When Freakonomics.com was launched in 2005, it was essentially a blog (c’mon, blogs were a thing then!). The first Freakonomics book had just been published, and Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt wanted to continue their conversation with readers. Over time, the blog grew to have millions of readers, a variety of regular and guest writers, and it was hosted by The New York Times, where Dubner and Levitt also published a monthly “Freakonomics” column. The authors later collected some of the best blog writing in a book called When to Rob a Bank … and 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants. (The publisher rejected their original title: We Were Only Trying to Help. The publisher had also rejected the title Freakonomics at first, so they weren’t surprised.) While the blog has not had any new writing in quite some time, the entire archive is still here for you to read.
It should surprise no one, and delight everyone, that Richard Thaler has won this year’s Nobel in economics. Congratulations! Thaler is a big reason I personally got interested in economics. (I’ve known him quite a bit longer than I’ve known Steve Levitt.) He is everything to be admired in a scholar and thinker: original, judicious, crafty, and more than a . . .
The Princeton economist Alan Krueger — he led the Council of Economic Advisers under Obama, and his research has been featured several times on Freakonomics.com — is among a group of scholars launching a new endeavor. It’s called the Music Industry Research Association, and they want you to come to their first conference, at UCLA, in August. Here’s their writeup: Starting with . . .
How can we at Freakonomics help you during the holidays? Here’s a few ideas: 1. We can provide inspiration for gifts for the “homo economicus” in your life. 2. When you’re making your year-end donations, we can help you consider the evidence for which programs work, and which don’t. 3. No matter how far away you roam, we can entertain . . .
A while back, we tried out a new idea on a special edition of Freakonomics Radio — a game show we called Tell Me Something I Don’t Know. You might remember it. It was so much fun that we decided to launch a whole new podcast series. It’s been in the works for a while and it’s finally here! A preview . . .
When Stephen Dubner’s new podcast Question of the Day launched in August, it immediately shot to No. 1 on the iTunes chart. Last month it was selected as one of iTunes “Best of 2015.” (You can subscribe here.) Now you can come see a live taping of the show on Thursday, January 14, at The Bell House in Brooklyn. Join Dubner, his Question of the Day co-host, James Altucher, and their special guest Negin Farsadfor an evening of conversation that will run from the ridiculous to the sublime (and occasionally both).
One of the best things about being a journalist is getting to ask questions. Stephen Dubner has been doing this for years, accumulating fascinating bits of knowledge, hidden insights, and wild stories. By now he knows at least a little bit about a lot of things.
From a computer scientist (and self-professed “data nerd”) named Scott Griggs: Hi! Long time reader/listener here, looking for some quick reading list recommendations… I have submitted another application to be on CBS’s Survivor, the reality show of outwit, outplay, outlast fame. The game is physical as well as mental and includes a large social aspect concerning relationships, building trust, evaluating . . .
We recently received the following e-mail from Yu Chen, a 29-year-old engineer supervisor in California who moved to the U.S. from China when she was 16. I listened to the episode on diamonds and asked my boyfriend for a gold bar for engagement instead. Then I heard the episode on quitting, so I broke up with him. I’ve been very . . .
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!
In celebration of the 10th anniversary of Freakonomics comes this curated collection from the most readable economics blog in the universe. When Freakonomics was first published, its authors, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, started a blog — and they’ve kept it up. The writing is more casual, more personal, even more outlandish than in their books. In When to Rob a Bank, they ask a host of typically off-center questions: Why don’t flight attendants get tipped? If you were a terrorist, how would you attack? And why does KFC always run out of fried chicken?
In a new working paper, Roland Benabou, Davide Ticchi, and Andrea Vindigni follow up their earlier paper which found “a robust negative association between religiosity and patents per capita.” Their new paper, “Religion and Innovation” (abstract; PDF), they look at religiosity on the individual level, “examining the relationship between religiosity and a broad set of pro- or anti-innovation attitudes.”
From a reader named John Keaney: I just finished your book Think Like a Freak, and I’m trying to use the lessons in the book while I’m in Kyrgyzstan. I’m an undergraduate at University of South Carolina, and I’ve decided to pursue my very first, independent research project while I’m living in Kyrgyzstan on the effects of Kyrgyz accession to . . .
We’ll be putting out a new Freakonomics Radio episode later this week on the use of RCTs (randomized controlled trials) in healthcare delivery. It features the work of the MIT economist Amy Finkelstein and her colleagues at J-PAL, and it includes their analysis of what happened when Oregon expanded its Medicaid coverage. If you want to get a head start . . .
From a podcast listener named Jessica Graham in Sydney, Australia: My name is Jess and for most of my adult life I have been afflicted by various forms of sleeplessness. Would I call it insomnia? I don’t know if it could be classified as clinical insomnia, but all I can say is up until a few months ago I did . . .
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.”
We’re working on an episode about behavior change — essentially, how to get yourself to do the things you should be doing but often don’t. It revolves around the fascinating research of Katy Milkman at Penn. For example, she and her colleagues have noted a “Fresh Start Effect”:
From a podcast listener named Katie McGreer, some really interesting comment on our recent episode “Time to Take Back the Toilet“: I am an avid listener of the Freakonomics podcast and I just wanted to respond to the recent episode on noise in public washrooms (or the lack of buffers). I was having a discussion about the history of cottaging . . .
Annamaria Lusardi has been researching financial literacy for years. She has co-authored a new working paper (abstract; PDF) with Tabea Bucher-Koenen, Rob Alessie, and Maarten van Rooij called “How Financially Literate Are Women?” The answer: not very. This has obvious implications not only for something like retirement savings but also the gender pay gap (which is nowhere near as large . . .
1. According to the New York Post: “The NYPD is pulling detectives from homicides and other investigations to help deal with the endless barrage of anti-cop protests in the city, law-enforcement sources told The Post Monday.” 2. The anti-police protests are, in one way at least, rewarding the very police officers whom the protestors wish to punish, with nearly $23 . . .
Would you like to hear your voice on a future Freakonomics Radio episode? Hope so! Here are the details:
We recently put out a two-part episode on education reform, the first on teacher skill and the second on a community-based project called Pathways to Education. The response from listeners was huge — and, often, very opinionated. It seems as though everyone had a concrete idea for the one thing that would really improve our education system.
So we’ve decided to make an episode about … what you think is the one thing that would really improve our education system. If all goes well, the episode will be made up primarily of listeners’ voices — that is, your voice.
Our latest podcast is called “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know.” It’s the debut of a live game show with audience contestants and celebrity judges, including Malcolm Gladwell. In the final round, the judges team up with contestants to play for the grand prize. If you’ve already listened, you’ll know that Malcolm and his partner were asked to tell us all something we don’t know about bread, and Malcolm came up with an intriguing fact that, upon a quick fact-check, turned out to be wrong. Oops! But as it turns out, Malcolm wasn’t so much wrong as he was confused about the type of bread. Here, from Malcolm himself, is the explanation:
Our latest podcast episode — “How to Save $1 Billion Without Even Trying” — discusses research which finds that health-care experts generally buy generic medicines for their own use rather than the more expensive name brands. The episode discusses the various reasons that brand names might be more appealing despite the higher cost. A listener named Mike Dimore has written in . . .
The first installment (“How to Screen Job Applicants, Act Your Age, and Get Your Brain Off Autopilot“) covered Chapters 1-3 of Think. Now it’s time for you to send in questions for Chapters 4, 5, and 6 (see Table of Contents, below). If your question ends up in the podcast, we’ll send you a signed copy of Think Like a Freak or a limited edition Think Like a Freak t-shirt. So fire away!
You want to listen to Freakonomics Radio? That’s great! Most people use a podcast app on their smartphone. It’s free (with the purchase of a phone, of course). Looking for more guidance? We’ve got you covered.