Archives for



The Saddest National Anthems in the World

Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast, “The Suicide Paradox,” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the media player above, or read the transcript here) investigates the mystery of suicide.

Our Virgil in the journey was David Lester, a professor at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and the dean of suicide studies. Lester is prolific: he has over 1000 citations regarding suicide on a wide range of topics, from quirky informal studies to serious stats. He’s written about which day of the week suicide occurs the most, what blood type suicide rates are associated with, and whether suicide rates are higher in nations with greater rainfall.

One of our favorites by Lester is “National Anthems and Suicide Rates.” Here’s the abstract: Read More »



Suicide vs. Homicide by State, per 100,000

In the latest Freakonomics Radio podcast,’The Suicide Paradox,” we explore, among other things, why suicide is twice as prevalent in the U.S. as murder. From the CDC, here’s a breakdown of state-by-state suicide and homicide rates. Read More »



Do Budget Cuts Cause More Riots?

The UK riots continue as PM David Cameron and the Metropolitan police flood London with 16,000 officers in hopes of calming the civil unrest.

Critics have suggested that this is the behavior of a generation that’s been ignored by the establishment. The anarchy on the streets of London has been attributed to high unemployment and disaffected youth, combined with a trigger event — the death of Mark Duggan, shot by police last Saturday.

A couple weeks ago, Jacopo Ponticelli and Hans-Joachim Voth put out their working paper “Austerity and Anarchy: Budget Cuts and Social Unrest in Europe, 1919-2009.” It uses cross-country data in the 90-year period to examine whether riots and civil unrest increase as governments cut spending. They found a positive correlation between social instability and budget cuts. Read More »



From the Comments: A Market for Skipping Class

We got tons of responses to our Bleg last week on how professors should incentivize classroom attendance. Thank you everyone for your suggestions, a few concerns kept coming up in the comments:

  • Is the student a consumer?
  • Does attending class equate learning?
  • Are students a fair market to judge professors?
  • Do bonus/penalty systems work?

Most readers encouraged making the class interesting enough so that the professor is the sole incentive for students to show up. Others suggested an attendance incentive — ranging from points for showing up, to test questions handed out at the beginning of class — or a policy that puts students’ grades at risk for not showing up. Read More »



If Handing Off a Family Business to the Next Generation, What’s the Key Thing to Avoid?

What’s the difference in performance between a family business where the CEO hands off leadership to a member of the family versus an outside CEO? That’s one of the questions our latest podcast, “The Church of Scionology,” tries to answer. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or read the transcript here.)

Stanford economist Francisco Pérez-González has looked at the data to try to figure this out. (His paper “Inherited Control and Firm Performance” can be found here). He compiled data from 335 management transitions across a number of industries with concentrated ownership or founding family involvement. He compared 112 blood-related successions to 213 unrelated ones. Here, first, is a breakdown of successions by industry, and by family-handoff within industries: Read More »



Concierge Service for the Masses

While the rich and famous can have subscriptions to concierge services (such as the famed Quintessentially) to plan a vacation or book opera tickets, a recent Princeton grad is trying to bring such amenities to the masses. Harry Schiff, class of 2010, has started an online market for errands. He says he was sitting around […] Read More »



Is the NFL Missing a Huge Ad Opportunity?

Marketplace Segment Is the NFL Missing a Huge Ad Opportunity? Download/Subscribe Podcast at iTunes » Subscribe to RSS feed Listen Now Stephen Dubner recently talked to Marketplace Morning Report host Steve Chiotakis about why the NFL doesn’t sell advertising on its jerseys the way European soccer teams do. At the NFL’s annual London game this […] Read More »



A Government Official in Venture Capitalist’s Clothing?

What do the X Prize, Google, and the Department of Education have in common? Stephen Dubner gives Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal a pop quiz that compares American aviator Charles Lindbergh to the Race to the Top education-reform program, which makes the government seem a bit more like a sleek venture capitalist than its typical bureaucratic […] Read More »