 1-2 heads a week, and since this is organic produce, we’ll say that was about $22 worth of lettuce we didn’t buy. We got one meals worth of peas, plus enough for about 4 jars of baby food. The eating peas were about $1.00 worth, and the baby food was about $3.50. The same with the green beans, although we got 2 meals worth of those, and twice as much baby food, so we’ll call that $10 for the green beans. The edamame I just harvested, and it was 20 oz, which would run me about $5 from Amazon Fresh. The peppers didn’t fruit, although the plants grew, and I’m not sure what happened to the leeks or the green onions — I don’t see them at all. The tomatoes were my favorite thus far, and yielded 6 jars of tomato sauce, at around $2.50 per jar, plus 2 tomato sandwiches that are otherwise priceless, since I can’t make them with the tomatoes in the store. So call that $20 worth for the tomatoes. The carrots I just pulled, but there looks to be about 3 pounds, so that’s 2 meals and about 20 jars of baby food. Call that $25 in carrots

So to this point, the $30 investment has yielded $86.50 in produce. Not a bad return, if I do say so myself. Next season I can start more from seed, and double the number of plants that I have in the best producers, and manage to harvest things before the dry up, since I won’t be busy having a baby at the same time. 🙂  I would point out that none of that accounts for my time, which is worth a bit, but that should be balanced out by the utility I get from both the actual gardening, plus knowing exactly where the first foods I feed my new baby are coming from. So, I say it’s a winner!

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Non-market production

So as part of the staying at home part of being a stay at home economist, I decided to start a vegetable garden. Gardening has been a part of my life since I was little girl — my grandfather had a 1/2 acre garden in the back of his house, and the summers that I stayed with them were filled with nights of shelling peas. I always thought I would garden, but living in Texas made it hard, as I’m not an especially early riser, and it’s usually 90 degrees by 10 a.m. in the summer, or worse.

So when I moved to Seattle, I decided to get serious about it. With the addition of Professor X to the family, I also wanted him to taste food as I remember it, delicious, juicy, and flavorful — not mealy and vaguely bland as most mass produced vegetables. So I planted a smattering of items that were deemed suitable for the climate. Since we had a cold summer, the lettuce did the best, while the tomatoes are just starting to ripen, and the peppers are nowhere to be found. And the yields would make a Monsanto CEO laugh. But at least the little one will be able to have a taste of the bounty when he starts to eat solid food, thanks to a chest freezer and the miracle of electricity.

Tomatoes

 

Peas

So far the investment far outstrips the return, but that is only if you don’t include the utility I gained from eating a tomato that tasted like a tomato instead of juice laden cardboard. With that addition, it was well worth it.

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Welcome to the wacky world of economics!

I’ve wanted to be an economist since I was 9. Yes, I was the world’s most boring child. 🙂 So I went undergraduate for economics, got a Master’s in economics, and then a Ph.D. in economics. I’ve published papers, presented at conferences, and attended workshops; all your traditional economist things. 

With the recent birth of my second son, I’ve taken on a position in non-market production. I’ve decided to use this time as an opportunity to discuss the world’s economic issues, and hopefully to shed my own light on some of the more complicated questions. I hope that you join me!

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