Tonight on ABC’s “20/20”

Late notice, but: tonight I’ll be appearing on a two-hour John Stossel 20/20 special called “Scared Stiff: Worry in America” (9-11 p.m. EST). I loved the theme of the show when first approached and, when I started to think through what Freakonomics material would be worth talking about, I realized that nearly everything we’ve written about, either in the book or our journalism or the blog, has some element of people worrying too much about something (or, less frequently, not worrying enough). So sitting down to talk to Stossel about the subject was among the least harrowing TV experiences I’ve ever had. For all I know, I’ll end up all over the cutting-room floor but I’m looking forward to seeing the show regardless.


I hope the show is better than his last book, which was a mile wide and an inch deep. A really lazy effort.


Haha Dubner you rocked my world. You guys have tons of material to work with just from tonight's 20/20 episode, so it'd be interesting if you could delve further into the actual risk of kidnapping cin contrast to how much money or how much media time is spent on it


I loved your shirt!



Does anyone want to save me some time and energy and let me know if this will be available for viewing on iTunes or ABC's website? I'm a poor student, so the free-er the better.

I'll check back later today. Thanks pals.


I have a problem with the Swimming pool vs. gun issue. Although I agree with the statistics (and effects of news reports in awareness), the problem is that these are treated as purely random events, rather than factored by many controllable variables.
If you look at swimming pool accidents, the 1st thing that jumps out is how many accidents occur in Winter, when the pool is *not* being used (monitored). So, quoting straight statistics with regards to the danger of a "pool party" is very misleading. Further, you note that the accidents are skewed to certain areas of the country, and that is *not* where the highest density of private pools are (looking at FBI statistics). Likewise, gun accidents have a lot to do with where the gun is in the house, how it is stored (locked or not locked, with bullets or not, where the kids know about it, etc), and the attitude of the parents.
The problem with comparing them as like-for-like is that it is like comparing your chance of being hit by lighting. Where you live, what you do, and how you behave around storms will affect your chances of being hit by lighting. In Houston, you have a much higher chance due to number of strikes, suddenness of storms, and exposure factors. In San Francisco, the chances are very very low due to lack of lighting storms. So, if you tell all Americans what their chances are, you are misleading them on multiple fronts. People who live in areas with a lot of lighting are also trained what to watch for and how to react. People in areas with low lighting strikes are not. So, a San Franciscan who goes to the mountains is at much higher risk due to inexperience. But, raw statistics do not tell that story.
This is a big problem with published statistics and how they relate to fear. Averaging local statistics across a large population gives people at low risk fear they do not need, and gives people at high risk a sense that they have less to worry about than they do. Bathtub accidents are very high in the US, but almost entirely in older people. However, most published statistics imply that every one of us has that same chance of such an accident. So, how we can be informed (and control our "fear") when we are given such misleading information?



Great show, well done. I think you should start a blog called "What Me Worry?" or "Don't Worry Be Happy" devoted to clearing up fuzzy thinking on risk.


is there a video of the appearance online?


Would you provide a link, if kind enough to post the video of the appearance? Thank you!



Even Republicans have totally embraced the safety ninny cause. I thought we elected them to give us less regulation. MADD is now pushing for point oh six. Sixteen year olds in love are now labeled sexual predators for life. Fox News is now the abduction channel.

So who's going to save us? Libertarians? Most of them are at least half nutty.

Bruce Hayden

I enjoyed the show immensely. One general point made, that we worry about stuff that we really shouldn't be worried about, given the liklihood of its happening, is really timely. Also, he nicely rebutted the general impression, esp. with kids, that things are a lot more dangerous now.