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How Will Sean Payton’s Injury Affect the Saints’ Offense?

On Sunday, in a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton tore his MCL and fractured his knee when one of his own players was tackled out of bounds and crashed into him on the sideline. You can watch the replay here if you have a thing for gruesome knee injuries.

Payton is the rare NFL head coach who still calls the offensive plays, so the injury presented a pretty big problem for the Saints, especially since it happened early in the first quarter. Rather than going to the training room, Payton gutted it out on the sideline and kept calling plays while trainers tended to his knee. By halftime though, with the Saints trailing 20-10, Payton had had enough and passed play-calling duties over to his offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael.

It’s tough to say what effect the injury had on the Saints’ offense Sunday; they lost 26-20. By the numbers, the Saints’ output was fairly even through the first to second half. Read More »



More Research on Why Nice Guys Lose

A couple months ago, we wrote about a study by researchers from Notre Dame and Cornell that showed how “agreeableness” negatively affects monetary earnings, particularly for men. Translation: it pays to be a jerk. Well, not exactly, but it apparently doesn’t pay to be overly nice.

Now, a recent paper from a host of researchers (from Stanford, Northwestern and Carnegie Mellon) fleshes out this notion by showing why nice guys who watch out for others generally fail to become leaders. The study looks at how contributing to the public good (i.e. taking care of outsiders, and even others in a group setting) influences a person’s status on two critical dimensions of leadership: prestige and dominance. People who shared resources with their group were seen as prestigious, while those who protected their resources and even sought to deprive members of another group were seen as dominant. Read More »



How the Internet Is Restoring the Market for Hitchhiking

In our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast, “Where Have All the Hitchhikers Gone,” we looked at how hitchhiking is essentially a market. Specifically, as Levitt puts it, it’s a “matching market” where supply (a person who’s willing to give a ride) matches up with demand (a person who needs a ride) in natural equilibrium. Over time, that equilibrium, as facilitated by people thumbing on the sides of roads, eventually vanished.

But the supply remained; actually it increased — as the average number of passengers in a car during the work commute went from 1.3 in 1977, to 1.1 today. (Click here for more data.) And as gas prices have steadily risen, and the economy flat-lined, the demand has seemingly come back. Enter the Internet as the new facilitator.

As many of you have pointed out in emails and comments, an entire online ecosystem of ride-sharing ventures has cropped up in the last few years. So here are the highlights: Read More »



Why Do Only Top MBA Programs Practice Grade Non-Disclosure?

Last spring while I was finishing my fellowship at Columbia Business School, much of the student body was busy trying to overturn the school’s grade disclosure policy. Back then, Columbia was one of the few top MBA programs that did not practice grade non-disclosure, meaning recruiters were allowed to ask Columbia students about their grades. By the end of the year, the issue had passed a student referendum, and this semester Columbia became the latest business school to have a grade non-disclosure policy, which encourages students not to disclose their grades to employers until they’ve been hired.

Grade non-disclosure policies are a quirk of MBA programs. You won’t find them in medical or law school. In fact, the only place you do find them is among top business schools. Of the 15 most selective MBA programs, 9 of them have some form of a grade non-disclosure policy. But of the schools ranked from 20 to 50, none do.

A new paper from a pair of Wharton economists examines why this is. Read More »



Is Mitt Romney Less Well-Known Than He Was in 2007?

According to a new Pew Research Center poll, while 54 percent of Americans are able to name at least one GOP presidential candidate, the leading candidates aren’t named as often as in previous years. Only 27 percent of Americans named Mitt Romney and only 28 percent named Rick Perry. That’s below the same measure taken four years ago in October 2007, when 45 percent could name Rudy Giuliani and 30 percent could name Romney. So, well into his second campaign for president, Romney is now less well-known than he was four years ago, when he ran the first time around. Not exactly encouraging.

Also, it’s interesting that Perry is still more recognizable than Romney, despite having fallen in the polls recently — especially since Perry got into the race only about two months ago, and Romney’s been running for much of the last four years. Chalk it up to the Texas swagger versus consultant technocrat? Read More »



What if They’d Just Called it the iPhone 5?

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’re probably aware that Apple unveiled a new iPhone yesterday. At what turned out to be a relatively muted Apple product launch, it was new CEO Tim Cook‘s first chance at replacing Steve Jobs as product pitchman. It seems he did just fine.

The new iPhone is loaded with cool new features that the market was anticipating, with one exception: it’s not called the iPhone 5, it’s called the iPhone 4S.

By the time it became obvious that Cook wasn’t going to introduce anything called an iPhone 5, (about 1:50 pm EST yesterday), the stock price began to plummet pretty quickly, as you can see in the chart below. From 12:15 pm to 3:15 pm, the price dropped more than 6%. Also, note the spike in volume at the bottom. Read More »



Denmark Levies the World’s First Nationwide Fat Tax

This week, Denmark begins a large-scale incentives trial of sorts by becoming the first country to impose a nationwide fat tax. From now on, foods in Denmark with saturated fat content above 2.3% will be taxed 16 Danish kroner ($2.87) per kilogram of saturated fat; which works out to a tax of about $1.28 per pound of saturated fat. The tax was reportedly preceded by weeks of Danes stocking up on items like butter, red meat and pizza.

The issue of taxing fatty or sugary foods (and more broadly, the effectiveness of behavioral nudges) has been a topic of repeated discussion on this blog. James McWilliams posted last December on studies which indicate that while taxing sugary sodas reduces consumption, others have shown soda taxes to be ineffective at reducing obesity rates. Proof, McWilliams argues, that taxing specific food items is ultimately ineffective, since consumers can simply substitute sugar from other non-soda sources. Read More »



Banana Arbitrage

Bananas are a popular topic on this blog. In February, a reader wrote in with this odd banana stand pricing phenomenon. And in 2008, Dubner explored the potentially tenuous economics of the far-flung fruit.

I’ve recently run across something similar to the banana stand case: the Starbucks closest to my apartment now sells bananas at the counter for $1 each, while right outside the door, a fruit stand sells them for 25 cents each, or 5 for $1. And the fruit stand bananas are always better looking than the ones at the Starbucks register. Read More »