Evidence from Nazi Germany and 1940?s America (and pretty much everywhere else) shows that discrimination is incredibly costly ? to the victims, of course, but also the perpetrators. One modern solution is to invoke a diversity mandate. But new research shows that?s not necessarily the answer.
In one of the earliest Freakonomics Radio episodes (No. 39!), we asked a bunch of economists with young kids how they approached child-rearing. Now the kids are old enough to talk ? and they have a lot to say. We hear about nature vs. nurture, capitalism vs. Marxism, and why you sometimes don?t tell your friends that your father is an economist.
Arthur Brooks is an economist who for 10 years ran the American Enterprise Institute, one of the most influential conservative think tanks in the world. He has come to believe there is only one weapon that can defeat our extreme political polarization: love. Is Brooks a fool for thinking this ? and are you perhaps his kind of fool?
Breaking news! Sources say American journalism exploits our negativity bias to maximize profits, and social media algorithms add fuel to the fire. Stephen Dubner investigates.
Verbal tic or strategic rejoinder? Whatever the case: it?s rare to come across an interview these days where at least one question isn?t a ?great? one.
The N.B.A. superstar Chris Bosh was still competing at the highest level when a blood clot abruptly ended his career. In his new book, Letters to a Young Athlete, Bosh covers the highlights and the struggles. In this installment of the Freakonomics Radio Book Club, he talks with guest host Angela Duckworth.
The U.S. is an outlier when it comes to policing, as evidenced by more than 1,000 fatal shootings by police each year. But we?re an outlier in other ways too: a heavily-armed populace, a fragile mental-health system, and the fact that we spend so much time in our cars. Add in a history of racism and it?s no surprise that barely half of all Americans have a lot of confidence in the police. So what if we start to think about policing as ? philanthropy?
Among O.E.C.D. nations, the U.S. has one of the highest rates of child poverty. How can that be? To find out, Stephen Dubner speaks with a Republican senator, a Democratic mayor, and a large cast of econo-nerds. Along the way, we hear some surprisingly good news: Washington is finally ready to attack the problem head-on.
When Richard Thaler published Nudge in 2008 (with co-author Cass Sunstein), the world was just starting to believe in his brand of behavioral economics. How did nudge theory hold up in the face of a global financial meltdown, a pandemic, and other existential crises? With the publication of a new, radically updated edition, Thaler tries to persuade Stephen Dubner that nudging is more relevant today than ever.
That?s what some health officials are saying, but the data aren?t so clear. We look into what?s known (and not known) about the prevalence and effects of loneliness ? including the possible upsides.
In a conversation fresh from the Freakonomics Radio Network?s podcast laboratory, Michèle Flournoy (one of the highest-ranking women in Defense Department history) speaks with Cecil Haney (one of the U.S. Navy?s first Black four-star admirals) about nuclear deterrence, smart leadership, and how to do inclusion right.
Humans have a built-in ?negativity bias,? which means we give bad news much more power than good. Would the Covid-19 crisis be an opportune time to reverse this tendency?
Air pollution is estimated to cause 7 million deaths a year and cost the global economy nearly $3 trillion. But is the true cost even higher? Stephen Dubner explores the links between pollution and cognitive function, and enlists two fellow Freakonomics Radio Network hosts in a homegrown experiment.
While other countries seem to build spectacular bridges, dams, and even entire cities with ease, the U.S. is stuck in pothole-fixing mode. We speak with an array of transportation nerds ? including the secretary of transportation and his immediate predecessor ? to see if a massive federal infrastructure package can put America back in the driver?s seat.
The environmentalists say we?re doomed if we don?t drastically reduce consumption. The technologists say that human ingenuity can solve just about any problem. A debate that?s been around for decades has become a shouting match. Is anyone right?
According to a decades-long research project, the U.S. is not only the most individualistic country on earth; we?re also high on indulgence, short-term thinking, and masculinity (but low on ?uncertainty avoidance,? if that makes you feel better). We look at how these traits affect our daily lives and why we couldn?t change them even if we wanted to.
We often look to other countries for smart policies on education, healthcare, infrastructure, etc. But can a smart policy be simply transplanted into a country as culturally unusual (and as supremely WEIRD) as America?
The benefits of sleep are by now well established, and yet many people don?t get enough. A new study suggests we should channel our inner toddler and get 30 minutes of shut-eye in the afternoon. But are we ready for a napping revolution?
Nearly two percent of America is grassy green. Sure, lawns are beautiful and useful and they smell great. But are the costs ? financial, environmental and otherwise ? worth the benefits?
Bren Smith, who grew up fishing and fighting, is now part of a movement that seeks to feed the planet while putting less environmental stress on it. He makes his argument in a book called Eat Like a Fish; his secret ingredient: kelp. But don?t worry, you won?t have to eat it (not much, at least). An installment of The Freakonomics Radio Book Club.
Cecilia Rouse, the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, is as cold-blooded as any economist. But she admits that her profession would do well to focus on policy that actually helps people. Rouse explains why President Biden wants to spend trillions of dollars to reshape the economy, and why ? as the first Black chair of the C.E.A. ? she has a good idea of what needs fixing.
Bapu Jena was already a double threat: a doctor who?s also an economist. Now he?s a podcast host too. In this sneak preview of the Freakonomics Radio Network?s newest show, Bapu discovers that marathons can be deadly ? but not for the reasons you may think.
The pandemic may be winding down, but that doesn?t mean we?ll return to full-time commuting and packed office buildings. The greatest accidental experiment in the history of labor has lessons to teach us about productivity, flexibility, and even reversing the brain drain. But don?t buy another dozen pairs of sweatpants just yet.
The social psychologist Robert Cialdini is a pioneer in the science of persuasion. His 1984 book Influence is a classic, and he has just published an expanded and revised edition. In this episode of the Freakonomics Radio Book Club, he gives a master class in the seven psychological levers that bewitch our rational minds and lead us to buy, behave, or believe without a second thought.
The human foot is an evolutionary masterpiece, far more functional than we give it credit for. So why do we encase it in ?a coffin? (as one foot scholar calls it) that stymies so much of its ability ? and may create more problems than it solves?
The man who wants America to ?think harder? has parlayed his quixotic presidential campaign into front-runner status in New York?s mayoral election. And he has some big plans.
It?s true that robots (and other smart technologies) will kill many jobs. It may also be true that newer collaborative robots (?cobots?) will totally reinvigorate how work gets done. That, at least, is what the economists are telling us. Should we believe them?
Backers of a $15 federal wage say it?s a no-brainer if you want to fight poverty. Critics say it?s a blunt instrument that leads to job loss. Even the economists can?t agree! We talk to a bunch of them ? and a U.S. Senator ? to sort it out, and learn there?s a much bigger problem to worry about.
The state-by-state rollout of legalized weed has given economists a perfect natural experiment to measure its effects. Here?s what we know so far ? and don?t know ? about the costs and benefits of legalization.
In this special crossover episode, People I (Mostly) Admire host Steve Levitt admits to No Stupid Questions co-host Angela Duckworth that he knows almost nothing about psychology. But once Angela gives Steve a quick tutorial on ?goal conflict,? he is suddenly a fan. They also talk parenting, self-esteem, and how easy it is to learn econometrics if you feel like it.
Kidney failure is such a catastrophic (and expensive) disease that Medicare covers treatment for anyone, regardless of age. Since Medicare reimbursement rates are fairly low, the dialysis industry had to find a way to tweak the system if they wanted to make big profits. They succeeded.
Medicine has evolved from a calling into an industry, adept at dispensing procedures and pills (and gigantic bills), but less good at actual health. Most reformers call for big, bold action. What happens if, instead, you think small?
Why do so many promising solutions ? in education, medicine, criminal justice, etc. ? fail to scale up into great policy? And can a new breed of ?implementation scientists? crack the code?
In a word: networks. Once it embraced information as its main currency, New York was able to climb out of a deep fiscal (and psychic) pit. Will that magic trick still work after Covid? In this installment of the Freakonomics Radio Book Club, guest host Kurt Andersen interviews Thomas Dyja, author of New York, New York, New York: Four Decades of Success, Excess and Transformation.
Behavioral scientists have been exploring if ? and when ? a psychological reset can lead to lasting change. We survey evidence from the London Underground, Major League Baseball, and New Year?s resolutions; we look at accidental fresh starts, forced fresh starts, and fresh starts that backfire. And we wonder: will the pandemic?s end provide the biggest fresh start ever?
Americans are so accustomed to the standard intersection that we rarely consider how dangerous it can be ? as well as costly, time-wasting, and polluting. Is it time to embrace the lowly, lovely roundabout?
New York Times columnist Charles Blow argues that white supremacy in America will never fully recede, and that it?s time for Black people to do something radical about it. In The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto, he urges a ?reverse migration? to the South to consolidate political power and create a region where it?s safe to be Black. (This is an episode of the Freakonomics Radio Book Club.)
Researchers are trying to figure out who gets bored ? and why ? and what it means for ourselves and the economy. But maybe there?s an upside to boredom?
Not so long ago, G.E. was the most valuable company in the world, a conglomerate that included everything from light bulbs and jet engines to financial services and The Apprentice. Now it?s selling off body parts to survive. What does the C.E.O. who presided over the decline have to say for himself?
Most of us are are afraid to ask sensitive questions about money, sex, politics, etc. New research shows this fear is largely unfounded. Time for some interesting conversations!
Caitlin Doughty is a mortician who would like to put herself out of business. Our corporate funeral industry, she argues, has made us forget how to offer our loved ones an authentic sendoff. Doughty is the author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From the Crematory. In this installment of the Freakonomics Radio Book Club, she is interviewed by guest host Maria Konnikova.
For all the progress made in fighting cancer, it still kills 10 million people a year, and some types remain especially hard to detect and treat. Pancreatic cancer, for instance, is nearly always fatal. A new clinical-trial platform could change that by aligning institutions that typically compete against one another.
It?s a powerful biological response that has preserved our species for millennia. But now it may be keeping us from pursuing strategies that would improve the environment, the economy, even our own health. So is it time to dial down our disgust reflex? You can help fix things ? as Stephen Dubner does in this episode ? by chowing down on some delicious insects.
They can?t vote or hire lobbyists. The policies we create to help them aren?t always so helpful. Consider the car seat: parents hate it, the safety data are unconvincing, and new evidence suggests an unintended consequence that is as anti-child as it gets.
We?ve collected some of our favorite moments from People I (Mostly) Admire, the latest show from the Freakonomics Radio Network. Host Steve Levitt seeks advice from scientists and inventors, memory wizards and basketball champions ? even his fellow economists. He also asks about quitting, witch trials, and whether we need a Manhattan Project for climate change.
Societies where people trust one another are healthier and wealthier. In the U.S. (and the U.K. and elsewhere), social trust has been falling for decades ? in part because our populations are more diverse. What can we do to fix it?
In this episode of No Stupid Questions ? a Freakonomics Radio Network show launched earlier this year ? Stephen Dubner and Angela Duckworth debate why we watch, read, and eat familiar things during a crisis, and if it might in fact be better to try new things instead. Also: is a little knowledge truly as dangerous as they say?
Patients in the U.S. healthcare system often feel they?re treated with a lack of empathy. Doctors and nurses have tragically high levels of burnout. Could fixing the first problem solve the second? And does the rest of society need more compassion too?
The incoming president argues that the economy and the environment are deeply connected. This is reflected in his choice for National Economic Council director ? Brian Deese, a climate-policy wonk and veteran of the no-drama-Obama era. But don?t mistake Deese?s lack of drama for a lack of intensity.
Tony Hsieh, the longtime C.E.O. of Zappos, was an iconoclast and a dreamer. Five years ago, we sat down with him around a desert campfire to talk about those dreams. Hsieh died recently from injuries sustained in a house fire; he was 46.