Anthony Weiner's Sunk Costs?

Anthony Weiner is still running for mayor of New York as I write this, though that status may soon change. Not coincidentally, a reader named Jon Creem (an unfortunate aptonym in this case?) writes in to say:

Yesterday I enjoyed listening to your show about "Quitting." The segment where you explained "sunk cost" was especially interesting.

I took the explanation as people's unwillingness to give up due to the amount of investment (time, money, etc) they have already made.

Then, when catching up on the latest Anthony Weiner mayoral saga, I couldn't help make a connection.

Is this guy refusing to remove himself from the race because he feels he has done too much already to drop out now? In my opinion the odds are stacked against him regardless of how good a politician he is.

I assume continuing to campaign will only cost him more time and money. Is it worth it for him to continue?

Insofar as pride and ego are components of sunk cost, I guess Jon is right. On the other hand, it doesn't strike me that Weiner's continuing to run is really about sunk cost. Modern politics is so often an exercise in ego, hubris, and narcissism -- and if I were to armchair-analyze Weiner, I'd suggest that these factors are much more important than the sunk costs of time and money.

Let's Quit Together

If you've heard our podcast "The Upside of Quitting," you'll know that we think that strategic quitting has its place. A new paper looks at the peer effects of quitting. From the introduction:

Quitting is an important issue but its determinants have not received extensive research. Quitting lets an individual benefit from alternative opportunities but it usually also has costs, either monetary or moral, or both. There are also many reasons to believe that quitting is affected by social interactions and by observing others’ quitting decisions. This is particularly the case when thinking about quitting addictive behavior.

The researchers paid 104 undergrads to work for up to 75 minutes: a compulsory 15 minute followed by 60 minutes in which the participant could stop working at any time. Researchers Julie Rosaz, Robert Slonim, and Marie Claire Villeval found that if workers are not alone and allowed to interact with each other, they are more prone to quit at the same time:

Confessions of a Racecar Driver

Last week we got an email from a reader named Daniel Herrington. He had just finished listening to our podcast, "The Upside of Quitting," and wanted to tell us about a big quit he's been pondering recently.

Daniel is a 25 year-old race car driver. He's also an engineering graduate student at Duke. On the race track, he's had enough success to keep at it: he's won at Chicagoland Speedway, and had multiple top ten finishes. But it's not quite enough to convince him that racing's the right path. The sport is super expensive; plus, Daniel's success has been a bit spotty. He's only completed 2 full seasons in the last 7 years. Keep at it, and he might wind up a star. But he could also end up a middle-aged, burned-out race car driver with no other career to fall back on. So Daniel is hedging and pursuing a graduate degree.

Daniel agreed to answer some of our questions. The result is an honest, revealing piece, one that (especially given the tragic death of Indy Car driver Dan Wheldon last weekend) sheds light on the tough decisions many young drivers face, where they have to weigh the considerable risks of the sport against its obvious thrill.

Should I Quit My Job?

In our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast, "The Upside of Quitting," we talk about strategic quitting. You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or read the transcript here.

One of the hardest things in life to quit is probably a career: what if you were great at your job, making decent money, but it's just not what you want?

Dubner talks to a very interesting woman who was faced with such a choice, and how she came to her decision to just quit.

From the Freakonomics Radio live show in St. Paul, MN earlier this year (part of which was another podcast earlier this year), here's the interview with Allie - with an animation by the talented Benjamin Arthur.

Quitting Time

No one wants to be called a quitter. And absolutely no one wants to be the guy who tells other people to quit … except maybe Stephen Dubner. Today on Marketplace, Dubner explains the virtues of quitting to Tess Vigeland, making the case that people don’t quit enough.