Mental Health: When the Economy Stresses You Out


Most are aware that having a debt crisis or financial hardship may lead to many increased mental health issues, namely depression, anxiety, and suicide attempts. However, there lies a far less known connection that mental health is often tied to family finances, employment longevity and duration. Mental health should be something to be stressed when the economy leaves the public stressed.

Take for instance, Greece, a country currently faced with financial crisis. Media coverage often reports high unemployment rates, closing of banks, and political uncertainty. However, far less coverage is done on how political and financial uncertainty negatively affects the mental health of the Greek people. New research reveals a 35 percent jump in the suicide rate during the first two years of austerity programs, with a direct correlation in additional unemployment to an incremental increase in the suicide rate among working-age men. Clinical depression rates have also increased from 3.3 percent to 8.2 between 2008 and 2011.

The issue in Greece is that whilst the need for mental health support is increasing, the government’s austerity measures is resulting in dwindling healthcare. Hospitals are overflowing, and less than half of the Greek population is able to afford healthcare. In an attempt to decrease the debt that is causing so many mental problems, the Greek government has forgotten the consequences of allowing existing mental problems to brew without treatment. Those with mental health problems tend to be pushed into poverty, namely due to increased health costs, loss of employment, reduced work hours, and stigma.

No matter the public’s stance on Greece’s austerity measures, the mental health statistics in Greece reflect how factors on a microeconomic level can have large implications on the overall global economy.


David Stuckler on Austerity and Death

Cases of Mental Illness in Greece Have Increased

Chinese buyers, L.A. markets

Chinese residential developers in L.A. are expecting Chinese buyers to constitute up to 40 percent of their clients. Since 2014, Chinese real estate companies have been involved in at least seven of 18 land deals in Los Angeles.  Greenland, a Shanghai-based real estate company, bought a property called “Metropolis” in downtown L.A. near the 110 freeway. This mixed-use project with three towers and 1500 residential units is now under construction. Greenland, the property owner, has the marketing skills to attract the Chinese buyers. The realtor for the Metropolis project said 75 percent of units in one tower had already been sold. Many of those units are going to buyers from China.


The Metropolis project model 

First, Greenland targets Chinese buyers through real estate agents from both China and the U.S. The L’ands Corporation is a Beijing-based company and has years of experience selling luxury houses in China. The advertisements for the Metropolis condominiums have appeared during the Beijing company’s marketing to Chinese buyers. “We are quite confident about the overseas market because more and more Chinese clients consult with us about houses in the U.S., especially California,” said Eason Wang, one of the sales agents in the L’ands Corporation. After Wang posted the Metropolis information in his Wechat account (a Chinese popular social networking account similar to Twitter), several customers were interested, and Wang planned to put the potential buyers in contact with the Los Angeles partner — Douglas Elliman. The main roles of the Chinese real estate agents are the advertiser, the promoter and the connector between the Chinese buyers and the L.A. market. Only the U.S. real estate agents are authorized to sell American houses. The L’ands Corporation will help the potential Chinese buyers arrange the property visits with Douglas Elliman’s L.A. branch in Greenland’s office near the Metropolis project. Douglas Elliman’s team for Greenland, of course, has several Chinese employees who can speak fluent Mandarin.


A screenshot of L’ands Corporation house selling advertisements in Wechat

Greenland, the company behind Metropolis, tries to make its properties more attractive to potential Chinese buyers by linking ownership to citizenship.

It’s called the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, foreign investors are eligible to apply for permanent residence if they invest $500,000 in a company like Greenland in a way that helps create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers. Greenland will return the money to investors once the properties they invested in are sold. The Chinese buyer gets to stay in the U.S.



In 2015, more than $25 billion from China flowed into residential real estate in the United States. Chinese consumers bought more U.S. properties than people from any other country. “People move with capital nowadays. If you go to a university in the U.S., you will also consume goods including investment in property. It’s the mobility of capital,” said Yasheng Huang, associate dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management.  “The houses built by Chinese real estate companies could easily own the Chinese buyers’ attention and trust.” But behind the big boom in American real estate investment are worries about the depreciation of China’s currency and an economic slowdown. “There are right reasons for capital movement such as increasing globalization, the mobility of capital and the ability of entrepreneurs,” Huang said. What he worried about were the “wrong reasons” for capital movement such as the lack of confidence in the future of China’s economy.

Corporate travelling: a commute or a commune?

It might be possible that the hospitality industry might be on it’s way to completely revolutionizing itself, as can be seen by the new things that have been trending in hotels in the past year. There has been a shift from focus on factors like luxury, comfort and indulgence to factors like social spaces, high-tech facilitated services, and modern renewable energy driven buildings.

What young corporate travelers today while on business trips or work-related trips look for in a hotel is two things: firstly a smooth and easy stay process and secondly to use the hotel as a platform to socialize, meet people and start building a network. Consequently, hotels have been choosing to capitalize on possible social settings. For example, there has been a concept of ‘living room like lobbies’, which are basically huge lobbies with a lot of communal furniture to promote mingling and socializing. This was started by the Citizen M chain of hotels in Amsterdam, which offers not so luxurious and small rooms but these ‘living room like lobbies’. Shared spaces are not only limited to lobbies: even restaurants and bars can be made to have communal tables and settings rather than the traditional way, lounges, that can usually be accessed by frequent customers can provide a kind of shared entertainment experience and even waiting areas like hallways and elevator could be somehow utilized as collective spaces. A hotel in Frankfurt that opened in March by the Lindenberg brand of hotels has shared leisure places like a communal kitchen that hosts cooking classes, and a jogging club in the garden.

Also, with evolving and fast-changing technology, the younger corporate travelers are used to being associated with user friendly and tech savvy services. For example, many airlines are not just switching to online check in but also e-boarding, which lets you proceed directly to security check: which is a part of making the travel experience smooth and error free. Lesser human involvement in this process implies a more systematic method. The same concept has been extending to the hotel industry: some hotels are now coming up with ideas of e-check in, by which they get their room key cards through an automated system after scanning their identification. This process is both faster and ensures that customers are served in a timely manner or is been informed of an accurate wait time through a computer rather than an estimate by a customer service associate.

Lastly, there has been a growing concern for the depletion of resources on our planet and towards issues like global warming and melting of glaciers. This concern will be more and more reinforced every year, and renewable energy is starting to be seen as the future. Young corporate travelers who are usually recent college graduates are very informed about environmental issues and since they will be the ones to actually live through an energy crisis if it were ever to happen, they are very attracted to businesses that are renewable energy driven. Though not many hotels have had a goal to achieve this, it might be something they might consider in the future.

These concepts could soon make a lot of existing luxury hotel chains obsolete, or force them to go through very expensive refurbishments that might take a while and cause the hotel to be out of business for a while, which might not be something they could afford. However, it would be intriguing to see if these small but still significant changes could have a great impact and actually revolutionize the hospitality industry.

Uber: Win for the riders, loss for the drivers



Uber just completed 2 billion rides on July of 2016 internationally, proving as consumers’ best friend when it comes to transportation.

To the majority of the Trojans, Uber is an excellent app.

Thanks to the recent program between USC and Uber, the Trojans have been saving money and going home safely after late excursions.

Proving how Uber is the students’ beloved smartphone app, the recent findings in Uber demand curve shows how Uber service is more beneficial to the customers than the drivers and the company itself.


Uber, Steven Levitte (author of Freakonomics), and other researchers mapped out Uber demand curve to investigate the impact Uber has brought to the consumer welfare. If the researchers were to map demand curve for regular transportation service, it could have been harder because there is more than one factor. For the transportation service like Taxi, the price may be affected by not only the supply of the drivers but also by the weather, time of the day and other competing services. Different from aforementioned factors affecting transportation demands, Uber’s metrics are unique in two folds: 1. Uber records every occasion where a customer declines the offered price with regular factors such as the time, place, price, and a surge factor; 2. Uber rounds up or down to one decimal place the surge factor it generates to determine how much to charge customers for a given trip.

The Study looked into 48 million ride interactions over the first 24 weeks of last year from Uber’s four biggest U.S. markets: New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles. According to the data, the customers follow through 62% of the time without surge pricing (which is almost 80% of the time), and 39% when the surge is above 2 (3.5% of the time). The demand did not match the price. In simple economics, the demand should be high as the supply is scarce; however, the Uber data shows the opposite. As shown in the graph, the demand decreased by 40% as the price doubled.

On the conclusion of the study, the authors stated that Uber demand curve is highly inelastic and made $6.8 billion consumer surplus last year alone. This surplus is twice greater than how much the drivers were paid and six times what Uber itself earned last year. This may be a good news for the college students whose goal is always to save money, but it is clearly not a great news for Uber which has lost $1.2 billion in the first half of 2016.

San Francisco and its Sleeping Bag Situation


Although it’s been called the “most expensive city in the U.S.”, San Francisco homeowners are challenged with an issue more prevalent than just the neighborhoods steep price tag — homelessness.

According to a recent study by the California Budget Center, the city ranks first in California for economic inequality. With the average household income of the top 1% ($3.6 million) reaching 44 times that of the bottom 99% ($81,094), it’s clear that there is a serious housing and wealth disparity in the city.

While San Francisco is known for its free-thinking, diverse, and innovative culture, the city has long struggled with the issue of homelessness despite spending upwards of $240 million every year to tackle it. Moreover, it is estimated that the 1,600 chronically homeless people cost the approximately $80,000 each per year, with the number rising to $150,000 for the 338 considered “most needy” in the public health database.

The irony of the situation lies in the fact that while San Francisco is deemed as being a progressive, welcoming, and moderately warm city this also means that that there continues to be a large influx of homeless people to the city each year. Which, in turn, poses major challenges to both policy makers and residents who are already battling with the cities extremely expensive housing market.












In order to tackle the issue of homelessness in San Francisco and create serious change, policy makers need to look at the issue from both the homeowner and humanitarian perspective.

On the one hand, while it is understandable that homeowners are becoming increasingly frustrated with the issues, lawmakers cannot solely listen to residents complaining about having old mattresses lying outside their $4 million dollar walkup. Similarly, increasing budgets for welfare and rehabilitation programs will not be beneficial if there is not the infrastructure and culture to do so.

Maybe what the city really needs is a change of mindset — in both how people and policy makers view and understand the issue of homelessness?

It is not as simple as just ‘creating housing and offering programs’… it will take an entire community.



San Francisco has become one huge metaphor for economic inequality in America

Government and NGOs Fight Homelessness in San Francisco: Is it Working?



The Art Market is Plagued with Irrational Exuberance


The art market is not unlike the stock market. The auction floors of Sotheby’s and Christie’s akin to the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange, men and women gesticulating or waving paddles as prices for the commodity – the work of art being sold – rise. People speculate and they buy to sell. Buying up art has become a show of strength and capital – both monetary and cultural – for the world’s wealthiest people seeking status and future profits. The problem though is that art is not a commodity of quantifiable worth. The price of a Francis Bacon triptych – regardless of how beautiful or one of a kind it may be – is subjective and driven by what a buyer is willing to pay. Art does not have an intrinsic value like gold, oil or other traditional investments constantly being bought and sold on the market.

Speculation is ultimately the largest driver of the art market and has resulted in the distortion of art valuation, and like any market speculation leads to inflated prices and potential bubbles. The art market’s decline in 2009 is indicative of its vulnerability during times of economic turmoil; however, following the world financial crisis prices of art began to rise and inflate again with people believing art to be a safe asset to invest in when other markets are doing poorly (Segal).


Art is enticing because the gains that can be made in the short-term are much higher when compared to other forms of investible assets; and continued low-interest rates have made it easier for lenders to borrow more money, driving up prices as well. Since the 2008-09 global recession, the value of art has more than doubled since financial recovery (Helmore). The problem again is that art, is illiquid, it has no fundamental value and is driven by oligarchs that call themselves collectors. These so-called collectors are really just interested in turning a profit and thus the boom for art, failing to take into account issues of exposure to oversupply; because art, specifically contemporary art is essentially in endless supply, with a new Warhol or Koons or Hirst coming onto the scene. While this is all good and fine as long as people continue to be willing to pay these prices, there is no question that market has been overheated by the “irrational exuberance” of speculators.
Current trends of buying up art as an asset with the expectation that it will be worth more in the future mirror that of the dot-com bubble of the 1990s and the collapse of the housing market in 2009, the prices simply cannot continue to sustain themselves.








How Your College Education is Paying for Touchdowns (or Lack Thereof)

The college experience is priceless. How can you put a dollar sign on meeting the most diverse, interesting, and intelligent group of people you will ever encounter, and high-fiving complete strangers when your team has 2 touchdowns by the first quarter?

We all know we’re paying too much for college. We all complain and cry a little everyday as the interest bumps up our once “small” loan debt to numbers beyond our comprehension. We pay a large sum of money for an education that sometimes feels wasted on us due to procrastination and the occasional frat party. Some even skimp out on buying textbooks to save a few bucks.

Yet, do we ever blame football? Basketball? The attractive men’s volleyball team? Of course not.

According to the Huffington Post, our greatest unknown fears are put in writing : College football is stealing our education.  The student loan debt crisis is old news but here are the current statistics. There are 43.3 million Americans with student loan debt, he total U.S student loan debt being 1.26 trillion. About 70% of college students end up with $30,000 in student loan debt. All in all, the price of tuition continues to rise and therefore so does the debt.

The issue is not that education is expensive because of course we all know that going in. The issue is that the uptick in tuition may not be going to the things that lead to our success but the athletic department instead. According to the Huffington Post, schools with strong football teams correlate with increased tuition up to 55% or in some cases 65%. Pouring more money into football at many schools leads to faculty or degree programs being cut. Ironically, the claim that athletic departments bring so much to the school has not been proven. The opposite has, that “Over 80 percent of collegiate athletic departments actually lose $11 million dollars or more for their universities yearly.

It is difficult to claim that USC as a whole has allowed academics to suffer due to football. Evidently, USC graduates do very well. However, is it really necessary to pay the equivalent of a mortgage every year? Especially when our team is realistically pretty mediocre…

Interestingly enough, the White House claims that “student loan debt is an investment in human capital that typically pays off through higher lifetime earnings and increase productivity.” They released an entire study “proving” student debt helps instead of harming the economy. The proof lies in the fact that students with the most debt have usually gone through graduate school which means higher income and opportunity in the future. However, what happens when you get zero financial aid assistance during undergrad? What do you do then?

Perhaps taking a closer look at the White House study would prove me wrong, but at the end of the day, even if high unemployment leads to higher enrollment rates at universities how is the average American expected to manage such large amounts of debt with such an unpredictable job market?


A Look at the Shocking Student Loan Debt Statistics for 2016

The New iPhone and The Economy


A part of this past weekend’s happenings was the well-awaited release of the iPhone 7 on Friday.  Since the iPhone 7 and its new features were revealed on September 7th, the public has been eager to have one of their own. Like the arrivals of previous generations of the iPhone, people have ordered theirs ahead of time to be able to have it the first day it is released and many will wait in long lines outside the Apple store just to make the new gadget theirs. Even some of the color options of the new phone have temporarily sold out. There is a lot of excitement around the iPhone 7 for the sake of having it but hopefully, for economists, the iPhone 7 will affect the economy similarly to how the previous iPhone releases did.

The New York Times revealed that “Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist for JPMorgan Chase & Co., told the New York Times Sunday that there’s evidence that iPhone sales add between one-quarter and one-third of a point to gross domestic product growth.”. Economists have found that the influx of consumer spending is very reliable in the quarter that the new iPhone generation is released. This is because consumers are spending a lot of money during that time then they would usually spend in a month, and there is high demand, it feels like everyone has an iPhone. Apple is the highest valued tech company and 60% of their revenue is from iPhone sales. The new iPhone also stimulates the sales of electronic stores and the phone carrier companies.

Fortune, CNBC and other sources have reported that the iPhone 7 sales are currently in line with the previous iPhone releases. The iPhone sales during the release weekend have increased from each new release. If the trend continues, the iPhone 7 sales during the release weekend should pass the sales of the iPhone 6s release weekend. If it does, it will impact the economy even more that the iPhone 6s release did.


Fortune previously said that, “Around the start of 2015, it was reported that Apple’s iPhone 6 sales were responsible for 10% of all U.S. economic growth…The claim featured a 1.9 to 2.5% growth rate for the U.S. economy between 2014 and the first quarter of 2015 ”. From information gathered about the past iPhone releases, it will be interesting to see how this iPhone release pans out and could affect the economy similarly or differently. It will take time to tell, especially after seeing the sales of the iPhone 7 during the holidays.

Another notion about the iPhone is that it represents America’s changing economy and decline of manufacturing because it is made by the largest tech company in the U.S. economy but it is manufactured outside the U.S. This video from the New York Times was very helpful for my understanding of this topic-

Although, the new iPhone stimulates consumer spending, the company overall could be affecting the economy in a negative way because of the loss of jobs due to the decline of manufacturing, a factor of the economy.



Here’s How Well iPhone 7 Sold In its First Weekend

iPhone 7 Sales Rate Matches iPhone 6

Economics of the English Premier League

I want to talk to you about Craig Bellamy and Andrew Ayew. If you’re not a big fan of English Premier League you’re probably wondering who those two guys are, and what could possibly make them interesting enough to talk about.


NORWICH, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 31: Craig Bellamy of West Ham United in action during the Pre Season Friendly match between Norwich City and West Ham United at Carrow Road on July 31, 2007 in Norwich, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Craig Bellamy

NORWICH, UNITED KINGDOM – JULY 31: (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Craig Bellamy







Photo Credit: Arfa Griffiths via Getty Images


Well, they are both footballers who play the same position. Bellamy is retired, and Ayew plays currently for the London-based soccer club West Ham United where Bellamy used to play. They are interesting because they represent the effect of an insane revenue boom in the EPL, and how that has changed the economic dynamics of the one of the most popular sports leagues in the world.

In 2016, the EPL penned a new £5.13 billion broadcast rights deal which rose more than £2 billion from the previous agreement. This money is then spread amongst all the teams in the league. Imagine the EPL as a nation, and their GDP just swelled in size because the G, in this scenario the league itself, just poured a bunch of money into every team.

In past years, we have seen increases in I, or individual investment, in past years when billionaire oil magnates bought teams and injected them with loads of cash i.e. Chelsea and Manchester City, but those moves didn’t affect spending trends league wide. This time, the money has been helicoptered into small teams like Watford, as well as the giants like Manchester United. And unlike in Japan, those teams sure have spent that money.

This past summer alone teams in the EPL spent over a £1.165 billion on transfers. Trumping the gross spend from the previous summer of £870 million, and continuing an astonishing upward trend from the start of the window in 2003, in which teams outlayed a “paltry” £235 million.


Chart Source: Deloitte

Why is this happening? If we look at it through the lens of economist David Ricardo’s theory of marginal rents we can glean insight into why the trend of transfer spending has spiked so fantastically. I would point to those players and clubs on the “margin”, basically those teams that are average performers in the league, to see why spending continues to rise throughout the league.

screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-9-10-03-am screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-3-02-14-pm

Look at the number of record transfers that happened this past window, and then notice the spike in spending by the four teams in the chart on the right. The reason why those teams must spend even more now is because what the average team will pay for the average player has skyrocketed, and driven up the cost of players for those at the top of the league.

This brings me back to our old friends Andrew Ayew and Craig Bellamy. You can see Ayew’s name on that chart next to the £20.5 million he cost this past summer. Back in the summer of 2007, Bellamy, a player of a very similar skill-level and position, came to the same club for £7.5 milion. That is a huge jump in what that team would pay for that player in a mere eight years, and if we look at Ricardo we know that if the team on the “margin” can pay £20.5 million then that drives up the what the good clubs play for good players, and then what the elite clubs must pay for elite players. Thus creating the new market value for all players and the record spending for the clubs. After all, clubs still need players to sell tickets and TV rights.

This appears to be the new reality in the Premier League, and fans will have to get used to the dizzying amount of pounds spent on footballers as the trend continues to skyrocket.

Physical stores take hit on China’s e-commerce booms

If you haven’t heard of Taobao, you’ve at least heard of Alibaba. Operated by Alibaba, Taobao is the number one online marketplace in China. The founder, Jack Ma, was so ambitious that he wanted business for everybody. So he created an online platform in order to deliver C2C business (with a B2C branch called T-Mall). Taobao leads the e-commerce business in China, but also led a major battle between e-commerce and physical retails.


Taobao was founded in 2003; it was doing alright during the first a few years, but the sales volume really started to grow massively since 2011. Its 2015 annual sales volume was ¥3 trillion, which was more than triple to 2011, and the 2011 annual volume was already larger than the first five years combined.


Source: Taobao, 2015 annual sales volume 3 trillion yuan


Source: Statista

Take a guess. How long did it take for this online marketplace to generate ¥1 billion volume (approximately $150,000,000) on 2015’s “Singles’ Day Nov. 11th” (the Chinese version of Black Friday)? Seventy-two seconds. The sales number bumped up to $1.5 billion within 13 minutes, and by the end of that day, Taobao reported the final sales number to be $14.3 billion.

A lot of people have been criticizing Taobao, for “destroying” the physical retail business. Of course, Taobao is the inventor of this shopping culture, but this is the money people would have otherwise spent in physical stores.

But we can’t blame the consumers. One of the biggest advantages you get from shopping on Taobao, is that you can buy good value products within a very reasonable price range. We’re buying products made in China in the U.S., because they are cheaper. But surprisingly, the same products often are sometimes more expensive in China. Because although labor in China is rather inexpensive compares to western countries, the cost of housing and rent is scary. In order to remain in business, many retail stores raise the price of their products. You might find a jacket with a brand you’ve never heard of in a random street shop, and it costs more than $150, whereas you can get a very similar jacket on Taobao for less than $50. Now, more and more consumers go to the physical stores to check out the products, and then go home and shop on Taobao, or other similar sites. This leads to a lot more problems. For example, many retailers stopped renewing their leases and turned to online selling, which causes challenges for shopping malls and shopping districts.

However, can we blame Taobao for starting an unfair market competition? Not really. After all, the cost of making a product is still relatively low. Would physical stores become just a testing site for the consumers?