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Why Family and Business Don’t Mix: Full Transcript

This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “Why Family and Business Don’t Mix.” Kai RYSSDAL: Time now for a little bit of Freakonomics Radio, that moment every couple of weeks we talk to Stephen Dubner, the co-author of the books and the blog of the same name. It is — all together now — […] Read More »



How to Skip Military Service in Iran: Give a Kidney

Iran already has one of the most radical kidney policies in the world. Now Nobel laureate Al Roth reports on his blog that the country’s military is offering an incentive to boost supply:

Google translate renders the headline “Donate one of your kidneys to be exempted from military service.”

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An Easy Way to Cut Down on Pill Suicides?

Ezekiel Emanuel, who’s popped up in our blog and podcasts, writes in the Times about a simple way to reduce suicides:

We need to make it harder to buy pills in bottles of 50 or 100 that can be easily dumped out and swallowed. We should not be selling big bottles of Tylenol and other drugs that are typically implicated in overdoses, like prescription painkillers and Valium-type drugs, called benzodiazepines. Pills should be packaged in blister packs of 16 or 25. Anyone who wanted 50 would have to buy numerous blister packages and sit down and push out the pills one by one. Turns out you really, really have to want to commit suicide to push out 50 pills. And most people are not that committed.

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The Persistence of Financial Illiteracy

Annamaria Lusardi, the doyenne of financial (il)literacy reseach (she has appeared on this blog and on Freakonomics Radio), is back with more depressing news.  The Wall Street Journal summarizes:

In fact, Americans’ grasp of concepts such as investment risk and inflation has weakened since the recovery began in mid-2009. Research released last week shows that on a five-question test (take the test here), respondents did worse in 2012 than in 2009. The average number of correct answers fell to 2.9 in 2012 from 3.0 on the test in 2009.

Unfortunately, the research indicates that most people aren’t aware of their own shortcomings:

Although many respondents were short on financial education, they didn’t lack confidence about managing their books. Researchers said they found “a disconnect between self-perceptions and actions in day-to-day financial matters.” Many people who gave themselves high marks for managing their finances also were using non-bank borrowing methods, such as payday loans, or had overdrawn their checking accounts.

On the plus side, more respondents indicated they were able to cover their monthly expenses (40 percent as compared to 36 percent in 2009).



Is Paying for Blood a Good Idea After All?

An article in Science by Nicola Lacetera, Mario Macis, and Robert Slonim summarizes their research on economic incentives and blood donation (abstract; PDF). Contrary to previous studies, the researchers found that various incentives, from gift cards to a day off, increased blood donation: 

Overall, 18 of the 19 distinct incentive items offered in observational and field experimental studies increased blood donations, and the effects were larger for items of higher monetary value; only one reward offer, a free cholesterol test, had no effect. When data were available (for 15 of the items), no effect on blood safety was detected. Finally, although temporary rewards might affect long-term motivations, no post intervention effects on donations were found, including any negative effects deriving from potential motivation loss.

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FREAKest Links

1. Emily Oster answers relationship questions for WSJ readers.

2. Researchers predict a 15 percent decrease in abortion rates if Roe is overturned.

3. Is self-selection responsible for music students’ superior scores on the SATs?

4. Fast food consumers underestimate calories.

5. A new web documentary series about Kickstarter funding.

6. “The Beat of Sports” interviews Dave Berri about his recent post on the value of coaches.



Should We All Just Give Cash Directly to the Poor?

Silicon Valley heavyweights like Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and Google have a new favorite charity: GiveDirectly, an organization that makes direct transfers (via M-Pesa) to poor people in the developing world. From Forbes:

“Instead of building hospitals, why don’t we just give poor people money? Research shows it’s effective,” [Hughes] said. Hughes, who purchased The New Republic magazine in early 2012 and serves as publisher, also joined the board of GiveDirectly.

Backing up Hughes’s point was Jacquelline Fuller, Director of Giving at Google. She told the crowd Thursday night that one of her superiors at Google was extremely skeptical when Fuller first suggested that Google back GiveDirectly. “I was told, ‘You must be smoking crack,’ ” Fuller recalled. But GiveDirectly had exactly what Google wanted: lots of data on how the recipients of cash used it to improve their nutrition, their health and their children’s education. After looking at the data, Google donated $2.5 million to GiveDirectly.

GiveDirectly stems from economist Paul Niehaus‘s research in India, where to limit corruption the government  makes direct cash transfers via mobile phones.  “A typical poor person is poor not because he is irresponsible, but because he was born in Africa,” says Niehaus, adding that GiveDirectly’s transfers have had positive impacts on nutrition, education, land, and livestock — and haven’t increased alcohol consumption.  The charity is also No. 2 on Givewell’s list of recommended charities.

(HT: Marginal Revolution)



Should Tipping be Banned? Full Transcript

This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “Should Tipping Be Banned?” [MUSIC: Pearl Django, “Bohéme Auberge” (from New Metropolitan Swing)]   Stephen J. DUBNER: Uh, hey Levitt?   Steven LEVITT: Hey Dubner.   DUBNER: When I say the word tipping, what do you think of?   LEVITT: I think of discomfort.   DUBNER: Discomfort […] Read More »