JEE Note

Teaching Economics Using NBC’s Parks and Recreation

Jadrian J. Wooten[1]

Kalina Staub[2]

JEL Codes: A22, A10

Keywords: teaching economics, economics education, economics website, media website


Parks and Recreation was a television sitcom based in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana, which was described as more exciting than New York, more glamorous than Hollywood, and roughly the same size as Bismarck, North Dakota (Knope 2011). This mockumentary comedy focuses on the Pawnee Parks Department and avails itself to topics ranging from public choice, free enterprise, and government function. Parks and Recreation was awarded a Peabody Award (2011) for “developing a venue to explore the good side of American democracy in an age when that side is so rarely on display.” The Economics of Parks and Recreation Web site assists educators in implementing clips from the show into their lectures or to assign clips as part of an assessment.

This Web site adds to the library of teaching clips available online for shows like Seinfeld (Ghent, Grant, & Lesica 2010), The Office (Kuester, Mateer, & Youderian 2014), The Big Bang Theory (Tierney et al. 2016), and Shark Tank (Patel et al. 2014). Educators have been advocating for the use of video clips in economics courses (Sexton 2006, and Al-Bahrani et al. 2016) and have been researching clips for media as varied as The Simpsons (Luccassen and Thomas 2010), ESPN’s 30 for 30 (Al-Bahrani and Patel 2015), and Broadway musicals (Rousu 2016).

The Website is designed around principles courses, but includes clips suitable for field courses in behavioral, health, public policy, labor, ethics (Borry 2018) or even a course designed entirely around Ron Swanson (Conaway and Clark 2015). The Website has over 125 clips with categories and tags assigned for ease of navigation. It is the authors’ hope that this site can provide a stable source of economics clips that are not easily observable in other shows with economics-themed sites already available. 


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[1] The Pennsylvania State University, Department of Economics, 315 Kern Graduate Building, University Park, PA 16801

[2] University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of Economics, Gardner Hall CB 3305, Chapel Hill, NC 27599