Archives for Emily Oster



Should Tipping Be Banned?

Season 4, Episode 5

The practice of tipping is one of the most irrational, un-economic behaviors we engage in. It’s not in our economic best-interest to tip; essentially we do it because it’s a social norm — a nicety. In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, Stephen Dubner looks at why we tip, what kinds of things can nudge tips upward, and what’s wrong with tipping overall. In the end, we wonder whether or not the practice of tipping should be eliminated altogether. Research shows that African American waiters make less in tips than people of other races, so tipping is a discriminatory practice. Later in the hour: if your parent has the gene for Huntington’s disease you have a 50% chance of getting it yourself. Huntington’s is a debilitating fatal disorder. People can do genetic testing to see if they will fall ill, yet only 5% of people choose to do so. Stephen Dubner talks to University of Chicago economist Emily Oster about her research on Huntington’s genetic testing, and the value of not knowing your fate.



What You Should and Shouldn’t Do When You’re Pregnant: Submit Your Questions for Emily Oster

If you’ve ever been pregnant, or been close to someone who is pregnant, you know how many prohibitions there are.  You can’t smoke or drink.  Shellfish are to be avoided.  In my house, conveniently (for the pregnant woman), scooping the cat litter was absolutely out of the question.  Of course, there are also a large number of things you have to do when you are pregnant or are thinking of getting pregnant, like take folic acid.

Is there any evidence to support all these pregnancy rules?  My good friend and colleague Emily Oster (whose research has been featured in SuperFreakonomics and many times on the blog), has just written the definitive book on the subject, entitled Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong-and What You Really Need to Know.  She has generously agreed to answer blog reader questions, so fire away in the comments section below and, as always, we’ll post her answers in good time!

Here’s the Table of Contents to get you started: Read More »



Did Soap Operas Shrink Brazil's Families?

Between 1960 and 2000, Brazil’s fertility rate plummeted from 6.3 to 2.3. The only other country with a comparable decline during that period was China, under its rigid one-child policy. But what was behind the Brazilian fertility plunge? One major factor may have been the influence of soap operas, according to a fascinating new working […] Read More »



A Freakonomics Quorum: How to Save the African Rhino?

A reader named James Thompson recently sent in a request for help in solving a wildlife conservation problem. We decided to put the question to a set of diverse, smart people we know or tracked down, who might have particular insights to this particular problem. As such, we bring you the inaugural Freakonomics quorum, composed […] Read More »



Am I ruining economics or not?

I blogged a few weeks back about a piece in The New Republic last month that claimed I was ruining economics. At that time, there wasn’t a full version of the article online to link to, so there did not seem to be much point in saying much about the piece. Now, you can read […] Read More »



How’s This for a Coincidence?

I was on an airplane yesterday, and when I landed I saw that there were about 4 million e-mails on my Treo. This meant, I figured, that Levitt had run some kind of quiz on the blog. And indeed he had — this one, asking what his wife and LeBron James had in common. The […] Read More »



Emily Oster is a liar!

Emily Oster told me just yesterday that she didn’t start thinking about missing women until she was in graduate school. Now it is revealed in the Everit St. Weekly (see page 3) that she actually began the research at age 9. Knowing she spent more than 15 years working on the project, it is easier […] Read More »



Freakonomics in the Times Magazine: The Price of Climate Change

The November 5, 2006, Freakonomics column examines the economic implications of a random series of ungovernable events: the weather. This post contains bonus material. Read More »