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This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “The Most Dangerous Machine.“ [MUSIC: Beau Blues Band, “Nice and Easy”] Stephen J. DUBNER: Steve Levitt is my Freakonomics friend and co-author. He teaches economics at the University of Chicago. DUBNER: So Levitt, how good or bad a driver are you, scale of […] Read More »
This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “Who Runs the Internet?” [MUSIC: Ruby Velle, “Used Me Again” (from Used Me Again)] Stephen J. DUBNER: We’ve all heard the accusations, again and again and again… TV CLIP: And again another story we’re following, cyber bullying. This seems to be an all too common […] Read More »
This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “The Troubled Cremation of Stevie the Cat.” [MUSIC: The Diplomats of Solid Sound, “Pistol Alien” (from Let’s Cool One)] Stephen J. Dubner: Hey podcast listeners: you are about to hear a new episode of Freakonomics Radio, called “The Troubled Cremation of Stevie the Cat.” I think […] Read More »
How to Think About Money, Choose Your Hometown, and Buy an Electric Toothbrush: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast Full Transcript
This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “How to Think About Money, Choose Your Hometown, and Buy an Electric Toothbrush.” [MUSIC: John Philip Sousa, “Manhattan Beach” (from J.P. Sousa’s Marches and Dances)] Stephen J. DUBNER: Hey Levitt, what are your very favorite three letters in the English alphabet? Steven D. LEVITT: I […] Read More »
If you’ve ever been pregnant, or been close to someone who is pregnant, you know how many prohibitions there are. You can’t smoke or drink. Shellfish are to be avoided. In my house, conveniently (for the pregnant woman), scooping the cat litter was absolutely out of the question. Of course, there are also a large number of things you have to do when you are pregnant or are thinking of getting pregnant, like take folic acid.
Is there any evidence to support all these pregnancy rules? My good friend and colleague Emily Oster (whose research has been featured in SuperFreakonomics and many times on the blog), has just written the definitive book on the subject, entitled Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong-and What You Really Need to Know. She has generously agreed to answer blog reader questions, so fire away in the comments section below and, as always, we’ll post her answers in good time!
Here’s the Table of Contents to get you started: Read More »
During recent recessions, worker productivity has actually risen — but economists have been unsure if the result is driven by a changing workforce composition (i.e. more productive workers retaining their jobs) or an increase in effort and productivity on the part of individual workers. In a new paper (gated; working version here), called “Making Do With Less: Working Harder During Recessions,” economists Edward P. Lazear, Kathryn L. Shaw, and Christopher Stanton find that it’s the latter. Here’s the abstract:
There are two obvious possibilities that can account for the rise in productivity during recent recessions. The first is that the decline in the workforce was not random, and that the average worker was of higher quality during the recession than in the preceding period. The second is that each worker produced more while holding worker quality constant. We call the second effect, “making do with less,” that is, getting more effort from fewer workers. Using data spanning June 2006 to May 2010 on individual worker productivity from a large firm, it is possible to measure the increase in productivity due to effort and sorting. For this firm, the second effect—that workers’ effort increases—dominates the first effect—that the composition of the workforce differs over the business cycle.
Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan use the example of New York City’s surprisingly efficient passport office to explore an interesting question: “Why do some government offices perform well and others poorly, even when they’re providing the same services and working with comparable resources?” Fisman and Sullivan think it’s all about the management:
There’s an emerging body of research that chalks up these productivity gaps to the all-too-human ways that different companies (and divisions within a single organization) are managed. The fact that management matters—a lot—shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who has ever worked under a good manager and also a bad one: Good managers coach, listen, support, and make their employees feel like they’re making progress. Bad ones don’t—often in uniquely horrible ways. And if this is true at for-profit companies, why wouldn’t it be true for branches of the government?
At the Hudson Street New York Passport Office, the management is Michael Hoffman: Read More »
We’ve blogged before about America’s rising obesity rate and how to fight it, but the battle may have just gotten a little easier. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows obesity rates dropping for low-income preschool children in 19 states between 2008 and 2011. From the Wall Street Journal:
The obesity analysis, by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, was based on data from 11.6 million children age 2 to 4. The survey group included children eligible for federally funded programs of maternal and child health and nutrition, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as the WIC program.
The decline was greatest in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the obesity rate in such children fell to 11% in 2011 from 13.6% in 2008. Drops of more than one percentage point were also seen in Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Missouri, and South Dakota.
Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, called the results a “bright spot” and a “tipping point.”
“For the first time in a generation, we’re seeing it go in the right direction in 2- to 4-year-olds,” he said on a conference call with reporters, calling the changes “small but statistically significant.” He was quick to add, “We’re very, very far from being out of the woods.”
Of the 43 states measured, obesity rates for preschool children rose in 3 states and remained the same same in 21 states.