Bring Your Questions for a Freakonomics Radio FAQ

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A couple times a year, we take reader/listener questions for an FAQ (FREAKquently Asked Questions) episode of our podcast. We’ll likely put out next FAQ in mid-April, so ask us your questions in the comments section below. Thanks.

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  1. Chuck says:

    We all love stereotypes, and stereotypically speaking, Democrats are known to raise taxes and redistribute that wealth, while Republicans are known to cut taxes and decrease federal spending. And there’s lots of debate over “givers” and “takers” in the economy. But, has there ever been a look at whether or not states that lean strongly Democratic actually pay more into the economy through taxes or states that lean strongly Republican actually take in more federal aid? For example, a consistently blue state like New York is a net provider to the rest of the country, while a consistently red state like Utah is a net taker from the rest of the country. Is there any correlation here?

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  2. Jeremiah says:

    Hi Levitt and Dubner,

    I thoroughly enjoy your podcast. I also make use of the Freakonomics movie in an undergraduate research methods class that I teach at a local university. My primary occupation is in law enforcement where I participate in a defined benefit pension plan. My question is tangentially related to the topic of public pension reform which is looming on the horizon.

    There seems to be a general perception among police officers that retired public safety workers have a shorter life expectancy than members of the general public. This is typically attributed to shift work, poor sleep patterns, vocational stress, etc. This ostensible deficit in lifespan is regularly proffered as a justification for maintaining the traditional defined benefit pension system (which can be quite generous when compared to retirement plans in the private sector). I’m not convinced that this is true and suspect that my colleagues are unconsciously focusing on a handful of tragic cases that are perhaps more salient than officers who live long beyond their date of retirement. Has the lifespan of public safety employees ever been studied empirically? I would expect that findings would be of interest in the context of economics (maximizing value of lifetime earnings) and would also have implications for the public pension reform debate. Thanks guys!

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  3. Kevin Jajich says:

    Hey Freakonomics,

    Few things frustrate me more on my way to work than getting stuck behind a school bus while it is forced to stop at a train track, even if there is a signal and no children are in it.

    Given the fuel and energy it takes to accelerate a bus from a complete stop, is there any evidence that this law has provided any social, environmental, or economic gains?

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  4. Kory says:

    Why is it municipalities charge by use of water and electricity- but not trash disposal? We all pay the same amount of garbage disposal services and every trash day I see the inequality of some that produce no trash, paying for those that produce excessive trash.

    If we wanted to minimize the waste wouldn’t it make sense for us to pay for our waste proportionally? And to promote recycling- charge 1/2 as much for the recycling bins? Why aren’t we doing this?

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  5. Kory says:

    Is “C” the perfect grade?

    If the subject matter gives you no return, and the purpose of a college course is to simply get a degree wouldn’t an A or a B in a course be viewed as a waste because there is no return on the additional GPA points and the time spent in garnishing the A or B could have been invested elsewhere where there is a return?

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  6. Damien Cowger says:

    When I was in high school in the mid to late nineties, there seemed to be a huge surge among soft drink companies to have “instant win” prizes underneath the bottle caps. I, personally, had an epic run of 4 free Sprites in a row. I just had to present my cap to a retailer and I received a free soda for “winning.” In recent years, soft drink companies now require imbibers to take the extra step of getting a code from underneath the bottle cap and then entering it online. My question: What has the financial impact been for these companies? I imagine that these corporations have saved lots of money by counting on the fact that people don’t really feel like getting online to try to win a free drink. Is this true? If so, how much money have they saved?

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  7. matt h says:

    What is better if youre having a wedding? Asking for cash or registering for gifts?

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  8. Wren says:

    I would love to hear ya’ll’s take on the economics of houesitting. Rates vary generally between $20-$50/day, depending on the # of pets, etc., but never does the rate approach minimum wage, since you are watching the house all day. But, on the other hand, you usually don’t have to do much, just make sure the pets are fed and that the house doesn’t burn down. Since it exists so far outside the normal scope of jobs (hours, compensation, etc.), I’d love to hear an economists take. What would you charge if you were to housesit? And what would you be willing to pay a housesitter to watch your house?


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