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Facebook-onomics

In a new blog post, Stephen Wolfram lays out some of the data from Wolfram/Alpha Personal Analytics for Facebook project. He looks at average network size;  how network size varies with age, gender, and location (among other things);  and, our favorite, what people talk about on Facebook at different ages:

People talk less about video games as they get older, and more about politics and the weather. Men typically talk more about sports and technology than women — and, somewhat surprisingly to me, they also talk more about movies, television and music. Women talk more about pets+animals, family+friends, relationships — and, at least after they reach child-bearing years, health. The peak time for anyone to talk about school+university is (not surprisingly) around age 20. People get less interested in talking about “special occasions” (mostly birthdays) through their teens, but gradually gain interest later. And people get progressively more interested in talking about career+money in their 20s. And so on. And so on.

(HT: Justin Wolfers



Running to Do Evil: Full Transcript

This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “Running to Do Evil.” [MUSIC: Color Radio, “Towers” (from Architects)]   Stephen J. DUBNER: If you are a man, or a boy, and you have a brother, especially an older brother, then you know that the bond between brothers is unlike any other. Sometimes that bond is […] Read More »



Age Discrimination? Pay Your Birth-Year Rate

Canadian reader Lisa Sansom wrote to us about an interesting price promotion at Starwood hotels: 

PAY RATES EQUAL TO YOUR BIRTH YEAR 

We’re celebrating the year you were born. With this special offer for two or three night stays, you’ll receive rates equal to your birth year!

  • First night: full rate
  • Second or third night: rates equal to your birth year! (If you were born in 1948, you’ll receive your 2nd and 3rd nights at $48!)
  • Rates for second and third night stays will be confirmed at check-in upon presentation of valid ID.
  • Valid for arrivals Thursday – Saturday
Read More »



FREAK-est Links

1. How well does government work? Economists call for evaluations.

2. UMass Amherst grad student Thomas Herndon finds coding errors in key debt-load paper by Reinhart and Rogoff.

3. Price dives: gold, cupcakes, and chicken wings.

4. Databases that track employee theft. Read More »



The Human Zoo

If you’re a fan of behavioral economics on the radio, check out BBC Radio 4′s new weekly program The Human Zoo. It is hosted by Michael Blastland, a journalist, and Nick Chater, professor of behavioral science at the University of Warwick. Chater is also on the advisory board of the British Government’s Behavioral Insights Team (or “Nudge Unit”), which you heard about in the Freakonomics podcast “The Tax Man Nudgeth.” Human Zoo episodes are accompanied by online experiments.



Where Are All the $100 Bills?

Planet Money reports on the surprising destination of most U.S. $100 bills:

In fact, as of 2011, roughly two-thirds of all $100 bills were held outside the U.S., according to an estimate by Ruth Judson, an economist at the Fed.

The article explains why the high demand for U.S. currency is a good thing:

As Bruce Bartlett recently pointed out, when foreigners hold U.S. dollars, they are effectively giving the U.S. government an interest-free loan.

More broadly, foreign demand for U.S. currency (and U.S. Treasury bonds) in times of crisis is a sign that people in the rest of the world still see the U.S as the home of one of the safest, most stable economies on the planet.

(HT: The Big Picture)



Discriminating Software

The Economist takes a look at the software that big companies are using to sort through job applicants. It finds that people who use Chrome and Firefox browsers are better employees, and people with criminal records are suited to work in call centers. One drawback to having a computer sort potential employees is that its algorithms may treat some variables as proxies for race, as discussed in our “How Much Does Your Name Matter?” podcast, in which the Harvard computer scientist Latanya Sweeney found that distinctively black names are more likely to draw ads that offer arrest records.  Read More »



Why Cell Phone Networks Crash During an Emergency

Maggie Koerth-Baker of BoingBoing interviews Brough Turner, a phone system expert, about why it’s hard to make cell phone calls during an emergency. Turner addresses the mechanics and limitations of cell phone networks and points out that, nostalgia notwithstanding, the pre-cell phone era faced its own technical problems:

Well, say you’d have an earthquake in California. This was for the old Bell system. The national long distance routing has a set of standard, predefined routes and it had network control centers in New Jersey and other places. Things would get overloaded and they would manually intervene by putting access restrictions on new calls coming into the area that was congested. In the 60s, 70s, and 80s they would let through one out of every five call attempts. They were doing that manually and just arbitrarily to reduce congestion.

(HT: The Big Picture)