Archives for Barack Obama



Is America’s Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem?

Season 5, Episode 16

On this week’s episode of Freakonomics Radio: a look at the supply side of the education equation — the teachers — as well the demand side, the students. 

Teacher quality has a huge impact. So how can we best identify, educate, and reward the good ones? And what can be done to take failing students and put them on a track to graduation? Read More »



Is America’s Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem? A Freakonomics Radio Rebroadcast

Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “Is America’s Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem?” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.)

The gist: If U.S. schoolteachers are indeed “just a little bit below average,” it’s not really their fault. So what should be done about it? Read More »



How to Be Less Terrible at Predicting the Future: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “How to Be Less Terrible at Predicting the Future.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.)

Experts and pundits are notoriously bad at forecasting, in part because they aren’t punished for bad predictions. Also, they tend to be deeply unscientific. The psychologist Philip Tetlock is finally turning prediction into a science — and now even you could become a superforecaster. Read More »



The True Story of the Gender Pay Gap: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “The True Story of the Gender Pay Gap.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.)

The gist: discrimination can’t explain why women earn so much less than men. If only it were that easy. Read More »



Is America’s Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast


We’ve all heard the depressing numbers: when compared to kids from other rich countries, U.S. students aren’t doing very well, especially in math, even though we spend more money per student than most other countries. So is the problem here as simple as adding two plus two? Is the problem here that our students aren’t getting very bright simply because … our teachers aren’t very bright?

That’s the question we ask in our latest Freakonomics Radio episode. It’s called “Is America’s Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem?” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

The cast of characters:

+ Joel Klein, the former New York City schools chancellor (and head of the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s Antitrust Division) who now runs Amplify, a News Corp education-technology startup. Klein’s new book is Lessons of Hope: How to Fix Our Schools, which was so informative and impressive that I blurbed it. In its review of the book, Newsweek says that Klein “politely rips the status quo,” which is exactly right. Read More »



The Coolest Child Care Program You’ve Never Heard Of

During World War II, U.S. women entered the workforce in record numbers — factories full of “Rosie the Riveters” producing planes and munitions for the war effort.  In response, Congress passed the Lanham Act of 1940, which administered and subsidized a large childcare system in 635 communities in the whole country except New Mexico from 1943-1946.  A new paper by Chris Herbst examines the effects of the Lanham Act; his research is particularly relevant in light of President Barack Obama‘s push for universal preschool.  “What’s intriguing about the Lanham Act is that it’s the U.S.’s first, and only, laboratory within which to assess universal child care,” writes Herbst in an email about the paper. “It may just be the coolest child care program you’ve never heard of.”  Here’s the abstract:

This paper provides a comprehensive analysis of the Lanham Act of 1940, a heavily-subsidized and universal child care program that was administered throughout the U.S. during World War II. I begin by estimating the impact of the Lanham Act on maternal employment using 1940 and 1950 Census data in a difference-in-difference-in-differences framework. The evidence suggests that mothers’ paid work increased substantially following the introduction of the child care program.

Read More »



How Many Years Does It Take to Learn to Be a Lawyer?

President Obama recently proposed an interesting solution to the skyrocketing cost (and declining popularity) of law school: make it shorter:

“This is probably controversial to say, but what the heck, I’m in my second term so I can say it,” Obama said during a stop at the State University of New York at Binghamton. “I believe, for example, that law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years because [….] in the first two years young people are learning in the classroom.”

In the third year, he said, “they’d be better off clerking or practicing in a firm, even if they weren’t getting paid that much. But that step alone would reduce the cost for the student.”

The Daily Dish reports on various responses to Obama’s suggestion.  For example, law professor Matt Bodie wonders if the change would really decrease costs: Read More »



President Obama Appoints Betsey Stevenson to the CEA

Some big news: the White House has recently announced that the newest member of the Council of Economic Advisers will be my favorite economist, and a long-time friend of this blog, Betsey Stevenson.  She’ll be joining Harvard’s Jim Stock and the newly announced CEA Chairman, Jason Furman on the three-member council,  which serves as the President’s main source of advice on economic policy. 

When I say that I’m thrilled about this news, I’m speaking not just as a dismal scientist, but also as Betsey’s co-author, colleague, co-parent and domestic partner.  The CEA has a special role as a bridge between ivory tower academic economists and the levers of public policy.  They’re our best hope for ensuring that the sharpest insights of economists can elbow past the political machinations that dominate D.C., and the list of past CEA members reads like a who’s who of the economics profession.  And there’s never been a more important time to be working as a labor economist than during a period of mass unemployment.

Honestly, I’m about as proud as an economist is allowed to be. Read More »