You know how there are people who get talked about a lot and then there are people who actually do a lot?
It strikes me that the same could be said of cities. And I’d put Chicago near the top of any list of cities that have done a lot. From an East Coast view, or West, it can appear that Chicago is the middle of nowhere. In this week’s podcast, we make the argument that Chicago is, in fact, the middle of everywhere. (You can subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript below; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)
The episode features Thomas Dyja, the author of several books, most recently The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream. He talks about 10 things that Chicago gave the world, some of them surprising and some just forgotten. Dyja isn’t arguing that Chicago is still in its heyday — it is almost certainly not — but he make a persuasive case that it is underappreciated on many dimensions, and that the world would be a very different place if Chicago hadn’t been so busy being Chicago. Read More »
Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast is called “Do Baby Girls Cause Divorce?” (You can subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript below; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)
This episode was inspired by a question from a reader named John Dolan-Heitlinger, who wrote the following:
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My wife has observed that in marriages where there is a son there is less chance of the husband leaving the marriage.
I wonder if that is true.
Thanks for your consideration.
Our latest podcast is called “Government Employees Gone Wild.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player in the post. You can also read the transcript below; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)
It’s about a book that I’ve come to love — a most unusual book. What makes it unusual?
1. It is made available online, as a Word document, but is not actually published.
2. It is free (or, more accurately, it’s already been paid for — by U.S. taxpayers).
3. It is published by the U.S. Department of Defense.
This unusual book is called The Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure, and you can get it here (2013 additions here). What is it? It’s an ethics guide for government employees, full of true stories about epic screw-ups. In the podcast, you’ll hear from the Encyclopedia‘s founding editor (Steve Epstein) and its current editor (Jeff Green). Read More »
A while back, we posted an e-mail on this blog from a reader named Ralph Thomas:
It has been my gut-level (sorry, pun) feeling for a while now that the McDonald’s McDouble, at 390 Calories, 23g (half a daily serving) of protein, 7% of daily fiber, 20% of daily calcium and iron, etc., is the cheapest, most nutritious, and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history.
This is the kind of statement that most people cannot help but argue with, in one direction or the other (but yeah, mostly in one direction). Is the McDouble really the modern miracle that Thomas suggests, or a food abomination, a perfect symbol of the over-engineered, overabundant food cycle we’re trapped in? Read More »
Our latest podcast is called “Jane Austen, Game Theorist.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)
It is an episode about, yes, Jane Austen and game theory. To which you might say … wha?
Okay, a bit more explanation is necessary. Michael Chwe is an associate professor of political science at UCLA whose research centers on game theory and, as he puts it, “its applications to social movements and macroeconomics and violence — and this latest thing is about its applications maybe to literature.”
The literature in question? The novels of Jane Austen. Chwe discovered that Austen’s novels are full of strategic thinking, decision analysis, and other tools that would later come to be prized by game theorists like those as the RAND Corporation just after World War II. (They included some of the brightest minds of the time, including Kenneth J. Arrow, Lloyd S. Shapley, Thomas Schelling, and John Nash.) And so Chwe wrote a book called Jane Austen, Game Theorist. Read More »
Our latest podcast is called “Do You Really Want to Know Your Future?” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player in the post. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)
If you could take a test that would foretell your future – at least your medical future – would you? And if you did, how would that affect the way you live your life?
The economist Emily Oster wondered how people at risk for the neurological disease Huntington’s answer those questions. Huntington’s is genetic: the children of a person with the disease have a 50 percent chance of carrying the mutation themselves. Symptoms usually surface in one’s 30s or 40s, worsen over time, and end in death. Oster wanted to know how people with the gene respond to the prospect of a shortened lifespan. Read More »
Our latest Freakonomics on Marketplace podcast is called “Why Family and Business Don’t Mix.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript.) It’s based on a recent paper by Alberto Alesina and Paola Giuliano called “Family Ties.” It argues that strong family ties bring a lot of benefits, but may also depress economic activity:
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We study the role of the most primitive institution in society: the family. Its organization and relationship between generations shape values formation, economic outcomes and influences national institutions. We use a measure of family ties, constructed from the World Values Survey, to review and extend the literature on the effect of family ties on economic behavior and economic attitudes. We show that strong family ties are negatively correlated with generalized trust; they imply more household production and less participation in the labor market of women, young adult and elderly. They are correlated with lower interest and participation in political activities and prefer labor market regulation and welfare systems based upon the family rather than the market or the government. Strong family ties may interfere with activities leading to faster growth, but they may provide relief from stress, support to family members and increased wellbeing. We argue that the value regarding the strength of family relationships are very persistent over time, more so than institutions like labor market regulation or welfare systems.
Our latest podcast is called “Should Tipping Be Banned?” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)
As we all know, the practice of tipping can be awkward, random, and confusing. This episode tries to offer some clarity. At its center is Cornell professor Michael Lynn, who has written 51 academic papers on tipping. A few examples:
“Are Christian/Religious People Poor Tippers?”
“Sweetening the Till: The Use of Candy to Increase Restaurant Tipping”
“Determinants and Consequences of Female Attractiveness and Sexiness: Realistic Tests with Restaurant Waitresses”
“National Personality and Tipping Customs”
Because Lynn has largely built his career around tipping, it came as a bit of a surprise when Stephen Dubner asked him what he would change about the practice:
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LYNN: You know, I think I would outlaw it.