Real-World Investigative Projects from Previous Years
Here are some examples of successful and interesting real-world investigative projects that students have turned in in previous years.
When I grade these projects, I look for two things.
1) Has the author observed and carefully described interesting aspects of the
2) Has the author attempted to analyze and interpret these observations using economic tools that we have studied?
Investigation of Central Campus Recreation Building
A team of students did a survey at Michigan's Central Campus Recreation Building to try to learn the distribution of people's willingness-to-pay for using the CCRB. For seven consecutive days they went to the CCRB and randomly surveyed ten students asking them the amount they would be willing to pay. They also interviewed the management to find out daily attendance and daily costs of operations.
From their survey, they estimated the proportion of users who would be willing to pay $25, $50, and $100 per semester for using the facility. They scaled up by the total number of users to estimate a demand curve for the facility for each day of the week.
The Cost of Roses
This student chose to study the seasonal demand and supply for roses. She interviewed florists for her data.
She found that the demand for roses is fairly constant over the year, except for Valentine's Day, when it is much larger.
She found that the price of roses is dramatically higher on Valentine's Day than the rest of the year. In particular, the wholesale price is about three times the usual price. Despite the higher prices, more roses are sold on Valentine's Day than on other days.
The student drew demand and supply curves to explain what happened.
Pricing of Blue Jeans
The authors checked the prices of blue jeans of a given brand name in several different stores in the Ann Arbor area. They found both the most expensive and the cheapest place to buy blue jeans. The prices were very different, though the cheapest ones available were "last year's model". The authors made efforts to explain the price differences that were observed.
Pricing and Coupon Promotions by Ann Arbor pizza shops
The authors priced pizzas at a large number of Ann Arbor stores and discussed their marketing strategies with managers. They suggest that the Ann Arbor market segments between students and families and that coupon promotions are primarily focussed on student demanders. They offer an explanation for this difference based on the theory of price discrimination.
The Commodity Futures Industry and the Chicago Board of Trade
This student had been a summer intern at the Chicago Board of Trade. He wrote a discription of commodity futures markets and an account of trading rules in the
Chicago Board of Trade, and compared the procedures at the Chicago Board of Trade with those in our experimental markets in Econ 109.
Low-wage Jobs in the Ann Arbor Area
In the last two years, at least four groups have made such studies. One group
found the wages paid by bookstores and convenience stores for cashiers and stockpersons, the wages paid by restaurants to servers, cooks, and buspersons, and the wages paid by work-study jobs at the University of Michigan.
Another group found the wages paid by fast-food stores and pizza shops.
Another group found the wages paid in about 50 low-wage jobs in and around the University of Michigan. (A very impressive effort) This paper makes a nice effort to try to explain existing differences between the rates of pay for these low-wage jobs.
Seasonal Pricing, Occupancy Rate and Cost Structure of some Michigan Motels
One group interviewed several motel-owners to determine their pricing, occupancy rate over the seasons and also inquired about their cost structure.
Pricing of Ski Resorts--Lift Tickets and Housing
Some groups have investigated the pricing on weekdays, weekends, and holidays at a large number of resorts in the Rocky Mountains, the Midwest, and the East. They attempt to explain the differences that they observe by means of demand and supply theory.