Dalton Conley Answers Your “Parentology” Questions

Last week, we solicited your questions for Dalton Conley, NYU sociologist, father, and author of Parentology: Everything You Wanted to Know about the Science of Raising Children but Were Too Exhausted to Ask. Below you will find his very interesting answers, including his thoughts whether you should stay home with your kids, how divorce affects child outcomes, and the old question of nature vs. nurture. Thanks to Dalton — and to all of you for your excellent questions.

Q. Why should we consider your limited sample size “study” to be anything more than anecdotal? How do you justify it as “science” and not simply “story telling”? –Matti

A. As Dubner and Levitt of Freakonomics did in their fabulous book, my accounts of my “do(n’t) try this at home” parenting interventions—bribing my kids to do math, not teaching them to decode words on the page, exposing them to sewage to build up their immune systems and so forth—are meant to be a way in to talk about the existing research that is based on large samples, randomized controlled trials and cutting-edge econometric analysis.  But would you rather read pages about whether or not the exclusion restriction is violated in a particular instrumental variable model of divorce? Or relegate that to endnotes so that you can hear about how my crazy family lived—like the Isaac Bashevis Singer tale—with a house full of animals to prevent childhood allergies?  Ok, maybe don’t answer that.

What is “Parentology”? Bring Your Questions for Dalton Conley

Last year, we talked to NYU sociologist Dalton Conley and his two children, E and Yo, on our podcast "How Much Does Your Name Matter?" Their names -- E Harper Nora Jeremijenko-Conley and Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner Alexander Weiser Knuckles Jeremijenko-Conley -- are a bit of an experiment:

CONLEY: Of course it’s hard to separate out cause and effect here until Kim Jong-Un allows me to randomly assign all the names of the North Korean kids…but my gut tells me that it does affect who you are and how you behave and probably makes you more creative to have an unusual name.

Conley's approach to naming his kids is certainly interesting (and highly unusual), to say the least. As it turns out, Conley has the same approach to parenting. He chronicles his unorthodox, research-inspired parenting in his new book Parentology: Everything You Wanted to Know about the Science of Raising Children but Were Too Exhausted to AskThe book is out today, and Conley has agreed to answer blog reader questions about the book, so ask away in the comments section below. As always, we’ll post his answers in short course.

Emily Oster Answers Your Pregnancy Questions

Last week, we solicited your questions for economist Emily Oster, a Freakonomics favorite and author of the new book Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong-and What You Really Need to Know.  Oster's answers are below and address everything from how fertility declines with age to whether pregnant women can still safely indulge in caffeine, fish, and transatlantic travel.  A big thanks to Emily -- and to all of you for your excellent questions.

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:

The Authors of The Org Answer Your Questions

Last week, we solicited your questions for Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan, authors of The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office. Below you will find their very interesting answers. Thanks to all for playing along, and especially to Fisman and Sullivan.

Q. I work in an office with stark contrasts in the cultures of different departments. Has there been research on the success/failures of forcing departments to assimilate/work together more? -Drew

A. A 2003 experiment by economists Colin Camerer and Roberto Weber was designed to speak to exactly the question you’re asking: What are the challenges of cross-cultural interaction, and what difficulties present themselves when two distinct cultures are forced together?

Each participant in their experiment viewed a matrix of sixteen office scenes on a computer screen. The participants were randomly paired up and put in the roles of “manager” and “employee.” Managers’ screens highlighted and numbered eight of the pictures. Their job was to communicate to the employee, through instant messaging, the eight highlighted scenes in order. The employee had to identify the picture the manager was describing. Simple enough.

Is There Such a Thing as "Office Logic"? Bring Your Questions for the Authors of The Org

We have been exploring, on this blog and especially in our Marketplace radio segments, the mores of the American office, from bosses to morale to the benefits of working from home.

If these topics interest you even a little bit, then you might want to check out The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office, a new book by Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan. Fisman, who has appeared on the blog before, teaches at Columbia, writes at Slate, and is the co-author of Economic Gangsters; Sullivan is the editorial director of Harvard Business Review Press.

How to Get the Best out of College? Your Questions Answered

We recently solicited your questions for Peter D. Feaver, Sue Wasiolek, and Anne Crossman, the authors of Getting the Best Out of College. Your questions ran the gamut and so do their replies. Thanks to all for participating. And feel free to check out our podcast on the value of a college education, “Freakonomics Goes to College” (Part 1 herePart 2 here, and together as an hour-long special). 

Q. Michael Pollan summed up his philosophy of nutrition in seven words: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Do you have similarly pithy advice for students trying to maximize their college experience? Don’t feel limited to seven words – I’m just looking for something aphoristic. -Glen Davis

A. Your choices in college matter more than your choices of college, so choose wisely. 

How to Get the Best out of College? Bring Your Questions

We recently put out a two-part podcast called "Freakonomics Goes to College" (Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and together as an hour-long special). The main question we tried to answer was if, and on what dimensions, a college education is "worth it" -- i.e., whether the returns to education are as robust as we've been led to think. (Short answer: yes.) Along the way, we talked to economists including David CardBetsey Stevenson, and Justin Wolfers, and  poked into the market for counterfeit degrees.

But let's say you're interested in the question from a practical, rather than a theoretical, perspective. That is, let's say you're an actual college student, or related to one, already deep in the throes of higher education, and that your primary question is: Okay, now what? Now that I'm here, what do I do to get the very most out of this expensive, time-consuming endeavor?

Glad you asked. Peter D. Feaver, Sue Wasiolek, and Anne Crossman are the authors of Getting the Best Out of College: Insider Advice for Success From a Professor, a Dean, and a Recent Grad, and they have agreed to field questions from Freakonomics readers.

The End of Men Author Hanna Rosin Answers Your Questions

We recently solicited your questions for Hanna Rosin, author of the new book The End of Men (and the Rise of Women). Here now are her replies, which include an explanation of the book's title and possible solutions to the wage gap. Thanks to everyone for playing along, and especially to Rosin for fielding so many of your good questions. 

Q. What do you think about the feminization of higher education; that is, more female faculty and administrators resulting in more policy creation by women or influenced by them? -Gary

A. This has been the conservative explanation for why boys are having trouble in schools. It was advanced, for example, by Christina Hoff Sommers in her 2000 Atlantic story “The War Against Boys.” I think it’s a valid but somewhat limited explanation. For one thing, it’s not new. Psychologist G. Stanley Hall began promoting this theory in 1908 in his influential essay “Feminization in School and Home.” The problem with it is it implies a kind of coordinated conspiracy by women to influence young minds. The truth is that women have taken over teaching because, as has happened often in our economy, once women start to enter a profession the men tend to flee. That’s really the men’s problem, as I see it, not the women’s. It would be fabulous and solve a lot of problems if more men would become teachers. It also has to do with the fact that teaching is one of the rare profession in the U.S. that allows for enough flexibility for a parent to be able to spend a reasonable amount of time with his or her family, both on a weekly basis and on summer vacations.  That’s the fault of the American workforce, which is so resistant to flexible working and a reasonable amount of vacation time. 

Bring Your Questions for Hanna Rosin, Author of The End of Men

"In the Great Recession, three-quarters of the 7.5 million jobs lost were lost by men," writes Hanna Rosin, author of the new book The End of Men (and the Rise of Women). "The worst-hit industries were overwhelmingly male, and deeply identified with macho: construction, manufacturing, high finance.  Some of those jobs have come back, but the dislocation is neither random nor temporary.  The recession merely revealed -- and accelerated -- a profound economic shift that has been going on for at least thirty years, and in some respects even longer."

Rosin's book (here are some reviews), based on her controversial 2010 Atlantic essay, explores the new American marriage divide, the education gap between young men and women around the world, and the new Asian power women.