Top 5 Geeky, Yet Funny, Economic Paper Titles

Top 5 Geeky, Yet Funny, Economic Paper Titles

February 24, 2015 $SPY
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(Last Updated On: January 18, 2017)

As many are aware, economists aren’t the funniest group in the crowd. Here are some sample jokes from the funniest economists out there–Yoram Bauman.

Here is a sample economist joke:

When Yorum told his dad that he wanted to use his Ph.D. in economics as the basis for a comedy career, his dad was unsure.

He didn’t think there would be enough demand.

har har har…

And in response to his Dad’s skepticism:

I told him not to worry. I’m a supply-side economist. I just stand up and let the jokes trickle down.

N’yuk, N’yuk, N’yuk…

I know, pretty bad

But just because economists can’t tell jokes, doesn’t mean they can’t come up with some funny titles for their esoteric academic articles submitted to professional journals.


Our Top 5 Funny Titles of All-Time:

Number 5:

Star wars: The empirics strike back

Journals favor rejections of the null hypothesis. This selection upon results may distort the behavior of researchers. Using 50,000 tests published between 2005 and 2011 in the AER, JPE and QJE, we identify a residual in the distribution of tests that cannot be explained by selection. The distribution of p-values exhibits a camel shape with abundant p-values above :25, a valley between :25 and :10 and a bump slightly under :05. Missing tests are those which would have been accepted but close to being rejected (p-values between :25 and :10). We show that this pattern corresponds to a shift in the distribution of p-values: between 10% and 20% of marginally rejected tests are misallocated. Our interpretation is that researchers might be tempted to inflate the value of their tests by choosing the specification that provides the highest statistics. Note that Inflation is larger in articles where stars are used in order to highlight statistical significance and lower in articles with theoretical models.

Number 4:

An Option Value Problem from Seinfeld

In an episode of the sitcom Seinfeld (season 7, episode 9, original air date December 7, 1995), Elaine Benes uses a contraceptive sponge that gets taken off the market. She scours pharmacies in the neighborhood to stock a large supply, but it is finite. So she must “reevaluate her whole screening process.” Every time she dates a new man, which happens very frequently, she has to consider a new issue: Is he “spongeworthy”? The purpose of this article is to quantify this concept of spongeworthiness.

Number 3:

Macroeconomic Policy and the Optimal Destruction of Vampires

Although human beings have endured the recurring ravages of vampires for centuries, scarcely any attempts have been made to analyze the macroeconomic implications of this problem and to devise socially optimal policy responses. Despite the increasing incidence of vampire epidemics in recent years (in Transylvania, Hollywood, and elsewhere), vampirism remains a thoroughly neglected topic in the theory of macroeconomic policy. The “vampires” considered in this paper are not the blood-sucking bats (e.g., Desmodus rotundus or Diphylla ecaudata) to be found in the forests of tropical America, but the blood-sucking ghosts of dead Homo sapiens. The bats are comparatively innocuous; aside from taking their occasional blood sample from missionaries asleep in the jungle, they have had no measurable influence on human welfare. The blood-sucking ghosts, on the other hand, have periodically provided grave threats to human populations; their most conspicuous macroeconomic impact arises from their detrimental effect on the labor force.

Number 2:

Size Matters, If You Control Your Junk

The size premium has been challenged along many fronts: it has a weak historical record, varies significantly over time, in particular weakening after its discovery in the early 1980s, is concentrated among microcap stocks, predominantly resides in January, is not present for measures of size that do not rely on market prices, is weak internationally, and is subsumed by proxies for illiquidity. We find, however, that these challenges are dismantled when controlling for the quality, or the inverse “junk”, of a firm. A significant size premium emerges, which is stable through time, robust to the specification, more consistent across seasons and markets, not concentrated in microcaps, robust to non-price based measures of size, and not captured by an illiquidity premium. Controlling for quality/junk also explains interactions between size and other return characteristics such as value and momentum.

And the Number 1 Hit:

An-arrgh-chy: The Law and Economics of Pirate Organization

This article investigates the internal governance institutions of violent criminal enterprise by examining the law, economics, and organization of pirates. To effectively organize their banditry, pirates required mechanisms to prevent internal predation, minimize crew conflict, and maximize piratical profit. Pirates devised two institutions for this purpose. First, I analyze the system of piratical checks and balances crews used to constrain captain predation. Second, I examine how pirates used democratic constitutions to minimize conflict and create piratical law and order. Pirate governance created sufficient order and cooperation to make pirates one of the most sophisticated and successful criminal organizations in history.

Who says academics can’t have a sense of humor? So what if their jokes stink? They still know how to have a little fun.

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Definitions of common statistics used in our analysis are available here (towards the bottom)

About the Author

Wesley R. Gray, Ph.D.

After serving as a Captain in the United States Marine Corps, Dr. Gray received a PhD, and was a finance professor at Drexel University. Dr. Gray’s interest in entrepreneurship and behavioral finance led him to found Alpha Architect. Dr. Gray has published three books: EMBEDDED: A Marine Corps Adviser Inside the Iraqi Army, QUANTITATIVE VALUE: A Practitioner’s Guide to Automating Intelligent Investment and Eliminating Behavioral Errors, and DIY FINANCIAL ADVISOR: A Simple Solution to Build and Protect Your Wealth. His numerous published works has been highlighted on CBNC, CNN, NPR, Motley Fool, WSJ Market Watch, CFA Institute, Institutional Investor, and CBS News. Dr. Gray earned an MBA and a PhD in finance from the University of Chicago and graduated magna cum laude with a BS from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

  • Great stuff! I also like:
    “Honey, I Shrunk the Sample Covariance Matrix”

  • sixchickensleft

    Hi Wes

    Regarding AQR’s paper, do you think we will be able to test their conclusion at some point by comparing their large cap vs small cap US equity funds. Granted, these funds take into consideration momentum as one of the factors, but they also use value and quality. From papers referenced on this blog, it seems that Dr. Ilmanen is quite focused on (obsessed with) quality.

    While I recognize the practical limitations of a small (micro) cap ETF – if you get too big, you can’t effectively by really small stock and if your fund is too small, you can’t charge low fees – do you apply the QV strategy in you personal portfolio?

  • Quality is an interesting factor–especially as a bolt-on for mainstream “anomalies” like size, value, momentum, etc. But in general, I’m a skeptic. Quality as a stand-alone has low-tracking error (not scary for large pools of capital to trade it if they see mispricing) and its unclear to me that investor psychology is biased when it comes to quality….we all know google, coke, walmart, p&g, etc are good companies.

    Size is a tricky one. In a frictionless world with no taxes and liquidity costs it might make sense. My personal belief is that the all-in liquidity costs and limited abilities to tax-manage, make it a “blah” exposure…but I am extremely bias towards simplicity and tax-management…take this all with a grain of salt