“One Does Not Know Where an Insight Will Come From” | People I (Mostly) Admire Ep. 3: Kerwin Charles

The dean of Yale’s School of Management grew up in a small village in Guyana. During his unlikely journey, he has researched video-gaming habits, communicable disease, and why so many African-Americans haven’t had the kind of success he’s had. Steve Levitt talks to Charles about his parents’ encouragement, his love of Sports Illustrated, and how he talks to his American-born kids about the complicated history of Blackness in America. 

“I Started Crying When I Realized How Beautiful the Universe Is” | People I (Mostly) Admire Ep. 2: Mayim Bialik

She’s best known for playing neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, but the award-winning actress has a rich life outside of her acting career, as a teacher, mother — and a real-life neuroscientist. Steve Levitt tries to learn more about this one-time academic and Hollywood non-conformist, who is both very similar to him and also quite his opposite.

“I Manage My Controversy Portfolio Carefully” | People I (Mostly) Admire Ep. 1: Steven Pinker

By cataloging the steady march of human progress, the Harvard psychologist and linguist has become a very public intellectual. But the self-declared “polite Canadian” has managed to enrage people on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Steve Levitt tries to understand why. 

The Simple Economics of Saving the Amazon Rain Forest (Ep. 428)

Everyone agrees that massive deforestation is an environmental disaster. But most of the standard solutions — scolding the Brazilians, invoking universal morality — ignore the one solution that might actually work.

How Rahm Emanuel Would Run the World (Ep. 415)

As a former top adviser to presidents Clinton and Obama, he believes in the power of the federal government. But as former mayor of Chicago, he says that cities are where real problems get solved — especially in the era of Covid-19.

America’s Math Curriculum Doesn’t Add Up (Ep. 391)

Most high-school math classes are still preparing students for the Sputnik era. Steve Levitt wants to get rid of the “geometry sandwich” and instead have kids learn what they really need in the modern era: data fluency.

The Annual Freakonomics Kentucky Derby Predictions

Almost a decade of blogging had worn me down, but after some time off, I'm ready to jump back in the saddle. I can't think of a better way than by embarrassing myself with the annual Kentucky Derby predictions!

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."

A Chance for You to Give Some of My Money to Charity

A few months back, I helped start a little company, SpinforGood, that offers a new way to give to charity while having fun. It’s not legal in the U.S. to play games like slots and blackjack for real money online, but it is legal to play those games online for charity. So it’s our hope that by hooking up people who like to gamble online with charities, we can let people have fun while doing a whole lot of good.

We are running a special tournament today and tomorrow. In this particular tournament, I personally donated $1,000 of my own money to the prize pool to give people an extra incentive to participate. Which charities get my money (and yours) will be decided by the tournament winners. So for a $10 donation, you can have fun gambling and potentially win thousands of dollars for the charity of your choice.

The Thinking Person’s Guide to Betting the Belmont Stakes

It has been 36 years since a horse won the Triple Crown. California Chrome has a chance to make history today if he wins the Belmont Stakes, the last leg of the Triple Crown.

So how should you bet the race? California Chrome will be a prohibitive favorite, partly because he deserves to be based on past performances, and partly because it is fun and exciting to be able to say that you bet on the horse who won the Triple Crown. I can remember the specifics of very few horse races, but I still remember exactly where I was watching on TV when Secretariat won the Triple Crown because I had decided after the Preakness that he was my favorite horse. I was six years old. It's fun to feel a connection to a champion.

Most likely, way too much money will be bet to win on California Chrome, for the reasons above. The more money that is bet on him, the worse the odds. I doubt that it will be a smart bet to play California Chrome to win.