Why Do People Keep Having Children?

Season 5, Episode 9

On this week’s episode of Freakonomics Radio: first up: what are the factors that make a given person more or less likely to have children? And is the global population really going to double by the next century? Probably not.

And then: “That’s a great question!” You hear this phrase in all kinds of media interviews, during the Q&A portion of tech and academic conferences, and in ordinary meetings. Where did this ubiquitous reply come from? Is it a verbal tic, a strategic rejoinder, or something more? We talk to a linguist, a media consultant and master interviewer Charlie Rose about why it’s rare to come across an interview these days where at least one question isn’t a “great” one.   

Ben Bernanke Gives Himself a Grade

Season 5, Episode 8

On this week’s episode of Freakonomics Radio, two interviews: first, former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, who was handed the keys to the global economy just as it started heading off a cliff. And then Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former State Department adviser, who was best known for her adamant views on Syria when she accidentally became a poster girl for modern feminism.

Bernanke tells us what he knew and didn't know about the state of the economy as the financial crisis began to unfold, and he explains what FDR got right and wrong during the Great Depression. Slaughter continues the heated national conversation sparked by her 2012 Atlantic essay “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” and we talk about her early warnings on Syria and what she’d suggest if she had the White House’s ear today.

Time to Take Back the Toilet

Season 5, Episode 7

On this week’s episode of Freakonomics Radio, first: we’re not asking that using a public restroom be a pleasant experience, but are there ways to make it less miserable? And then: how did the belt, an organ-squeezing belly tourniquet, become part of our everyday wardrobe and what other suboptimal solutions do we routinely put up with?

The gist: public bathrooms -- when you can find one -- are often noisy and poorly designed. In this episode, we explore the history of the public restroom, the taboos that accompany it, and the public-health risks of paying too little attention to the lowly toilet.

Tell Me Something I Don’t Know

Season 5, Episode 6

On this week’s episode of Freakonomics Radio, a live game show with host Stephen Dubner, and judges Malcolm Gladwell, Ana Gasteyer, and David Paterson.

Audience members are invited onstage to tell us something we didn’t know. We learn a bit, laugh a lot, and as a bonus, each of the judges tell us something about themselves we didn’t know. You’ll learn how Malcolm Gladwell got fired from an internship with a prominent judge; how Ana Gasteyer watched Star Wars with a prominent family; and why Governor Paterson was desperate for O.J. Simpson’s famous Bronco chase to be cut short.

This Idea Must Die

Season 5, Episode 5

In this week's episode of Freakonomics Radio, we first explore whether some of the scientific ideas we cling to should be killed off; and then Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt answer some listener questions.

The gist: Every year, Edge.org asks its salon of big thinkers to answer one big question. In 2014, the question bordered on heresy: what scientific idea is ready for retirement? Experts weigh in. And then Dubner and Levitt talk about fixing the post office, putting cameras in the classroom, and wearing hats.

Diamonds Are a Marriage Counselor’s Best Friend

Season 5, Episode 4

In part one ("Diamonds Are a Marriage Counselor's Best Friend"), we meet Jason and Kristen Sarata, a couple who win a diamond at a charity event. But the two can't agree on whether to sell the diamond or keep it. Luckily, investigative reporter Edward Jay Epstein has written an entire book about selling a diamond, and tells us it's unclear whether diamonds are as valuable as Marilyn Monroe taught us to think they are.

How Many Doctors Does It Take to Start a Healthcare Revolution?

Season 5, Episode 3

In part one ("How Many Doctors Does It Take to Start a Healthcare Revolution?”), we continue conversations from last week's episode ("How Do We Know What Really Works in Healthcare?”). Anupam Jena, a physician, economist, and professor at Harvard Medical School, told us last week about his study that shows mortality rates improve when cardiologists are away at medical conferences. One possible explanation for his results, Jena says, is that many procedures, although highly effective, aren't better than doing nothing in certain cases.

Introducing “Question of the Day,” a New Dubner Podcast

One of the best things about being a journalist is getting to ask questions. Stephen Dubner has been doing this for years, accumulating fascinating bits of knowledge, hidden insights, and wild stories. By now he knows at least a little bit about a lot of things.

How Do We Know What Really Works in Healthcare?

Season 5, Episode 2

In part one ("How Do We Know What Really Works in Healthcare?"), Freakonomics co-author Steve Levitt discussed the randomized control trial, or RCT, which he calls "the very best way to learn about the world around us." Then Amy Finkelstein, a professor of economics at MIT, talks about using RCTs to explore healthcare delivery -- and the "accidental" RCT she discovered when Oregon expanded Medicaid.

When Willpower Isn’t Enough

Season 5, Episode 1

In part one (When Willpower Isn't Enough), the Penn professor Katherine Milkman tells us about "temptation bundling," which means pairing something you don't want to do (but need to do) with something you love to do (but perhaps shouldn't do). For instance: allowing yourself to watch your favorite TV show only while working out at the gym. Or eating a cheeseburger only when you go to visit your least-favorite relative. In part two (The Maddest Men of All), the iconoclastic vice chairman of Ogilvy & Mather in the U.K., Rory Sutherland, tells us how marketers use behavioral economics to get us all to buy now and think later.