DUBNER: You are libeling your entire profession.
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DUCKWORTH: I’m Angela Duckworth.
DUBNER: I’m Stephen Dubner.
DUCKWORTH + DUBNER: And you’re listening to No Stupid Questions.
Today on the show: Does giving your child an allowance actually teach them financial responsibility?
DUCKWORTH: You just can’t give a kid five dollars and be like, “Gee, they spent most of it.”
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DUBNER: Angela, we’ve got an email from one Valerie Boyles. Oh, I can’t hear the name Valerie without thinking of Amy Winehouse.
DUCKWORTH: Oh, is there a song called “Valerie”?
DUBNER: Amy Winehouse, who died young from, I think, an overdose—
DUCKWORTH: That I know.
DUBNER: —was an amazing singer. Hang on. Here we go. Let’s hear some Amy.
[CLIP: “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse]
DUCKWORTH: It’s good.
DUBNER: I miss her.
DUCKWORTH: That is not Valerie’s email, but that is definitely relevant to the name Valerie.
DUBNER: Correct. Sorry. That was a tangent. So, Valerie Boyles, here. She writes to say, “Stephen and Angela, my husband and I have been discussing starting an allowance with our children, ages 10 and eight. I’ve read different systems for giving allowance, such as allowance given for chores completed, versus allowance given because they are part of the family. Is there any scientific research that shows how children best learn to manage their money? Does the method of distribution — cash versus debit card — make a difference?” Wow. Valerie has a lot of questions. “Is there a minimum or maximum amount of money that best teaches responsibility without spoiling?” Those are Valerie’s many questions.
DUCKWORTH: But these are all related questions, right? Basically, I think what Valerie is asking is, “As a mom, what should I do to help my kiddos learn how to become financially responsible?” A direct answer to Valerie’s query about the scientific research on how children best learn to manage their money— I actually want to just say to you, Valerie, I am going to bolster my Angela Duckworth opinions with some relevant research, but there are no random-assignment studies that have definitively shown, “This is how children should be raised or taught when it comes to these things.”
DUBNER: So, what you’re saying is that these questions, per se, are probably hard to answer empirically, but there are areas of research where there’s empirical work that could at least help us get at some related topics. Didn’t you, yourself, coauthor a paper about conscientiousness in childhood and what that leads to?
DUCKWORTH: I did, and it was years ago. In this paper, we were asked to link the research on kids developing self-regulation when they are three, four, five, six, seven years old, and then later conscientiousness. Like, “Did Stephen grow up to be a conscientious adult?” So, we looked at all of the relevant research that had been done, as of 10 years ago. And we said, “Look, first of all, we can say that in longitudinal studies that follow people through adulthood, if you are a more self-regulated kiddo, you are more likely to be a self-regulated grownup.”
DUBNER: Can I be so rude as to interrupt and ask you to define self-regulation? It sounds obvious, but maybe there is a larger, or more nuanced, version than a layperson might imagine.
DUCKWORTH: I think that the notion of self-regulation is that you rule yourself. We know what it means for a government to rule its people, or a boss to order around somebody who works for that boss. But the idea of self-“hyphen”-regulation is that you rule yourself. Why is that important? I think it’s because human beings, as a species, are capable of having multiple, conflicting motives. So, you can actually have a need for self-governance of your multiple “selves.” There’s the self that wants to punch the other person in the nose. And there’s the self that says, “That’s not a good idea.” And there’s the self that says, “I’d feel guilty if I did that.” So, the idea of self-regulation is that, by the time you are even three or four, you have the capacity to have multiple motives that are in conflict. And so, you have to have some ability to choose the impulse that is better for you in the long run.
DUBNER: How much variance is there among children when it comes to self-regulation? If I take a hundred children from across a given population, do I see — ranging from zero on the self-regulation scale, to 10 — even at the age of, let’s say, five?
DUCKWORTH: There’s no objective units for self-regulation. But let me get the gist right. If you asked me, “How different is the most self-regulated kid from the least self-regulated kid in waiting for a second marshmallow, or smiling even though they got a gift that they hate?” These are actually two tests that scientists use to measure self-regulation in very young kids. And yeah, there’s a lot of variability. Some kids can wait no more than a millisecond for two treats, versus one right away. Other kids can wait hours. I will also say, however, that if you wait for that four-year-old or that five-year-old to become a 15-year-old or 16-year-old — as time marches on, people become even more differentiated. But even at a young age, you can see differences.
DUBNER: I have two questions: When you’re a researcher running one of these experiments, what kind of gifts do you give children that you know they will hate?
DUCKWORTH: Ha! Well, you do it through pre-testing. You show kids all these different toys and you’re like, “Which do you really want? And which do you really not want?” And then, you wrap up the one that they wanted least. These are, remember, like, really little kids.
DUBNER: They’re not thinking, “Oh, they tested me on that, they know I didn’t like that one. So, I’m not going to react.”
DUCKWORTH: “This is reverse psychology! I’m onto you.”
DUBNER: But here’s the other question. If you were to walk into a pre-K classroom and divide the kids, let’s say, into three groups: medium self-regulation, low, and high — what share of the low group would be boys versus girls?
DUCKWORTH: By the time you get to adolescence, there is a lot of evidence that teenage girls are more self-regulated than boys of the same age. But when you’re talking about really little kids — three, four, or five — I think there’s conflicting evidence. Boys are, by the way, more physically active. So, when you talk about who gets in trouble in class more, it could be boys, but I think that’s partly because we’ve decided to stick kids in a chair for seven hours a day.
DUCKWORTH: I think that school’s terrible. It’s not a great fit for human nature. Some people like to sit in a chair, and be talked at for a long time, and then go off and read a lot, and so forth. But, we, generally, are not creating a very curious, fun, even intellectually-engaging place for young people.
DUBNER: So, no offense to Valerie, who sent us this question, but I find that this conversation has gotten a lot more interesting than a conversation about just allowance.
DUCKWORTH: Sorry, Valerie.
DUBNER: So, Valerie, we’ll get back to it.
DUCKWORTH: We are going to come back to it, because I think it’s an interesting question.
DUBNER: We will. But Angie, you just said something that is really jaw-dropping. You’re a college professor. Your profession is education.
DUCKWORTH: My peers are probably the ones who were like, “Yeah, I kind of liked sitting in a chair all day long and reading.”
DUBNER: But if you just take a step back for a moment and forget about the fact that you are libeling your entire profession of education—
DUCKWORTH: Just put that aside for a moment.
DUBNER: —what are some of the big changes you’d like to see, generally, in how we think about what education is supposed to be?
DUCKWORTH: I’m not a good policymaker. But as a psychologist, I will say that this formula that we have, it sometimes is called a “factory model” — you try to shove some knowledge into their head, you do that very inefficiently — should look a lot more like project-based learning. So, George Lucas, the famous movie guy, like, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, et cetera.
DUBNER: I don’t think he made Raiders of the Lost Ark.
DUCKWORTH: Pretty sure. Bet you five bucks.
DUBNER: I bet you 18 billion.
DUCKWORTH: Isn’t it, like, his franchise though?
DUBNER: So, I think the answer is no, but it’s okay. You can owe me the 18 billion. But anyway, George Lucas — the great filmmaker behind Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I think he also made Citizen Kane—
DUCKWORTH: Come on!
DUBNER: —and The 10 Commandments—
DUCKWORTH: I wasn’t that far off! But George Lucas has been this very vocal proponent of project-based learning, which is: Instead of being given a ton of facts to memorize, you’re given a project. Like, “Hey, go figure out how it is that the pond near our school could have less algae,” or something. And there’s more to say on that, but I will just say that you can imagine other ways of learning that are not what we’re doing.
DUBNER: But also, one could imagine — and this is maybe bringing this conversation back a bit to Valerie’s question — the education model being suboptimal— Obviously, there are many different types of schools, and so on, but what it doesn’t really do is get kids, quote, “working.”
DUCKWORTH: In what way, though? I mean, obviously, they’re doing schoolwork.
DUBNER: Yeah, but the fact that we call schoolwork “work” is a little bit odd to me.
DUCKWORTH: Because it doesn’t provide value to anybody else?
DUBNER: Well, I shouldn’t say that. That’s not quite fair. Because I’ve done plenty of work in my life, especially my childhood, that was much more mindless, even, than schoolwork. But, you know, one reason that we give our children allowance — Valerie seems to imply — is that, yeah, it will teach you about money, so that when you work and earn your own money, you will have a better sense of what to do with it. Now, there’s a big question whether that actually works. I’ve seen research — I’m looking at it here — from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. So, keep in mind who’s behind this research.
DUCKWORTH: Seems like a really fun bunch of people.
DUBNER: So, a new A.I.C.P.A. survey — that’s the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants survey — found that kids are “raking in” — this surmises — an average of 30 dollars a week in allowance. This is from 2019, so pretty current. “Enough to save around 1,500 dollars a year. However, it’s concerning that only 3 percent of parents say their kids primarily save their allowance. Three-quarters of Americans say that the most important purpose of providing an allowance is to teach the child about the value of money and financial responsibility. However,” the survey found, “allowance money is rarely saved. People say most of the kids’ allowance is spent on outings with friends; digital services; digital devices or downloads; or toys.” So, I find this kind of hilarious, because, first of all, I guess it makes sense that the accountants would say, “Wait a minute, if your parent is giving you 30 dollars a week, you should save at least 20 of those dollars.” On the other hand, if you’re a kid, and you’re given 30 dollars for doing nothing, of course you’re going to spend on the stuff that you want. Now, I understand why the accountants want you to save it. But if you work for the money, we know from research that you will have a very different relationship with that money than if you’re given it.
DUCKWORTH: Do we know that? I guess we know, from research on adults, that when you do something, there’s the effort-endowment effect.
DUCKWORTH: Something is more valuable because you put your sweat equity into it.
DUBNER: You’re right to ask whether we know that from children. From adults, we certainly do. And, in fact, for years, economists told us that separating out money into different tranches, or groups, was really stupid. They called it “mental accounting.” And they said that’s a really bad idea. Because economists would say, “A dollar is a dollar. And whether you get that dollar as a gift, whether you find it on the street, or whether you work for it, it’s still a dollar, and it shouldn’t make any difference.” And then, along came people like Richard Thaler, and Danny Kahneman, and Amos Tversky, and said, “Maybe the people who do this mental accounting aren’t making as big a mistake as the economists think.” And I don’t think you even have to be a psychologist to recognize that a dollar that you earn by working may feel different from a dollar you were given in allowance — or maybe a dollar you found on the street. So, I think that is actually the interesting part of the Valerie question. And I’m not saying that we should send our children off to work at age 6, necessarily, but I do think it illuminates the conundrum at the center of this question about allowance, which is: “Why is it that when I give my kid money, they don’t seem to save, and invest, and portion it out? And why, then, is it not teaching them to be great as adults when it comes to money?” Because one thing we know about this country and many other countries—
DUCKWORTH: We are not great at saving money, managing money!
DUCKWORTH: Here’s what I think. Kids working is a good thing. I mean, I made-slash-asked my two daughters to work as soon as it was legal in the state of Pennsylvania. And they had bosses who were not me. And that was a great thing.
DUBNER: Give us some details here. What kind of jobs were they?
DUCKWORTH: So, Lucy’s first job was working in a kitchen as a dishwasher. She worked her way up from dishwasher to, like, assistant-assistant-assistant cook. It was an Italian restaurant — actually, a really fancy Italian restaurant — here in the city called Vetri. She worked there pretty much every Saturday and every summer, and she learned a lot. She learned to do things well for somebody who was not her mother or father. I think that’s an enormous benefit beyond, like, “Oh, now she knows how to manage money.” She did, by the way, accumulate a fair amount of savings, at least in teenage terms. She would actually ask— Well, she knew which parent to ask, which is not me. She knew to ask Jason, like, “How do I get my money to make even more money?” She listened to the book Rich Dad Poor Dad. Do you know that book?
DUBNER: Yeah, I do. Robert Kiyosaki, I want to say. Or George Lucas, perhaps.
DUBNER: Was that a low blow?
DUCKWORTH: Total low. But anyway, I think that there were a number of benefits of having a paid job outside of the home. I know that’s not exactly an allowance. In fact, to me, better than allowance is a job. If you are going to give your kids an allowance, then take a little bit of time to actually encourage them to save. I mean, you just can’t give a kid five dollars and be like, “Gee, they spent most of it. I gave him another five dollars and he spent most of that, too.” Start a savings account, and then maybe suggest, “Hey, I’m going to put the money in here.” So, in other words, if you are going to go the allowance route, don’t expect it to teach any kind of financial savvy unless you scaffold it.
DUBNER: I like your advice, but I think it’s wrong, because I think the very name of this money tells you what it’s supposed to be. It’s “allowance.” I’m “allowing” you to do something with it. It’s not forced savings. So, you’re saying, like, “I’m going to give you 20 dollars a week, but, by the way, that 20 dollars just goes into your savings account.” That’s not allowance. That’s a savings plan, which is also good. You can do both. But the research does show us that most kids just want to spend their allowance. And so, we shouldn’t fault them for that, necessarily.
DUCKWORTH: I think if you want to give your kids money that you really don’t care what they do with it, then great. Then do the Stephen Dubner plan.
DUBNER: I should say, that’s not my plan.
DUCKWORTH: Okay. Well, what’s your plan?
DUBNER: I use an incentive in the carrot direction, not the stick direction. I basically say to my kids, “If, at any point, you have money — from allowance, from working, from a birthday present, from wherever — that you want to save, then I will match it. And it’s called the ‘Bank of Dad.’ So, if you have 100 bucks somehow, and you put it into the savings account, it becomes 200 dollars.”
DUCKWORTH: It’s a challenge grant. You double their money.
DUBNER: Provided that it’s not withdrawn within a reasonable time. And that reasonable time is, essentially, forever. This is a savings account that’s not meant to be spent. It’s really meant to be a savings account. So, if one of my kids gets a hundred bucks, they then make the decision, “Okay, I’m going to take 40 and put it in my pocket, and I’m going to take 60, bring it to the Bank of Dad. Now it’s 120, and it’s going to be there in 10 years.” So, that’s my method.
DUCKWORTH: I think the area of common ground here is that, whatever you’re going to do, just think two steps ahead. Not just like, “Oh, I’ve given them allowance,” but like, “What’s it for? What do I want to have happen?” And I like your technique. It’s good. I also think there’s nothing wrong with, like, “Kind of want to just give my kid five bucks, let them have fun.” But don’t assume that what you want to have happen is going to happen without a little bit of planning.
DUBNER: Right. Don’t assume, because it makes— Because it makes —
DUCKWORTH: I’m supposed to fill in the blank here?
DUBNER: It makes an ass out of you and me.
DUCKWORTH: Oh, God. I have heard that one before. It’s— It’s actually pretty good.
DUBNER: Or, don’t assume because it makes an “assu” out of me and it does nothing to you.
Still to come on No Stupid Questions: Stephen and Angela share how their early experiences earning money shaped who they are today.
DUBNER: I would sign up for these programs where you could sell flower and vegetable seeds door to door. That was also not very successful.
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Before we return to Stephen and Angela’s conversation about teaching children financial responsibility, let’s hear your thoughts on the subject. We asked listeners to tell us about their very first jobs. Here’s what you said:
Pat MATHESON: I took my first job at the age of 12, delivering newspapers in my neighborhood. I had a pretty good time throwing newspapers from the middle of the street and occasionally hitting the front porch. I followed in my grandpa’s footsteps, who delivered newspapers at the age of eight on horseback.
Bo FENTUM: Hi NSQ. This is Bo, now living in London, but I grew up in North County, Dubin and had my first job when I was 12-years-old, back in 1991. I spent a summer picking strawberries at a farm near my home. I used to get up at quarter-past-five in the morning to cycle over and start my shift for six, where I earned a whopping one pound fifty per tray of strawberries. So, a lot of hard work for very little money. But it was a great job, a great summer, and I really remember just feeling so independent and loved earning my own money. I think it’s a great thing for children to be able to do that.
Scott BARBOUR: My name is Scott from Northern California, and my first job was assembling bicycles at a local bike shop. When I was 11 years old, I had my heart set on getting a Redline bicycle for Christmas. My parents insisted we couldn’t afford it, but my stepfather suggested I approach the shop owner whose name was Chris Noel around Christmas time to suggest that I work assembling bicycles and picking up around the shop in order to pay for this Redline bicycle. Chris Noel agreed, and I had my bicycle by New Year’s Eve. So, what I learned from this is if you’re young and ambitious, there may be someone out there willing to look the other way when it comes to child labor laws and help you out.
That was, respectively: Pat Matheson, Bo Fentum, and Scott Barbour. Thanks to them and to everyone who sent us their thoughts. Now, back to Stephen and Angela’s conversation about teaching children about money.
DUBNER: So, here’s a riddle for you. Statista — do you use Statista?
DUCKWORTH: I don’t know what Statista is. What is it?
DUBNER: Statista is a business. It’s a subscription service which generates and synthesizes a lot of statistical research about the world. They have their own research department, which is pretty substantial. And so, they conducted a survey asking parents in the U.S. at what age they would let their kids start working “odd jobs” — is the way it was phrased. So, what share would you say would let their kids start working odd jobs at ages 14 and under?
DUCKWORTH: Um, I would say 80 percent.
DUBNER: Angela, you are literally the best guesser I’ve ever known.
DUCKWORTH: Is it 80? No!
DUBNER: It’s actually 81, but that’s amazing. Well done. Here’s the way it works. Five percent of these parents say under 10 years old is good. 30 percent say 10-to-12 years old. And 46 percent say 12-to-14 years old.
DUCKWORTH: I would be in the lowest age group.
DUBNER: “I think there’s a coal mine over there that has an opening, Lucy.”
DUCKWORTH: I’ve been watching that show “Old Enough!” — which I think you are also watching.
DUBNER: Oh, yes.
DUCKWORTH: Japanese families take their, like, two-and-a-half-year-olds and send them a kilometer away to buy a basket of groceries, cross the highway, come back. And I am not saying that we should take toddlers and send them off across highways.
DUBNER: But you’re not saying we shouldn’t, either.
DUCKWORTH: I’m not saying— Well, I remember my mom used to always be reading to me out of the Chinese newspaper — and then, of course, translating it — these stories that would always be appearing, like, “5-year-old found in forest making their own broth,” or like, “taking care of ailing grandmother.”
DUBNER: And she’d say, “What’s wrong with you, Angela? Why are you having to go to school?”
DUCKWORTH: Yes! She would always read these to me and say, like, “This five-year-old can make meals, and take in the vegetables from the garden, and take care of her grandmother.” And I do think there is probably some of that in me. I do remember, in school, the things I did like. Like, when you got to bang out the erasers at the end of the day? And those little errands the teachers would send you on? Like, “Somebody has to take this down to the nurse’s office.” And I think that, for many reasons, kids like those things. But I think kids like to be useful! So, I feel like waiting until somebody is 35 before they can contribute to society is 25 years too late.
DUBNER: What about you when you were a kid? What were your first jobs?
DUCKWORTH: So, I do remember babysitting. I was a great deal, because, basically, when your kid went to sleep, I would clean your kitchen.
DUCKWORTH: These parents would come home. They’d be so happy. They’re like, “Okay, the kid’s alive, and there are no dishes in the sink. This is awesome.”
DUBNER: That one fact says, I believe, everything about Angela Duckworth you ever need to know.
DUCKWORTH: It does remind me— One of my favorite studies is actually a study that George Vaillant did. George Vaillant, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, was the lead researcher of two longitudinal studies where they basically follow people for their entire lives. One of the studies that he did was on what he called “industriousness,” and I think he was talking in the psychoanalytic terms. There’s this stage theory of development that says there are different stages in which we progress, and they’re qualitatively distinct. There’s, I think, eight stages altogether, and “industriousness” is the stage you’re in when you’re in elementary school. You then progress through adolescence and you’re in the “identity” phase, and then you’re in young adulthood and you’re in the “intimacy” phase. This paper was so interesting to me, because the claim was that, when you assess industriousness in a child, that you might be able to predict their success and their mental health when they are in middle-age better than a lot of other things in that study, like socioeconomic status. Now, that’s one study, but I do think what’s held up over time is that this capacity to work — like, if you just ask someone, “Are you a hard worker? Do you lean toward industry as opposed to leisure?” — I do think that has held up as a pretty sturdy finding of predicting lots of good things.
DUBNER: So, I like hard work, too.
DUCKWORTH: You’re a hard worker.
DUBNER: I did work really hard as a kid.
DUCKWORTH: What was your first paid job — or job. You worked on a farm, right? I don’t know if they paid you.
DUBNER: We did have a family farm, but that was all free work. I did get an allowance. I mean, it’s going to make me sound so old, but it’s a combination of being old and coming from a very low-income family.
DUCKWORTH: It was, like, a penny a week or something?
DUBNER: It was 10 cents a week.
DUBNER: And even then, I was like, “This is barely worth giving to me.” Now, that said, I remember when bubblegum went from one to two cents. So, you could buy 10 pieces of gum with your weekly allowance.
DUCKWORTH: You mean the little Bazooka ones?
DUBNER: The little Bazooka. I did hay baling and mucking out stalls. I learned that I hated that kind of work. It was not just physically hard. It was mentally grueling, because it was so unfulfilling. And then, from a pretty early age, I tried to be entrepreneurial, but failed deeply, because there weren’t many opportunities. You know, I’m out in the middle of the country. But I would sign up for these programs where you could sell flower and vegetable seeds door to door, subscriptions to newspapers. There was this thing where they made these little metal Social Security cards — like, a permanent Social Security card you could carry around in your wallet. That was also not very successful. I then got a steady job, ultimately, when I was about maybe 13, which was at the general store. I was the guy who would clean up, and stock the shelves, and stuff like that. It was much less bad than many of the other jobs I’d had. And I was working one summer as a carpenter. It was all adults and me. And at lunchtime, I was just sitting around talking with these guys, and they said, “Listen, whatever you do, go to college, finish college, and don’t do this.” And so I very much empathize with people who don’t have an opportunity beyond that work. And the fact is that the world has changed a lot. So, you can grow up these days in a low-income environment and there’s a lot more access to education, and improving oneself, and being entrepreneurial, and so on. But that, to me, was the most valuable lesson from work. It wasn’t about, “Work hard and make money.” It was, “There are certain kinds of work that you can do that, yes, you will earn a little money, but man, they will break you.” And so, getting back to Valerie’s question, what I’m hearing you say is that you chose to not give your kids allowance and just say, “As soon as you’re able, you should go work.” It’s not really about the money so much. It’s about learning to work and learning about the rewards from work, which are, I would argue, substantial.
DUCKWORTH: I also think you’re right, Stephen, that one of the things you learn is what not to do. I thought Lucy — after five years of working in kitchens and learning how to make, actually, some very impressive desserts — that she would want to go into what’s called “F & B,” food and beverage industry. And what she learned is that she didn’t want to do that. She was like, “Are you kidding? I know what it’s really like.” So, to me, there’s almost no downside, except for if there’s something that you’re not doing while you’re working that would be even better. But, I think, however many hours kids are spending on screens, I just can’t believe that that’s better than, like, having a job.
DUBNER: We should say, economists and others have done research about the downstream effects of working as a young person. There was a paper called “Quality of Life Among Working and Non-Working Adolescents.” This is from 2016. And these are not economists who did this study, but this is in the state of Washington, and they found, for eighth and tenth graders, working was significantly associated with lower quality-of-life scores compared to non-working students. Now, I’m pretty sure this study didn’t control for socioeconomic status among children.
DUCKWORTH: I was going to say, there are so many reasons why that would be.
DUCKWORTH: The experimental research that I know of, by Judd Kessler and colleagues, suggests that quality of life is actually positively related to work. Do you know this research? I love Judd, by the way. I think he’s so good.
DUBNER: I do. And they are economists. I don’t mean to say that economists are better, but they did take advantage of this really good natural experiment. These were randomized lotteries to get access to what was called the New York City Summer Youth Employment Program.
DUCKWORTH: Yeah. And so, basically, there are two studies on this that capitalize on the fact that there weren’t enough spots. So, out of fairness, they had to use a randomized lottery for access to this Summer Youth Employment Program. And the basic finding is that, though there are not a lot of huge, long-term effects, there are benefits — particularly that you are less likely to commit crime. In other words, it is, quote-unquote, “keeping you out of trouble.” In the recent paper in particular, it is the most at-risk youth. So, I don’t want to say that this is compelling evidence that your typical yuppie will find benefits of having their kid get a job, because this is a very different kind of sample, but it is causal evidence — unlike that survey that you talked about.
DUBNER: Yeah. And with that survey that I talked about, from the state of Washington that didn’t control for S.E.S., you could imagine that if you come from a family situation where you have to work, then there are all kinds of things going on that would decrease your quality of life already.
DUCKWORTH: Yeah. Kids who work may be coming from certain kinds of neighborhoods or homes that are, like, different from the kids who don’t work. So, if you just want to know, “What does work do?” you do have to do some kind of random assignment, or ideally you would.
DUBNER: So, to summarize, we essentially ignored Valerie Boyles’s very good question. But if we had to answer it, it might be something like: Should you give your kid an allowance on a debit card versus cash? Should you give your kid an allowance starting at age five or age 10? Should you give your kid 10 dollars a week versus 50 dollars a week?” Irrelevant, Valerie! What, really, you should do with your kid is just get them to work as young as possible. Preferably, if you’re Angela Duckworth’s kid, maybe you could get a best boy job or a key grip job on a George Lucas movie set. Oh, it’s the gift that never —.
DUCKWORTH: It never stops giving.
* * *
No Stupid Questions is produced by me, Rebecca Lee Douglas. And now here is a fact-check of today’s conversation.
In the first half of the show, Stephen references the song “Valerie” by British soul-singer Amy Winehouse. However, the piece was originally released in 2006 by the indie rock band the Zutons. Record executive Mark Ronson produced a cover of the song, with lead vocals by Winehouse. The song appears on his 2007 album “Version.”
Stephen also says that he thinks that Winehouse died of an overdose, but the official cause of her death was alcohol poisoning from binge drinking after a period of abstinence. She died in her home in London in 2011.
Then, Stephen insists that Angela is wrong about George Lucas’s involvement in Raiders of the Lost Ark. But she was actually correct! While Steven Spielberg famously directed the film, George Lucas is credited as an executive producer. In addition, the movie is based on a story by Lucas and screenwriter/director Philip Kaufman, and it’s a Lucasfilm production! Lucas also collaborated with Spielberg on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Sorry to say, but Stephen should have taken Angela up on her five-dollar bet. He now owes her $18 billion.
Finally, Angela mispronounces the name of the Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who led longitudinal studies that followed study subjects for decades. She refers to him as George Vaillant, but his last name is actually pronounced “valiant” — a suitable aptronym given his bold work investigating how individuals evolve over the course of their lives.
That’s it for the fact-check.
* * *
Coming up on No Stupid Questions: Stephen and Angela discuss the validity of attachment theory.
DUCKWORTH: The whole idea of attachment is that, as a baby, you need a survival strategy, and attaching yourself to the mother is what’s going to guarantee your survival.
For that episode, we want to how your childhood relationship with your parents set the pattern for your life today. Or have you broken that pattern? To share your experience, send a voice memo to NSQ@Freakonomics.com with the subject line “Attachment.” Make sure to record in a quiet, indoor space with your mouth close to the phone, and please keep your thoughts to under a minute.
No Stupid Questions is part of the Freakonomics Radio Network, which also includes Freakonomics Radio, People I (Mostly) Admire, and Freakonomics, M.D.. All our shows are produced by Stitcher and Renbud Radio. This show was mixed by Eleanor Osborne. We had help on this episode from Jacob Clemente. Our staff also includes Neal Carruth, Gabriel Roth, Greg Rippin, Morgan Levey, Zack Lapinski, Julie Kanfer, Ryan Kelley, Jasmin Klinger, Emma Tyrell, Lyric Bowditch, and Alina Kulman. Our theme song is “And She Was” by Talking Heads — special thanks to David Byrne and Warner Chappell Music. If you’d like to listen to the show ad-free, subscribe to Stitcher Premium. You can follow us on Twitter @NSQ_Show and on Facebook @NSQShow. If you have a question for a future episode, please email it to email@example.com. To learn more, or to read episode transcripts, visit Freakonomics.com/NSQ. Thanks for listening!
DUBNER: I’d ride my bike eight miles to some farmer’s house. And he’d say, “Oh yeah, I don’t need it anymore,” or, “Oh yeah, you need to pick all the rocks out of that field.” I’m like, “Oh, crap. That’s not what I was hoping to do.”
- Daniel Kahneman, professor emeritus of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University.
- Judd B. Kessler, professor of economics at the University of Pennsylvania.
- George Lucas, film director, producer, and screenwriter.
- Richard Thaler, professor of behavioral science and economics at the University of Chicago.
- Amos Tversky, professor of psychology at Stanford University.
- George Vaillant, professor of psychiatry at Harvard University.
- Amy Winehouse, singer-songwriter.
- “The Effects of Youth Employment on Crime: Evidence From New York City Lotteries,” by Judd B. Kessler, Sarah Tahamont, Alexander Gelber, and Adam Isen (The Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 2022).
- “Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development,” by Kendra Cherry (Verywell Mind, 2021).
- “The Evidence is Clear: Rigorous Project-Based Learning is an Effective Lever for Student Success,” by the George Lucas Educational Foundation (2021).
- “Children’s Allowance Pay Is Up – Amount Saved Alarmingly Low,” by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (2019).
- “Quality of Life Among Working and Non-Working Adolescents,” by Janessa M. Graves, Jessica L. Mackelprang, Celestina Barbosa-Leiker, Mary E. Miller, and Angel Y. Li (Quality of Life Research, 2017).
- “The Effects of Youth Employment: Evidence from New York City Lotteries,” by Alexander Gelber, Adam Isen, and Judd B. Kessler (The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2016).
- “Conscientiousness: Origins in Childhood?” by Nancy Eisenberg, Angela L. Duckworth, Tracy L. Spinrad, and Carlos Valiente (Developmental Psychology, 2014).
- “The Endowment Effect,” by Keith M Marzilli Ericson and Andreas Fuster (Annual Review of Economics, 2014).
- “Parents – At What Age Would You Let Your Children Start Working Odd Jobs?” by Statista (2012).
- “Natural History of Male Psychological Health, X: Work as a Predictor of Positive Mental Health,” by George E. Vaillant and Caroline O. Vaillant (The American Journal of Psychiatry, 2006).
- “Self-Discipline Gives Girls the Edge: Gender in Self-Discipline, Grades, and Achievement Test Scores,” by Angela L. Duckworth and Marty E. P. Seligman (Journal of Educational Psychology, 2006).
- Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!, by Robert T. Kiyosaki (1997).
- “Mental Accounting and Consumer Choice,” by Richard Thaler (Marketing Science, 1985).
- “Choices, Values, and Frames,” by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky (American Psychologist, 1984).