Aug 03, 2023

NGPF Podcast: Roman Hardgrave and Matt Hill from Marginal Revolution University

Roman Hardgrave, Head of Learning Design, and Matt Hill, Curriculum Designer, from Marginal Revolution University, joins Yanely to speak about how you can use their resources, which are offered at no cost for everybody.


Ren Makino: Hi, this is Ren from Next Gen Personal Finance. And you're listening to the NGPF podcast today on the show Yanely is joined by Curriculum Designer, Matt Hill, and Head of Learning Design, Roman Hardgrave, from Marginal Revolution University. The goal of MRU is to give everyone everywhere, free access to a world-class economic education and help individual learners increase their knowledge and understanding by providing them with engaging video and interactive lessons developed by leading academic economists. Matt and Roman. Matt and Roman share their backgrounds that led them to work at MRU and walks us through how you can use their resources, which is offered at no cost for everybody. 


Yanely Espinal: I'm so excited to welcome our guests this evening because we've been kind of planning this event for a little while and have had the questions prepared and just been so excited to kind of hear from you both. So really excited to welcome Roman and Matt. 

I'm gonna just start by giving you a chance to share each of your backgrounds and what led to each of you having a career in economics.

[00:01:04] Roman's Background

Roman Hardgrave: I've been with the project now for about 11 years, so I was actually the first employee that was sort of hired to help launch MRU, which is the project we're talking about tonight. I had a background in tech, I had a background in filmmaking.

Actually, I, at one point in my twenties, I thought I was gonna be an independent filmmaker, and I realized that that wasn't gonna happen or there's no way to raise a family on that career. So I switched off of that. But Yeah, so I actually just started taking economics classes. I was really interested in economics and I was at George Mason University 'cause that's what was nearby to me.

And they had evening classes. So I started doing that. And then it ended up being that they needed somebody who could help them launch a new big website who, you know, could help them with video. And so it felt like the only job in the world that they asked for economics, video making and web stuff.

And so I was like, okay, this is, this is definitely where I need to go. So yeah, that was about about 12 years ago now. 

Yanely Espinal: That is so cool. Feel free to jump in, Matt. 

[00:01:55] Matt's Background

Matt Hill: Yeah, so it took me a while to find economics. I took economics in high school, but on the, on the first day my teacher quit. So for the rest of the semester we were taught by the security guard.

So it was, it wasn't the most engaging class. And so I did take it in college, and then I went to grad school. I actually went to grad school for history and I was gonna quit. And my advisor was like, oh, you know, maybe you should try econ because I had a math background. And I took an econ class and I loved it because it was, it's like statistics and models and theory, which is, you know what I like, but it's applied to people, which is, you know what I'm interested in.

So once I took that class, I was kind of hooked. Didn't really know what I was gonna do, but I ended up getting a PhD in econ, and then you sort of, I became a professor. And I'm still a professor. But I joined MRU sort of right after the pandemic because I really wanted to help with econ education in the country.

So it took me a while, but I'm here and I'm loving econ and econ ed. 

Yanely Espinal: So cool. Alright, well you both have mentioned MRU already and obviously that's what we're gonna kind of lead into talking about. I'm gonna drop the link to the website For those of you who are here live, you can feel free to click on it.

Tell us a little bit about the mission of MRU, Marginal Revolution University, and tell us a little bit about the work there because obviously both of you seem to really enjoy it. But tell us a little bit more about the mission and what really drove you to arrive where you are working now.

[00:03:18] MRU's and MRU's Mission

Roman Hardgrave: It's probably best to start with our founders. So we have two founders, Tyler Cowan and Alex Tabarrock. They are economists, they're professors at George Mason University. And they're very prolific communicators of economics. And so prior to launching MRU, they had a very popular blog.

They still have the same blog. It's called Margin Revolution. That's sort of where we get our name from. But they had also written principles of Economics textbook. Tyler's written, I don't know how many books he's written now about sort of economics, but it's probably 10 or so. And so they were already in this mode of.

We wanna communicate economics because we think economics, understanding and literacy is so important. And not just important for like, sort of being a good citizen, but like for, you know, making good decisions. It's really good to, to have good economic reasoning. And so they actually were very inspired by Khan Academy.

 That was really what got them going was they saw what, what Con was doing and they're like, oh we, we've been blogging already for 10 years, what we should be doing videos. And so that's sort of how we started. And so our mission hasn't changed. Our audiences have evolved a little bit over time, but our mission is still the same, which is, you know, increased economic literacy.

So we feel like, you know, economics has got a bad rap right from a lot of people. A lot of people think economics is boring. It's a dismal science, you know, or they think it's about stocks and stuff like that. And so, We feel like that economic teaching is, is a big reason why people think that.

'cause economics is often taught in a, in a kind of a dry way. And so, you know, our mission's really to sort of make economics as interesting to everybody else as it is to us. And so that's really what we've been doing over time. 

Matt Hill: Yeah, I think, yeah, the econ definitely gets a bad rap. I know whenever I'm at a party, like nothing stops a conversation faster than telling people I'm an economist.

And then, and if they, if the conversation keeps going, it's like, oh, well what should I do with my stocks? And it's like, ah, I drove here in a Honda Fit, so I'm not sure if I'm the best person to, you know, give you advice on that. So yeah, it's really just trying to make econ fun is, is what Marginal Revolution University is all about.

And you know about the name. It's funny, I was doing a professional development session and I was talking about how like opaque economics languages often I was like, elasticity. It's like, why is it called elasticity? It's so confusing. Or like the Fed funds rate, like the Fed fund rate is like the one rate the Fed doesn't directly control.

They target it, but they actually can't control it. So it's like everything is designed to make, you know, things as confusing as possible. And one of the teachers is like, yeah, economists are terrible at naming things like Marginal Revolution University. So, It is, it's, it's named after the blog. So it makes sense in that, in that context.

But it's not the most catchy. It's not the most catchy, title. MRU, MRU.

Yanely Espinal: I was waiting for you to share something like about like, there was a marginal revolution in economics back in 1780s. 

Roman Hardgrave: There actually was. 

You're only like a, a century off. It's like 1870s. Yeah. So yes, there was a margin revolution. It was a revolution within economic science. And so that is what the blog was named after.

And that's what we're named after. One of the reasons we went to MRU. As, as our name and our url was just people, it was such a mouthful to say Marginal Revolution University. And people would always mess it up and you know, and so they call it Revolution University or Marginal University, and they're like, nah, we don't wanna be marginal university.

That's not the right sort of brand. So you're like, all right,, that's what we're gonna be. 

Matt Hill: Yeah. But in terms of like economic growth, I mean marginal, if you think about like marginal revolution, that's how actually things get better. They get better like a little bit at a time. So it's like, I always joke, it's like what do we want?

Like, better things. When do we want it? Slowly, incrementally, all getting there, you know, step by step. 

Yanely Espinal: Oh, that's so funny. I, I really like this idea of like shifting from blogging to video because obviously it's the 21st century and you kind of gotta keep up, otherwise you get left behind. So tell us a little bit about some of these courses that you offer and whether or not they would be appropriate for like the audience that are educators who are joining in our community today who these folks are serving. 

So high school students and potentially even as young as middle school students, would it be appropriate for them some of these courses that you all have and offer? 

[00:07:15] MRU's Courses.

Matt Hill: Yeah, so MRU started by making videos, and those videos are accessible to, to anyone. And one of the like gratifying things working at MRU, we do get notes from people all over the world who would be like, oh, I found your videos on YouTube and you know, now I'm studying econ, or it helped me understand, you know, this, this policy or something like that.

But. In the last couple of years, we started developing like specific high school curriculum. And so we have a number of unit plans that are just specifically designed for that general economics in high school now. 

The most popular is supply and demand, but we have supply and demand inflation, GPD, trade. We're just coming out with an intro unit plan, and we have a career readiness unit plan as well. So we're moving, you know, we're trying to build that library up to ultimately having like a full high school class.

And we've also started to build like interactive practice as in addition to the unit plans specifically for that, that high school audience.

Yanely Espinal: That's awesome, especially because obviously we have a core group of educators who teach economics, personal finance, you know, financial literacy and in so many different capacities, different courses that fit under the financial education umbrella. 

And one of the big things that we try to do, at least at NGPF is really pull from lots of different places on the web that have the best videos, most engaging resources, articles, and really switching things up. So we've actually pulled some of your videos. I know I use one about why you should diversify your investments in the investing course from our certification course program.

And so the way that we kind of think about curriculum development at NGPF has been to really pull and from the web and, and kind of curate, what we think are like the best resources to help educators, teach students. 

But curious about sort of what your curriculum development process has been like and if teachers were to take some of this and actually start implementing it into their classroom, what would that look like?

[00:09:03] Implementing MRU's Curriculum.

Matt Hill: I think MRU has a similar philosophy where we're, you know, we're willing to take whatever. We're a nonprofit and the mission is to raise econ literacy. So, you know, whatever materials we can find that raise econ literacy you know, we'll, you know, we'll, we'll, we'll use those.

And the unit plans are a mix of, you know, resources that we've created and resources that we fund. I mean, generally the process for us when it comes to developing unit plans is: looking at the state standards, looking at the CEE standards and then trying to design a unit plan that sort of hits as many standards across states and with those CEE standards as possible. 

In terms of implementation, we do everything in Google, so hopefully the teachers can sort of, you know, grab the Google Doc. Look at it, you know, make a copy of it if they want to use it directly. Or they can go through the Google Doc and the Google Slides and, you know, if they, if they see something they like, they can, they can pull it out and, and incorporate incorporate that into their class. So generally that's how we go about it in terms of like, we think of, you know, think of you know, whatever unit plan we wanna do next and go there.

You know, sometimes we get feedback from teachers like, oh, they're really looking for, you know, something in particular. So I remember I was, you know, going to a bunch of development sessions and conferences, and teachers were really excited about games in the classroom. But if you've ever done like an econ game in the classroom I'm sure it's similar personal finance, like, it's a lot of work.

And then sometimes they, the, the, the game itself kind of backfires or is, is kind of, you know, it's this kind of chaos. And so it's like, Teachers really want, like, okay, is there like a foolproof games? And so at MRU, we just like, all right, here's the top five. We talked to a bunch of teachers, we tried these out here are like a top five games.

So that was something that was really, you know, servicing a need that we felt was out there. And like right now, I think in the fall what we're doing is a bunch of resources and interactives around the new AP macroeconomics. They have a new way of teaching monetary policy, and I think there's a real hunger for resources, you know, sort of teaching how that monetary policy works.

So we'll be developing, I think, unit plan and some interactives and hopefully some videos to, to help with that. 

Roman Hardgrave: Yeah, and I would add one thing, which is I think, you know, We started developing high school resources maybe about three years ago. And so you'll sort of see like we have a lot of videos, like tons, I don't know, we have 1100 videos or something now.

And so like the process has been, okay, let's take the video, let's put a lesson plan around it. Let's put interactive practice with it. Like how do we have all the pieces so that you know you can. You can use it easily in a classroom. And I think, you know, one of our big inspirations was actually NGPF when we were, when we were going through the process of what, what should a lesson plan look like?

What we saw in economics was, man, these lesson plans would be like 25 pages long and, you know, just have so much stuff and you'd be like, oh my, like, just trying to process this whole thing is so hard. So we try to make like a very sort of you know, detailed but simple template, which was like a four part sort of like, okay, we're, we're gonna do a bell ringer, we're gonna do a direct instruction with a, typically with a video, we're gonna do a practice.

Like it just ideally an interactive practice that they get feedback right away. Then we have an exit ticket, right? And we're, and we're try to make a modular. So if somebody says, Hey, you know, I already got something I like for this. They can just take one chunk and say, okay, I'm gonna take that. And that was very much, I think NGPF, we looked at unified stuff a lot when we were early on.

Like, oh yeah, this is great. I like the way they sort of laid it out and. You know Google Docs and very easy to use. 

Yanely Espinal: Yeah, easy to use and also just like turnkey, right? Because like the problem with a 25 page lesson plan is that if I need to teach this tomorrow, there's just no way that I can internalize this.

So turnkey is like a lesson guide that's one to two pages instead of 10, 15, 20 pages. So, I think the teachers really appreciate that, the ability to take something that they found right now and actually be teaching it in, you know, 25, 26 hours from now. Yeah. So it's really amazing for them to be able to turn it around that quickly.

Roman Hardgrave: I mean, one more thing to add on that is that a lot of econ teachers, we interview teachers all the time. We'd love talking to teachers to try to figure out what what they need. And I think what we've heard a lot is that, A lot of times they kind of get thrown into econ.

Right. So they're teaching social studies or something, get thrown into econ. Often they don't have materials given to them...

Matt Hill: Or they quit on the first day!

Roman Hardgrave: Yeah. Or they, the security guard has to teach it. You never know. Right. Or I'm sorry, was it custodian? Was it security guard or the custodian? I forget 

Matt Hill: What changed? Sometimes it was a sub. Sometimes it was the lunch lady, whoever, was a warm body. 

I interrupted Roman though. Sorry. 

Roman Hardgrave: So we get very much, we're trying to make it really easy to use for somebody who literally like, oh, I just found out in two weeks. I'm teaching my first econ class. Like, we don't want them to give 'em the whole history of the world. It's like, okay, here's the recipe on how to do this, and hopefully there's a lot of stuff that you can just grab and use, right?

It's say, okay, this, I can just hit play on this video. It's gonna introduce this concept. This practice has already built, already has the feedback in it. You know, I can just reuse that. 

Yanely Espinal: Yeah. Love that. We, we hear a lot from teachers that the confidence is the most important indicator. A lot of times you can hand somebody a curriculum, but if they themselves don't feel confident digesting it, then, you know sharing it with students that it, the lack of confidence in front of a room of students is the worst feeling in the world.

Mm-hmm. So when you feel equipped, not just with the competence and understanding of the content and feeling like you have content expertise, but also the confidence to be up there and take any questions that come at you, you know, really makes a big difference. And leveling up your game as an instructor, as a teacher, as an educator, but also the way that you feel when you finish that lesson.

You feel amazing versus, you know, just feeling awful because of that, that lack of confidence. Okay, well you all have. Such a plethora, a wide variety of offerings. So let's do a little bit of rapid fire here. It's gonna be kind of fun. I'm just going to name a course or a particular series and then you, you either one can kind of jump in and tell us a little bit about that particular offering and topics covered.

What it's all about. Kind of a little bit of a sales pitch for educators here who might be like, oh, that might be something that I wanna check out and potentially use with my students this coming fall. So let's start with the money skills course. 

[00:14:42] Rapid Fire: Money Skills Course.

Roman Hardgrave: Sure. And so it's probably good to give a little background that we have, you know, we have stuff that's directly for learners so people can come to our website and use our stuff.

And so, and then we often take those same things and package them into lesson plans. So money Skills is actually the name of our just direct to Learner personal finance course. One thing about the way we think about personal finance is we really only do content where we feel like economists have something to say about personal finance.

So we don't cover most of personal finance, but the areas where we're like, oh yeah, the economists has something to add like investing or jot the labor market and things like that. And so money skills is the name of our course, of our learner, like just a video series. So there's videos on a lot of videos on investing about like sort of, you know, why it's hard to beat the market, those sorts of things.

And then we have some videos on sort of thinking about supply demand when it comes to labor markets and why certain jobs are paid so much and why they're not.

Yanely Espinal: I'm sure there's very happy teachers out there hearing this, like, ooh, more resources for money skills because you can never get enough, and especially if you teach many different sections of personal finance or financial literacy class for yourself as an educator.

It can feel very repetitive to teach the same lessons or repeat the same activities again and again. So just for the sake of educators enjoying their job and finding joy in what they do, it's nice to switch it up and try new activities or find new resources. So hopefully for many of those of you listening, this is something new on your radar that you can go check out.

Okay, so that, that was the money skills course. Now let's talk about the series. Let's do Nobel Conversations. 

[00:16:08] Rapid Fire: Nobel Conversations.

Roman Hardgrave: Sure. So there's a bunch of series we have, so Nobel conversations, econ duel, those are all like, I would say, a little bit more advanced in that like we are super nerdy econ people. So like we build stuff that sort of, sort of beginner stuff, but we also build stuff that gets a little bit more into the weeds.

So Nobel conversations is really getting into the weeds with two Nobel Prize winners on their work. Not just, you know, what their work's about, how they did it, where they disagree. And so that's sort of like if you're. If you get to sort of econ nerd level, that's where you'll, you'll start watching those.

Yanely Espinal: Nice. Okay. Well, you mentioned it, but the next one that I had was actually going to be econ duel 

[00:16:45] Rapid Fire: Econ Duel Course.

Roman Hardgrave: Yeah. So Econ does a little less nerdy than Nobel conversations. Idea is two economists, it's not always economists. We've had journalists and things like that, sometimes dual, but they're dueling, they're, they're, they're, they're disagreeing about something like for example Rent or buy, should you rent or buy?

There's a econ duel on that. And so it's Tyler and Alex actually disagreeing. We have a bunch of them. The idea there is we find it's really useful to see the professionals where they agree and where they disagree. We think that's a really good actually learning experience, 'cause it all, all of a sudden makes you realize, okay, this part sort of settled, but this part I can see, you know, where, you know where they're different and why their arguments are different.

And so that's what econ was about. 

Yanely Espinal: I love that. That's really cool because one of the things that I notice especially I wanna say in particular with younger learners, so middle school and high school students, they often, we're so taught in this very traditional formal financial education system in our country that we're looking for the answer.

And so when you ask the questions, okay, here's the question, so I'm gonna look for the answer. And so, when it comes to personal finance or financial literacy issues and topics there's not gonna be an answer. You're gonna have to do some research. You're gonna have to figure out what your personal values are and what your priorities financially are, maybe what your future goals are with your money.

And so your answer is gonna look very different from my answer and from somebody else's answer. They're all right for the person who made that choice based on their priorities, their goals, and everything, but their different answers. And so for a lot of people who want to, you know, just look up, you know, should I rent or should I buy?

And something like this where you actually have a whole duel about it, it's like, it is so important to expose younger learners to debating issues like, you know, what's the value of this? Or should I do this versus that? 

Because it encourages them to stop constantly, just looking for someone to give them the answer and to actually do the work of analyzing the pros and cons, the advantages and the drawbacks, and sort of being able to kind of come up with their own conclusion as to what makes sense for them, rather than just being fed and being told like, this is what's good, this is what's bad, this is what you should do and this is what you shouldn't do. 

Roman Hardgrave: Yeah. I agree. It's also a nice little window into science and just how the fact that a lot of these questions aren't settled, right? Like they're sort of. Mainstream economic thought, but there's, people are challenging it and it's, you know, it's, it's evolving and changing and so that's some of the duel and some of the Nobel conversations really get into that, the process of science and really, you know, how it's how it's developing.

Yanely Espinal: Super Cool. Alright, what about Women in Economics? 

[00:19:10] Rapid Fire: Women in Economics Course.

Roman Hardgrave: So Women in Economics also talks about sort of how the science was developed, but it's really, it's a, it's a bio, right? So each video is about a famous female economist and sort of what their contribution is. So it sort of plays two roles. One, it gives you some idea of the research and the type of impact they've had.

But also gives you their story, like all the challenges that they came through. And so really it's a, it's kind of a dual purpose of a, of providing a role model as, as well as actually giving you a little bit of economic reasoning and things like that. So you know, there's a big problem about there's not enough females in, in econ and so this is one of the things that's like, Hey, if we can tell the stories of, of role models, maybe that'll help encourage people to, to, to actually pursue econ.

Yanely Espinal: Yup, I really like that. I think it's important to encourage students to think about career fields that aren't like, you know, your typical doctor, lawyer, business person, entrepreneur, especially now, I mean, I saw a, a news article the other day that said that a thousand students, high school students or teens were surveyed about what they wanted to do, and 60% of them said they want to become entrepreneurs and they don't want to work, quote unquote, work a regular job.

And they want to be their own boss. And then when asked what makes them, you know, want to answer the question that way, they said social media. Mm-hmm. So it's so interesting 'cause you go on social media and you don't see economists with 4 million followers, you know, and so, and so, it, it just so important I think that exposure because it's not right in their face when they're online.

But it could be something that's super rewarding and very interesting for a lot of students especially at the high school level. 

Matt Hill: 60% that want to be entrepreneurs, that's better than my kids' class where 90% wanna be YouTubers. So I think that's an improvement.

Yanely Espinal: There you go. Oh Roman, if you wanted to add anything, go ahead. 

[00:20:53] Eleanor Ostrom.

Roman Hardgrave: Oh, I was gonna say, you know, I, I, I'm thinking about Eleanor Ostrom because her birthday's coming up, but you know, like I think that video is very interesting, 'cause it, it shows you, like, I think people, again, think of econ as this sort of dry subject.

Eleanor Ostrom was trying to solve really important problems about, like, environmental problems, right? Like overfishing and things like that, that people generally care about. And I think a lot of times they don't realize, oh, that's, that's econ too. You know, I think econ is often thought of as this very narrow thing.

And it's like, no, there's, their econ is like basically any human activity, there's somebody... 

Matt Hill: Anything!

Roman Hardgrave: Yeah. Some economist is studying that, you know, and so like, yeah, if you wanna talk about the lobstermen in Maine and how do they decide, you know, how to keep from overfishing, that's Eleanor Ostrom's work, right?

She did that. And so I think, you know, I think once people see those stories, they realize like, oh wow, I can make a real impact on something I care about, doing Econ. 

Yanely Espinal: That's super cool. I think that's one of the things that makes me so passionate about working in personal finance because I feel like a lot of people will say, oh, you know, we gotta teach kids about this so that their future so they can thrive and have good financial futures.

But when I talk to teenagers, they're like "future?" I need this stuff because I need to apply it right now. Like they're working jobs over the summer, summer camp, Uber Eats, DoorDash you know, Ben and Jerry's job, and they're making financial choices with their own money as young as 14, 15, sometimes even younger.

So it, it's very frustrating when we keep saying, you know, oh, we need to prepare them for a future when actually we need to prepare them with skills. For right now, it's very relevant for them pretty much immediately when you teach them about money. And, and, and economics as well. The tagline on your website says, "Learn economics, understand your world."

And, you know, let's bring up this topic of, of the relevance and immediate applicability of these topics and what we're learning in class to the real world for them. But economics though, I dunno. It's like right now having situation where economics will, will teach you that, like this can't happen, right?

Like the FED has raised interest rates the fastest in four decades. 500 basis points. So 5% in increase yet. The labor market and the workforce keeps chugging along. And now sort of, kind of seeing that decrease in drop in inflation, not as fast as I think a lot of people want it to be, but seems to be evading based on recent readings.

And so just curious to hear from both of you or each of, you know, have you been surprised by the economy's robustness or, or should folks be worried about what's coming given, you know, these lag effects? 

[00:23:22] Opinions on the Recent Economic Changes.

Matt Hill: Well I'm a, I'm a micro economist, so I'm not a macro economist. I'll give that, I'll give that caveat.

So I was, you know, I went to grad school and it's so funny 'cause like, There's an old joke, like economists have predicted nine of the past seven recessions or something like that. And and so when I was in grad school, all the smartest students went to go study macro. But like I was in, I was in grad school during the financial crisis and the macro economists at my, at my school kept making predictions and they kept being wrong.

And I kept asking the smart students like, why do you wanna be macro economists? And they'd say, look, look at, look at, look at how wrong they're, look at all the work we could do. We could, you know, we could really make progress. So, You know, I don't, I don't think anybody really knows, you know, anybody who could make confident predictions about the macro economy.

Obviously it's super complex, you know, you're dealing with human beings, you know, millions of human beings. So it's, it's hard to say. I'm with you, I've certainly been surprised. I, I figured there would be a recession or, or some sort of downturn, but things certainly have been chiding along, we'll see... 

Yanely Espinal: 19% in the stock markets year to date. That doesn't sound like a recession to me. 

Matt Hill: No, I know, I know. So, I mean, that's a, I mean, that's a good thing because, you know, they, they have raised rates to combat inflation. It looks like inflation's coming down. So in, in terms of like broad econ theories, like the quantity theory of money seems to be holding up pretty well, like just standard.

Like your sort of standard monetary policy, macro policy where okay, you have inflation raise, interest rates should come down. That's, that's sort of, sort of what we've seen. And so, you know, I think, I think yesterday Jerome Powell said that the fed's no longer forecasting a recession.

So, you know, but obviously they've been wrong before, so maybe that makes the recession more likely. I don't know. I mean certainly it's, it's, I don't know, it's been reassuring for me or I, you know, obviously we've had a bit of a banking crisis, so that, that's not great.

But I don't know. I don't know. I'm not, I'm not gonna make it, I'm not gonna be on tape making any, any predictions. 

Yanely Espinal: Oh, come on. Don't cop out, Matt. 

Roman Hardgrave: Well, if Matt's not doing it, I'm not doing it. He's got the PhD, so like, if he is not gonna lend to do it, I'm not gonna, I'm not throw my head in the ring.

You know what, you know, I think it's interesting though. It does 

bring up this thing that I think when you, when you're actually study econ, you see more of, and maybe it's not so obvious to people outside, is that macro is sort of you know, we kind of like a a, a lot of folks kind of joke about macro.

'cause macro is, macro is trying to predict this massive complex system and there's so few data points. Like if you think about the number of recessions we've actually had since we've been able to actually measure things...

Matt Hill: Yeah, small sample size. 

Roman Hardgrave: This tiny thing, everyone's different. This one haven an oil crisis, this one, you know, so like the idea that people know, like anytime I hear people make a really confident, like, this is exactly what's gonna happen.

Unemployment's gonna hit 4.2% or whatever you're like, I don't buy it. I, I don't buy it. It's too complex a system. There's two main moving parts. I think micro econ is actually much more sort of solid and useful day-to-day than, than macro. I think there's certain parts of macro like quantity, theory of money, you know, how the Fed works and I think those things are useful.

But a lot of the sort of predicting business cycles, I mean, to be honest, like. They, they, they don't have, they don't know the answer. There's tons of different competing theories and there's not enough data to really prove one.

Matt Hill: Yeah. I will say my first day, my, my first, first class, first macro class I took in grad school.

The first day of class, the macro professor comes in there and he says, alright, I want you to forget everything you learned about macro in your undergrad. And I was like, awesome. I never took it undergrad, so no problem. But he, he was basically saying everything's changed and we're throwing out all the old models.

If you follow macro, that paradigm, the real business cycle that he was a real business cycle guy. And that theory has recently come under a lot of questions. So macro economy is hard. But you know, I say the broadly the quantity theory, money and, and the standard monetary policy at least looks pretty good in terms of predicting and, and, and being able to control inflation over the pandemic, so three, four years.

Yanely Espinal: Yeah. I mean, I agree. I think the hard part though is, I mean, pulling and, and, and really, I mean, truly plucking out the parts that will be most relevant, most helpful, most useful, or most engaging, right? Let's be honest, in the classroom, engagement is gonna gonna be most important because if you can't engage your students, then they check out and then you're effectively ineffective. 

So you know, the idea here is like to try to pluck and pull what we know will peak engagement from students. But it's so hard to do that because you can't just teach a concept in isolation. You, you sort of really do need to teach in full context how, how these things work.

That being said, if there are any resources that you feel like are awesome for teaching or your goal or favorite resources, Specific economics or articles, books anything like that. Share them. What are they, what are your kind of go-tos? And I'm sure educators gonna be writing, jotting them down.

And I'm, I'll compile a list as well to share with teachers afterwards and on our blog. 

[00:28:09] Favorite Resources.

Matt Hill: Yeah. Well, I, there's this there's this company called NGPF. I think they're pretty good. Pretty good place to go.

Yanely Espinal: Huh? Haven't heard of them, I don't know. 

Matt Hill: In the terms of like, good, good sub, I mean, it depends on the level that people are at, but like there are Marginal Revolution.

The, the the blog that we're based on Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarro, like their writing is very accessible and I think it's I think it, if you're trying to keep up with what's going on, like that's great. Noah Smith. He has a great sub stack. So I think if you read like Marginal Evolution and Noah Smith, you'll sort of get a good up to the date, like what's going on with econ, very digestible.

Burn Hobart also has a subset that's more businessy and like investing. That one's pretty dense, but I but I enjoy it. So those are sort of like reading resources. There's some good, there's some good new podcasts. The Economics of Everyday Things is really short and digestible and pretty fun.

Econ 102 is a podcast with Noah Smith that I think just started, but can really illuminate a lot of issues. And then Mike Munger has a new podcast called, the Answer is Transaction Cost. That's also short and, and a lot of fun. 

Roman Hardgrave: I would add, I mean, again, this is not so much a teaching resource in terms of you give it to your students, but I think it's a great way to sort of stay up to with econ and.

Kind of get better economic reasoning is Econ Talk with Russ Roberts is a podcast. He's been doing it forever. I actually, that's one of the reasons that I actually started taking econ classes because I was listening to econ talk a little bit and and I ended up being lucky. Russ Roberts was actually the professor at George Mason University when I was there.

He actually taught the first intro class. So it's sort of this ironic thing where it's like, I was listening to his podcast and he, he was teaching it. So there's a ton of back episodes. There's like a massive library. So he doesn't, he kind of bounces all over the place now, but if you want, if you're looking for something specific, you know, I, he's done it and he's, he, he's kind of interviewed all the big names in econ and so, you know, he's got a great library of stuff.

Yanely Espinal: That's awesome. I jotted all those down, so I will include those all in our follow-up email and in the show notes on the blog and podcast. All right. So you just mentioned, Roman that if you're looking for something specific, that's a great recommendation for it. And speaking of looking for something specific, you all have a pretty cool product called Econ Inbox that really helps teachers when they're looking for something that they're teaching like right at this time.

Tell us a little bit about that really cool product. 

[00:30:29] Econ Inbox.

Matt Hill: Yeah, so this is, I mean, if you're just looking to, you know, learn about the economy, this might actually be a, a really good resource as well. So, Econ Inbox, what it is, is we basically curate articles, videos, podcasts, interactives on specific econ topics.

So there's like a supply and demand email, there's an inflation email, there's a money and banking email, there's a trade email. So what the service does, you could just go to and you sign up for it and you tell us, okay, I'm teaching supply and demand the second week, I'm teaching trade the third week, and we will send you an email before you teach that has these resources.

And it's a combination of really, really recent resources and really, really like high quality resources that have stood the test of time. So that's a nice email where it's like, all right, I'm teaching this next week. You get the email. All right, let me look through this, see if I can find some examples.

Or like I'm, right now I'm preparing to teach in the fall, so I'm going through my old econ inbox looking for examples to update, you know, my lecture slides, so however you wanna use it. But it's just, again, it's just a great curated resource that has all up-to-date, high quality podcast videos and news articles related to what you're teaching.

Roman Hardgrave: Yeah, the news articles. I think, I mean, to me that's really the magic ingredient, you know, to go from sort of dry econ to very interesting econ, right? You take an econference when you show it happening in the real world. So like, there's this example of Target mispriced, a video game just by accident. A video game was $1 rather than $45 or whatever it was.

And so it's like, that's my go-to example of like, this is a demand curve thing, right? Like, you wanna know what happens when the price changes dramatically. Like, what do you think happened? Like, and it, you know, Just like we imagined everybody bought it in one night, you know, and then all of a sudden they corrected it and they fixed it.

But it's like, yeah, exactly. Make something that's $45, $1 quantity demand. It goes way up. And so there's those sorts of things. We're always looking for, like clear examples that are, but in the, in the real world. 

Yanely Espinal: Yeah, that, I mean, that makes a lot of sense. Now in the chat here at our live event, somebody said that you all have some really cool new resources.

Career readiness was mentioned, budgeting for the age of AI... Now that is really cool. I would love to hear your thoughts about the impact of AI on both micro decisions and our economy from that aspect of like people's budgeting habits, for example, but also our economy at large. 

[00:32:52] Impact of AI on Economy.

Matt Hill: Yeah, well that specific resource came out, you know, that came out, I think in June.

And, you know, it was trying to both deal with AI in terms of like, all right, how do we incorporate AI into our lesson plans, into this classroom? And how do we think about our careers? You know, now that we have this like, powerful new technology. So that one is all that, that specific unit is like, all right, let's look at these forces that are changing the world, globalization and automation.

Let's try to plan, you know, for a career so that we actually use AI we actually ask the, we teach the students about AI we ask the students to interact with ChatGPT or whatever LLM they wanna use to get advice. We have a couple really, really cool interactives that we didn't produce. One that looks up like salaries by field and then one that allows you to budget based on where you go to college.

And so it's trying to get them to sort of plan their career out knowing that the world is changing you know, knowing that new skills are needed and then the last day tries to give them confidence to future-proof themselves, right? What can you do to make sure you're always adaptable to, you know, whatever comes your way.

Yanely Espinal: So my boyfriend is in the tech space. He works at Substack, which you mentioned, and... 

Matt Hill: Yeah, I love Substack! 

Yanely Espinal: Any educators who haven't been exposed to Substack before, there are gonna be a few links in the blog and the podcast show note because of the recommendations that Matt shared. But it's great just, you know, for newsletters and there's so many different writers on there.

Because my boyfriend works at Substack and is so immersed in the text space, he's always thrown around lingo like LLM and all this. And so like I, I'm in the loop a little, but like I know that, I wouldn't have known that if I wasn't in, in the apartment with my boyfriend, hearing him having this conversation.

So I gotta help, help folks out. So you, you said LLM, so LLM, so large language models, like ChatGPT, but there's so many others. But I also feel like they're starting to kind of think about other ways that those things can apply, not just as language models. So personal assistants in your home, personal budgeting, like a virtual assistant you know, like things like that.

And do you, do you feel like that's gonna be just commonplace every day in the distant future or near future, just people saying, "Hey personal budgeting virtual assistant, check and see if I can afford to go to the IMAX movie tonight to see Barbenheimer or, or is that gonna, am I still gonna have enough money for my mom's birthday gift if I do that?"

And like little chat bots gonna go and be like, "Well, if you do this, you will only have $60 instead of 85 that you allotted for your mom's birthday gift." And then you'd be like, "Okay that's fine. I'll, you know, use a $60 budget instead of $85. 'cause I wanna go see Barb-inheimer." So do you imagine a world where we all literally just interacting with these kind of personalized, customized kind of AIs?

Because I feel like that's what I keep hearing and that's what people keep saying, but I just, it's really hard to imagine how that might happen in a way that doesn't like completely interrupt the way that we currently use technology, which is a lot more generalized and not so specific and personalized to every detail of our financial transactions.

Roman Hardgrave: Yeah, this kind of goes back to what we were talking about before with macro, right? This is like AI is an effect on our life and our world in the long term is like impossible to predict. So anybody, again, anybody who says this is what's gonna happen in five years, I'm like, you, you have no idea.

There's this, it's like, it's like saying what happened with the internet, right? When the internet was new, like nobody predicted exactly how the internet would go. Nobody predicted, you know, LLMs right? Coming outta the internet. And so I, I think for sure it's gonna transform things. Like it's been changing rapidly already.

Like for folks who are following sort of how AI's evolved just in the last six months. I mean, it's, there's tons of new tools and they're constantly coming out. Like just trying to keep up with what's happening is really hard. And so I do think you'll see it continue to explode, but exactly what does that mean for our life and, you know, our economy and all those things in the future.

That's, I think that's really hard to predict. I think the best thing is what Matt was saying was like, if you're a, if, if you're a lifelong learner and you, and you can pivot you know, you'll be fine. It's the people who don't want to learn something new that are gonna have trouble, right? 

It's the people who are like, they see that this, this AI thing is taking their job and instead of learning it and adapting, they are saying, you know, I'm gonna bury my head in the sand and hope it goes away.

So that's really like that, you know, that unit we have is really trying to give them the information of like, look, this is what's happened before. Like if you look at our predictions from before, look at any transformative technology in history and read the current accounts at the time what they thought was gonna happen.

They're so wrong every time. Like nobody can predict it. And so you know, there's always the dooms there. There's always the utopians and then like, you know, it always ends up being something that nobody predicted. And so, So it's like we try to get that through this career readiness unit. Just like you were saying, you know, personal finances for right now, this unit's about you, you have to make a choice of college or not college or what career right now.

And so here's all the data and all what we know about, sort of how things are changing and also what we don't know. We just don't know exactly what's gonna happen. And so this is the way to kind of go into that kind of world of, of unknown, but it's also a lot of opportunity, right? If you. Learn about AI, there's a lot of opportunities that open up about like, you can use these tools to, to build all sorts of amazing things.

Matt Hill: Yeah. I'll say like 10, 10 years ago, sorry, I, I used to volunteer, well, I still volunteer, volunteer with the big brothers and my little brother, Marquis he was asking me, he was like, 15 or 14 at the time, what he should be. And he was like, I think about being a truck driver. And I was like, no, no, Marquis, no, no.

The robots are coming for the truck driving jobs 10 years later. Truck drivers doing just, just fine. And at, at the same time, 10 years ago, Marquis, he was, he was acting, he actually got a few movie roles. And I was, like I said, I said, you know, you're, you're on your way with acting AI or robots. They're never gonna be able to replace actors.

And who's mad about AI right now? Actors? I, yeah. True. So, we don't know. We don't, we never, we don't know how they're gonna change things. I'll say that. Teachers in general. I mean, if I was a teacher and I'm a teacher you know, I, I think. We're always gonna have teachers. So I don't think, you know, teachers should be necessarily worried about job, you know, displacement.

The job itself might change, but I think we're always gonna want to, you know, send our kids somewhere where they're gonna, you know, learn from a role model to be with somebody that we trust. So I think that sort of. That role's not gonna, that, that the role's not gonna go away. Now it may, it may change in, in general, it's probably gonna make your life easier.

At least, you know, my use of when I, I've used ChatGPT a lot for grant writing and writing emails and you know, even curriculum development, we've used it to sort of get ideas, you know, bounce things back and forth. So hopefully it'll, hopefully it'll make our lives easier. Yeah. Hopefully you'll be, you'll be able to ask it, Hey, figure out my money situation, so, right.

Yanely Espinal: In a very detailed way. Yeah. Well, I, I love that. I, I do think that you both hit this point of like, there's so much uncertainty, but one thing is certain, once the technology exists, it's not going to... un-exist. It's not going to, you know, we're definitely, it's not going anywhere. Right. So, so cat's out of the bag type of thing.

Matt Hill: And I see in the chat there's a question, did we use ChatGPT for the career readiness and budgeting for the AI unit? Yes, ChatGPT's in there in terms of like, we asked the students to, you know, interact with it.

We give background on it, and it was used, I used it to help write, you know part of the unit itself. So I actually asked it for a bunch of case studies and I used some of the case studies that did, obviously I independently researched it to make sure they were good ones. I actually at one point we have we have a bunch of careers that have been displaced by technology, kind of like funny old timey careers that were displaced by technology.

These are things that, you know, like, like an ice cutter or a lamplighter, that sort of stuff. And I actually asked ChatGPT to come up with a funny old time career that was displaced by technology, but it's made up the, I said, make it up. It's not real. Make one up. And so it made up a really, really good one.

Whisker Damper, which is it, it said this was a job that people used to have to keep gentleman's whiskers damp when they were like at parties, 'cause they liked the look of it. And the AI totally came up with that on its own. And so we added that to, 'cause it, it was like a quiz, "Can you, pick out the fake old timey career?"

So yeah, we used it or I used it. We use it, we use it for images. So it's, yeah, it can, it can make your life easier. It's a good way to bounce ideas off. You always gotta double check it, 'cause it, it will hallucinate. So you, you know, part of, part of our teaching, at least the teaching I do at the university, you know, we teach, we try to teach them all right, this is how you use it, this is how you check it.

This is how you make sure you know, the answers that you're getting are, are, are real answers. But yeah, we did, we, yeah, we did use it. 

Yanely Espinal: That's so funny. One of my favorite like odd, odd jobs that no longer exist type of thing is actually computer. I don't think a lot of students actually...

Matt Hill: Oh yeah, there it was a... 

Yanely Espinal: Computer was a person!

Matt Hill: It was a person called the "Computer". 

Yanely Espinal: Calculations. It was a person and then it literally got replaced by the now, computer. 

Matt Hill: Yeah. Well, actually my favorite is there was a job called Knocker Upper. And this was someone who went around and they're basically a human alarm clock. They would wake people up by knocking.

On their window at appointed times and we gotta actually, there's a picture of someone a woman with a pea shooter and she would shoot peas at people's windows if they lived on, on the, on the second floor. That was a real old timey job that that existed. 

That is hilarious. Also, such a waste of peas.

I mean, I know back then probably too! 

Yanely Espinal: Seriously. All right folks, just wanted to give you a thank you to both of you for joining us because obviously just bringing your energy and, and your excitement around something like this is super helpful. As you mentioned, it's, it can be, you know, perceived to be very dry.

So anything to spice it up. 

 Alright, well thank you all. Have a great evening everyone. 

Roman Hardgrave: Thanks guys, bye!

Ren Makino: I hope you enjoyed this episode with your Yanely, Matt, and Roman. I have a few final housekeeping items before we go. The show notes and full transcript can be found on You can also join these sessions live and ask the speakers questions by signing up for the NGPF speaker series sessions that occur on Thursdays at 4:00 PM Pacific time. You can sign up to attend on Please be sure to subscribe to the NGPF podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcast. Better yet, leave us a review. We love hearing from you and it will help us reach a broader audience on behalf of you and Yanely Matt. And Roman, thank you so much for tuning in to this MGPF podcast. I have a wonderful rest of your week and have a great back to school season. 

About the Author

Ren Makino

Ren started interning at NGPF in 2014, and worked part-time through high school and college. With his knowledge growing alongside NGPF, he joined the team to work full-time after graduating from college in 2020. He is also the producer of the NGPF podcast. During his free time, he likes to try out coffees from different roasters across the world.

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