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Freakonomics Radio: Should Tipping Be Banned?

To an economist, tipping is a puzzling behavior – why pay extra when it’s not required? In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, host Stephen Dubner looks at why we tip, which factors affect the amount, and whether tipping should perhaps be eliminated altogether. Research shows that African-American servers earn smaller tips than white servers, so there’s an argument to be made that the practice is discriminatory.

Freakonomics Radio: The Cobra Effect

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Broadcast Times: Thursday, June 19 at 9pm on 93.9FM

If you want to get rid of a nasty invasive pest, it might seem sensible to offer a bounty. But as we’ll hear in this episode of Freakonomics Radio, bounties can backfire. We look at bounties on snakes in Delhi, rats in Hanoi, and feral pigs in Fort Benning, Georgia. In each case, bounty seekers came up with creative ways to maximize their payoff – and pest populations grew. Host Stephen Dubner talks to Steve Levitt about how incentives don’t always work out the way you’d expect.

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Freakonomics Radio: Spite Happens

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Broadcast Time: Wednesday, June 18 at 9pm on 93.9FM

This episode of Freakonomics Radio explores our surprising propensity for spite. We discover the gruesome etymology of the phrase “cut off your nose to spite your face” (it involves medieval nuns). Host Stephen Dubner talks to economist Benedikt Herrmann about “money-burning” lab experiments, in which people often choose to surrender some of their own cash in order to take money away from other participants. 

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Freakonomics Radio: How Much Does Your Name Matter?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Broadcast Time: Tuesday, June 17 at 9pm on 93.9FM

When Harvard professor Latanya Sweeney typed her name in Google one day, she noticed something strange: an ad with the heading: “Latanya Sweeney, Arrested?” But she had never been arrested -- and neither had the only other Latanya Sweeney in the U.S. So why did the ad suggest so? 

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Freakonomics Radio: Women Are Not Men

Monday, June 16, 2014

Broadcast Time: Monday, June 16 at 9pm on 93.9FM

Women are different from men, by a lot, in some key areas. For example, the data show that women don’t: drown, edit Wikipedia, commit crime, or file patents at anywhere near the same rate as men do. How else are women different? They have made significant economic gains over the past 30 years and yet they are less happy now.

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Freakonomics Radio: Legacy of a Jerk

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dates and times for this program: Wednesdays: 8pm on 93.9FM; Saturdays: 6am on 93.9FM and NJPR, 2pm on AM820 and 4pm on 93.9FM; Sundays: 8pm on AM820 and NJPR

Since the beginning of civilization, we’ve thought that human waste was worthless at best and quite often dangerous. What if it turns out we were wrong? In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, Stephen Dubner explores the power of poop, focusing on an experimental procedure called the fecal transplant. A sort of combination of organ transplant and blood transfusion (one doctor calls it a “transpoosion”), fecal transplants may present a viable way to treat not only intestinal problems but also obesity and a number of neurological disorders.  We’ll talk to two doctors at the vanguard of this procedure and a patient who says it changed his life.

Also: we’ve all heard our share of poignant and loving eulogies. But what if the deceased was (gulp) a real jerk? Ancient wisdom tells us not to speak ill of the dead, but in this very chatty age, which includes online obituaries, what happens to a person’s reputation once they’re no longer around to defend themselves? Stephen Dubner speaks with Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson about the Apple CEO’s well-known proclivity toward jerkitude, and we offer a radical reassessment of baseball’s biggest jerk, Ty Cobb.

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Freakonomics Radio Goes to College

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Dates and times for this program: Wednesdays: 8pm on 93.9FM; Saturdays: 6am on 93.9FM and NJPR, 2pm on AM820 and 4pm on 93.9FM; Sundays: 8pm on AM820 and NJPR

Is a college diploma really worth the paper it’s printed on? In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, Stephen Dubner breaks down the costs and benefits of going to college, especially during an economy that’s leaving a lot of people un- and underemployed. The data say that college graduates make a lot more money in the long run and enjoy a host of other benefits as well.  But does that justify the time and money? We’ll hear from economists David Card, Betsey Stevenson, and Justin Wolfers, as well as former Bush advisor Karl Rove, who made it to the White House without a college degree. Amherst College president Biddy Martin describes what an education provides beyond facts and figures, while Steve Levitt wonders if the students he teaches at the University of Chicago are actually learning anything.  Finally, a former FBI agent tells us about the very robust market for fake diplomas.

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Freakonomics Radio: The Truth Is Out There … Isn’t It?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dates and times for this program: Wednesdays: 8pm on 93.9FM; Saturdays: 6am on 93.9FM and NJPR, 2pm on AM820 and 4pm on 93.9FM; Sundays: 8pm on AM820 and NJPR

Until not so long ago, chicken feet were nothing but waste material.  Now they provide enough money to keep chicken producers in the black -- the U.S. exports 300,000 metric tons of these “paws” to China and Hong Kong each year. In the first part of this hour-long episode of Freakonomics Radio, Stephen Dubner looks at this and other examples of weird recycling. We hear the story of MedWish, a Cleveland non-profit that sends unused or outdated hospital equipment -- from gauze and tongue depressors to beds and x-ray machines – to hospitals in poor countries. We also hear Intellectual Ventures founder Nathan Myhrvold describe a new nuclear-power reactor that runs on radioactive waste. 

Also in this hour: we look at the strange moments when knowledge is not power.  Issues like gun control, nuclear power, vaccinations, and climate change consistently divide the public along ideological lines. Maybe someone just needs to sit down and explain the science better?  Or maybe not.  Stephen Dubner looks into the puzzle of why learning more only makes people more stubborn. Also, we look into conspiracy theories to see how people form their own version of the truth, even when the data contradict it.

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Freakonomics Radio: You Eat What You Are

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dates and times for this program: Wednesdays: 8pm on 93.9FM; Saturdays: 6am on 93.9FM and NJPR, 2pm on AM820 and 4pm on 93.9FM; Sundays: 8pm on AM820 and NJPR

Americans are in the midst of a food paradox: we have access to more and better and cheaper food than ever before but at the same time, we are surrounded by junk food and a rise in obesity and heart disease.  In this hour-long episode of Freakonomics Radio, Stephen Dubner talks about our massive, but balky food network with economist Tyler Cowen, who argues that agribusiness and commercialization are not nearly the villains that your foodie friends might have you think. We also hear from food philosopher Michael Pollan, who weighs in on a number of our problems, and chef Alice Waters, who talks about a renewed appreciation for the American farmer.  

In the second half of this program, we explore whether eating local can solve most of our food problems. We check in on Santa Barbara County, Calif., one of the top agriculture-producing counties in the U.S., which imports nearly all of the produce it eats, and we run the numbers on how many carbon emissions are actually created by shipping food around the country (or the world).  Finally, we ask whether there is a moral upside to eating food grown far away, and we offer some unconventional advice for people trying to do less damage to the earth every time they eat.

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Freakonomics Radio: Save Me From Myself

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Dates and times for this program: Wednesdays: 8pm on 93.9FM; Saturdays: 6am on 93.9FM and NJPR, 2pm on AM820 and 4pm on 93.9FM; Sundays: 8pm on AM820 and NJPR

Sometimes we have a hard time committing ourselves – whether it’s quitting a bad habit or following through on a worthy goal. In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, we share stories about “commitment devices.” They’re a clever way to force yourself to do something that you know will be hard. Host Stephen J. Dubner talks to a struggling gambler who signs himself up for a program that bans him from state casinos – only to return, win a jackpot, and have it confiscated. We’ll also hear from a new father trying to shed bad habits. So he makes a list of things he wants to change and vows to pay a penalty if he can’t shape up in 30 days. The penalty? He’d write a $750 check to someone he really dislikes: Oprah Winfrey. Freakonomics co-author Steve Levitt offers a few of his own off-the-wall commitment devices and the Brown economist Anna Aizer talks about using commitment devices to fight domestic violence.

Then we’ll take a look at some misadventures in baby-making.  First, the story of how China’s one-child policy was inspired by a couple of scholars having a beer in the Netherlands.  Also: Levitt discusses his controversial research showing that legalized abortion lowered the U.S. crime rate.  We’ll also talk to the author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated book Unnatural Selection, which looks at how the introduction of the ultrasound led to the disappearance of tens of millions of baby girls.  Finally: Stanford professor Stephen Quake ponders the consequences, intended and otherwise, of a new genetic test he has developed.

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Freakonomics Radio: Eating and Tweeting

Saturday, April 14, 2012

In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, we look at the tension between “slow food” – a return to the past – and the food future. You’ll hear from slow-food champion Alice Waters and uber-modernist Nathan Myhrvold, who advocates bringing more science into the kitchen – including, perhaps, a centrifuge, a pharmaceutical freeze drier and a … food printer?

Also in this episode: we delve into the social mores of Twitter. Is it a two-way street? Do you have to follow someone on Twitter to garner a large following yourself? Or are the mores of digital friendship different from those in real life? We’ll hear about the Twitter give-and-take from sociologist Duncan Watts. Also, Justin Halpern parleyed his hit Twitter feed “Sh*t My Dad Says” into a best-selling book and a TV show; we learn about the one guy he follows. And Steve Levitt weighs in on just how important (or not) Twitter is in his life.

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Freakonomics Radio: Lottery Loopholes and Deadly Doctors

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Americans have a famously low savings rate: a Harvard survey found that half of us, if faced with an emergency, couldn’t come up with $2,000 in 30 days. Most people would rather spend than save — and one of our favorite expenditures is playing the lottery. Last year, we spent more than $58 billion on lottery tickets, or roughly $200 per person. As entertainment goes, the lottery is pretty cheap – a dollar and a dream, and all that. But as an investment, it offers a dreadful return, which is why the lottery is sometimes called “a tax on stupid people.”

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Freakonomics Radio: Show and Yell

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Is booing an act of verbal vandalism -- or the last true expression of democracy? In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, hear how Philadelphia sports fans earned their reputation as the loudest boo-birds, and to what extent culture—high or low—plays a role. Guests include former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who admits to booing Santa Claus; and sportswriter/opera buff Robert Lipsyte, who was surprised that more people didn’t boo Pavarotti when he “parked and barked” his way through a performance.

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Freakonomics Radio: The Power of the President - and the Thumb

Saturday, March 24, 2012

In this episode we ask a simple, heretical question: How much does the President of the United States really matter? Stephen Dubner talks to former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, economists Austan Goolsbee and Justin Wolfers, and constitutional scholar Bernadette Meyler about how the President’s actual influence can be measured. And Steve Levitt weighs in on how the President shapes the nation.

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The Days of Wine and Mouses

Saturday, March 17, 2012

When you take a sip of Cabernet, what are you tasting -- the grape? the tannins? the oak barrel? Or is it the price? Believe it or not, the most dominant flavor may be the dollars. Thanks to the work of some intrepid and wine-obsessed economists (yes, there is an American Association of Wine Economists), we have a new understanding of the relationship between wine, critics, and consumers.

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The Upside of Quitting

Friday, July 01, 2011

You know the bromide: winners never quit and quitters never win. To which Freakonomics Radio says … Are you sure? Sometimes quitting is strategic, and sometimes it’s the best thing you can do. It’s all about opportunity cost: when you’re doing one thing, you can’t be doing another. So when do you quit the one and start the other? We’ll take a look at broad survey of quitting data, and talk everyone from aspiring baseball players to prostitutes about quitting after years of hard work, preparation, and chasing big earnings. We’ll find people from each group on the verge of quitting – and some who couldn’t be happier they already have.

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The Folly of Prediction

Friday, June 24, 2011

It's impossible to predict the future, but humans can't help themselves.  From the economy to the presidency to the Super Bowl, educated and intelligent people promise insight and repeatedly fail by wide margins.  In this hour of Freakonomics Radio, we’ll dream of the day when bad predictors pay, and look at the deep roots and cognitive approaches to divining what tomorrow brings.

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The Suicide Paradox

Friday, June 17, 2011

There are twice as many suicides in the U.S. each year than murders. And yet the vast majority of them aren’t discussed at all. Unlike homicide, which is considered a fracturing of our social contract, suicide is considered a shameful problem whose victims -- and solutions – are rarely the focus of wide debate.  In this hour of Freakonomics Radio, we’ll push back suicide taboos, profiling who is most likely to commit this act (and least likely), and what we know about them.

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An Economist’s Guide to Parenting

Friday, June 10, 2011

Becoming a parent means entering one of the largest seas of advice known to man.  Much of it is written by amateurs.  Little of it has any connection to the tools that social scientists have forged to analyze human behavior.  In this hour of Freakonomics Radio, we turn back this rollicking tide of misunderstanding with the hyper-rational, un-emotional techniques of economists.

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The Church of “Scionology”

Friday, June 03, 2011

Economic research shows that handing down a business to an heir is, on average, a terrible idea. So why do family businesses get passed down from generation to generation in America, and in the rest of the world? In this hour of Freakonomics Radio, we’ll take a look at the surprising economics of succession. We’ll hear about fractured families, inept heirs, and some people who’ve found interesting ways to beat the odds of failure, from Anheuser-Busch to Warren Buffett.

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