The 8 Most Fascinating Things I Read This Week

Happy Friday! There are more good news articles, commentaries, and analyst reports on the Web every week than anyone could read in a month. Here are the eight most fascinating ones I read this week.

1. They grow up so fast
NPR's Planet Money uses Census Bureau data to show how the average new American house has grown over the years:

Source: NPR. Graphic recreated.

2. On the other hand...
The size of homes may be growing, but the size of families isn't. According to Bloomberg:

Americans have had fewer babies each year since the 2008 financial meltdown, with births falling to a 12-year low in 2011, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The low birth rate and reduced immigration resulted in the smallest gain in population since World War II, which may hurt spending on everything from Huggies diapers to pregnancy kits, child care and education ... The population increased by 0.92 percent, or 2.8 million people, to 311.6 million from the end of the decennial population count on April 1, 2010, to July 1, 2011, the slowest rate over a similar period since the mid-1940s, the Census Bureau said.

3. Millionaire next door
America's rich are getting richer. What's that mean for automakers like Ford (NYSE: F  ) , General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) , and Toyota (NYSE: TM  ) ? You might think it means more luxury cars. But that may not be quite right.

The Wall Street Journal cites a study looking at car registrations in wealthy ZIP codes across America, which found that rich areas tend to have a remarkable number of average cars -- Honda Accords, CRVs, and Priuses. Check it out here (via Barry Ritholtz).

4. Thinking differently, all right
Gizmodo exposes the confessions of an Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) employee:

Ronald used this inventory loophole -- which he and Jake both say is harder to exploit these days -- to go through countless iPhones for the sheer absurdity of it. At parties with other Apple employees, they'd all get tanked, pull out their phones, and spike them to the ground, laughing as the Gorilla Glass and circuits sprayed. Sounds more entertaining than flip cup at least -- and to Jake and the rest, it was a sort of game. How many phones could they squeeze out of oblivious, infinitely stocked Apple? In the early days of the phone, the only limit seemed to be the audacity of the Geniuses. They even traded gear for free drinks.

Much more here.

5. What people don't get about my job
Derek Thompson in the Atlantic asked readers to share stories about what people don't understand about their jobs. He got some incredible responses. A couple of examples:

  • Construction worker: "It's 95 degrees and the humidity is 80%. People don't understand that. People see a man with a shovel in his hand working on a job site and think he's lazy because he's just standing there. What they don't see is the struggle going on inside your brain. The part of you that has lived in the wild for millions of years is saying it's too exhausting, it's too hot, why don't you go lay in the shade for a while."
  • Telecommuter: "Working from home doesn't mean 'slacking off'. It means I never leave the office. I literally start working the moment I wake up, and finish when I shut down my laptop and go to sleep."

6. One world
How much would the global economy grow if all countries removed immigration laws? Dylan Matthews of The Washington Post cites one study putting the figure at $65 trillion:

University of Wisconsin's John Keenan ... builds a model that assumes that in the absence of restrictions, people will try to maximize income while still feeling some attachment to their native countries, and so some but not all workers will move to where their wages will be highest. He estimates that fully eliminating immigration restrictions worldwide would effectively double the world's labor supply. This, unsurprisingly, leads to enormous economic growth, such that typical workers in developing countries would see annual wages more than double, from an average of $8,903 today to $19,272 with open borders. That is, the typical worker in the third world would end up making about double the individual poverty line in the United States today. Certain countries have even more astounding results; the typical Nigerian would see gains of $21,940.

7. America's favorite industries
Gallup asked Americans what industries they have positive and negative feelings about. Computers, restaurants, retail, Internet, farming, grocery, and publishing came out on top. Oil and gas, the federal government, banking, real estate, and airlines came in at the bottom. Much more here.

8. He talks, you listen
Value investing great Mohnish Pabrai shares his investing wisdom in an hour-long talk at UC Davis. Watch the video here.

Enjoy your weekend.

Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Follow him on Twitter @TMFHousel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford Motor and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Ford Motor, and General Motors. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a synthetic long position in Ford Motor and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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