Archives for john list



Think Like a Child

Season 5, Episode 14

On this week’s episode of Freakonomics Radio: Why would anyone want to think like a child? Aren’t kids just sloppy, inchoate versions of us? Hardly. As Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt describe in their book Think Like a Freak, it can be very fruitful like a child.

And then: How can we get kids to eat healthier food? Educational messaging sounds like a good idea, but kids don’t respond to it. So why not bribe them? Read More »



Does “Early Education” Come Way Too Late? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast


Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “Does ‘Early Education’ Come Way Too Late?” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.)

The gist: in our collective zeal to reform schools and close the achievement gap, we may have lost sight of where most learning really happens — at home. Read More »



Preventing Crime for Pennies on the Dollar: A New Freakonomics Radio Episode


Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “Preventing Crime for Pennies on the Dollar” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, 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.) Read More »



Great Companies Needed

My good friend and colleague John List has very ambitious summer plans.

We’ve both believed for a long time that the combination of creative economic thinking and randomized experiments has the potential to revolutionize business and the non-profit sector. John and I have worked to foment that revolution through both  academic partnerships with firms as well as a project of John’s called the Science of Philanthropy Initiative (SPI), whose mission is “evidence-based research on charitable giving.” Read More »



How to Raise Money Without Killing a Kitten: A Freakonomics Radio Rebroadcast


It’s fundraising season again here at Freakonomics Radio. This episode is a rebroadcast of the first time that we asked listeners to donate to help keep our public-radio podcast going strong. This episode is called “How to Raise Money Without Killing a Kitten.” (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.)

In this podcast you’ll hear the economist John List give us the gospel of fundraising — what works, what doesn’t, and why. List and economist Uri Gneezy write about the science of charitable giving in their book The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life. Read More »



Why You Should Bribe Your Kids: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast


This week’s episode is called “Why You Should Bribe Your Kids.” (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.)

Let’s say you’re trying to get a bunch of kids to eat more nutritious food. What’s the best way to do this — education, moral urging, or plain old bribery? That’s one of the questions that a pair of economists set out to answer in a recent field experiment in Chicago. In this podcast, you’ll hear from both of them: John List, a University of Chicago professor (and co-author of The Why Axis who’s familiar to readers of this blog); and Anya Samek, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Read More »



Why Do We Vote? So We Can Tell People We Voted

We once wrote about reasons to not vote, at least from an economist’s perspective. Since a single vote almost never alters an outcome, what’s in it for the voter?

If a given citizen doesn’t stand a chance of having her vote affect the outcome, why does she bother? In Switzerland, as in the U.S., “there exists a fairly strong social norm that a good citizen should go to the polls,” [Patricia] Funk writes. “As long as poll-voting was the only option, there was an incentive (or pressure) to go to the polls only to be seen handing in the vote. The motivation could be hope for social esteem, benefits from being perceived as a cooperator or just the avoidance of informal sanctions. Since in small communities, people know each other better and gossip about who fulfills civic duties and who doesn’t, the benefits of norm adherence were particularly high in this type of community.”

Read More »



Does Early Education Reduce the Achievement Gap?

John List and Uri Gneezy have appeared on our blog many times. This guest post is part a series adapted from their new book The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life. List also appeared in our recent podcast “How to Raise Money Without Killing a Kitten.”

The past 60 years in the U.S. has seen dramatic policy changes to the public-education system. The ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s saw desegregation and affirmative action, and since the ‘80s there have been efforts to increase school funding, the introduction of voucher systems, and the creation of countless charter schools. In between we’ve seen efforts to reduce class sizes, introduce technology into classrooms, improve teacher credentialing, and a massive attempt to leave No Child Left Behind. 

What do we have to show for all this? That’s hard to say. Even though many programs have a high price tag, they were never implemented with an eye towards assessment. The data we do have shows that not much has changed over the past 30 years. The figure attached shows how the racial achievement gap in test scores has persisted for white and black Americans since the late 1970s. 

If you don’t like the breakdown by race, then consider that the high school dropout rate among high-income families in 1972 was 2% and in 2008 it was still at 2%. For low-income families, though? In 1972 it was 14% and in 2008 it was still at 9%. This sort of trend (or lack thereof) is manifested in dozens of measures of academic achievement, all of which suggest that the past 60 years of educational reform has very little to show for itself. Read More »