Freakonomics Radio is a one-hour award-winning podcast and public-radio project hosted by Stephen Dubner, with co-author Steve Levitt as a regular guest. It is produced in partnership with WNYC.
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513. Should Public Transit Be Free? (Update)
It boosts economic opportunity and social mobility. It’s good for the environment. So why do we charge people to use it? The short answer: it’s complicated. Also: We talk to the man who gets half the nation’s mass-transit riders where they want to go (most of the time). SOURCES: Marcus Finbom, traffic planner in Stockholm, Sweden. Robbie Makinen, former president and C.E.O. of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority. Janno Lieber, chair and C.E.O. of the M.T.A. in New York City. Brian Taylor, professor of urban planning and public policy and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at U.C.L.A. Shashi Verma, director of strategy and C.T.O. at Transport for London. Michelle Wu, mayor of Boston. RESOURCES: "Free Bus Service Starts Sunday on 5 Routes in New York City," by Ana Ley (The New York Times, 2023). “Vehicle Access and Falling Transit Ridership: Evidence From Southern California,” by Michael Manville, Brian D. Taylor, Evelyn Blumenberg, and Andrew Schouten (Transportation, 2023). “Route-28 Fare-Free Pilot Evaluation: Summary Findings,” by the City of Boston Transportation (2022). “Forget Fare Hikes — Make the T Free,” by Michelle Wu (The Boston Globe, 2019). Traffic Power Structure, by Planka.nu (2016). "The Impacts of Neighborhoods on Intergenerational Mobility: Childhood Exposure Effects and County-Level Estimates," by Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren (NBER Working Paper, 2015). "Fare, Free, or Something in Between?" by Jennifer S. Perone and Joel M. Volinski (World Transit Research, 2003). Planka.Nu. EXTRAS: "Why Is the U.S. So Good at Killing Pedestrians?" by Freakonomics Radio (2023). "Should Public Transit Be Free?" by Freakonomics Radio (2022). “Should Traffic Lights Be Abolished?” by Freakonomics Radio (2021). “The Perfect Crime,” by Freakonomics Radio (2014). “Parking Is Hell,” by Freakonomics Radio (2013).
566. Why Is It So Hard (and Expensive) to Build Anything in America?
Most industries have become more productive over time. But not construction! We identify the causes — and possible solutions. (Can you say ... “prefab”?) RESOURCES: "The Strange and Awful Path of Productivity in the US Construction Sector," by Austan Goolsbee and Chad Syverson (BFI Working Paper, 2023). "Infrastructure Costs," by Leah Brooks and Zachary D. Liscow (American Economic Journal: Applied, 2023). "The Silicon Valley Elite Who Want to Build a City From Scratch," by Conor Dougherty and Erin Griffith (The New York Times, 2023). "A Decent Home," report by the President's Committee on Urban Housing (1968). EXTRAS: "Edward Glaeser Explains Why Some Cities Thrive While Others Fade Away," by People I (Mostly) Admire (2021). "Why Are Cities (Still) So Expensive?" by Freakonomics Radio (2020). SOURCES: Vaughan Buckley, founder and C.E.O. of the Volumetric Building Companies. Carrie Sturts Dossick, professor of construction management at the University of Washington. Ed Glaeser, professor of economics and chair the economics department at Harvard University. Michael Hough, director of MJH Structural Engineers. Ivan Rupnik, professor of architecture at Northeastern University. Chad Syverson, professor of economics at the University of Chicago.
Extra: Jason Kelce Hates to Lose
Pro footballer and star podcaster Jason Kelce is ubiquitous right now (almost as ubiquitous as his brother and co-host Travis, who's been in the limelight for his relationship with Taylor Swift). After you hear this wide-ranging interview, you might want even more Kelce in your life. RESOURCES: “N.F.L. Player Team Report Cards,” by the National Football League Players Association (2023). Kelce, documentary (2023). New Heights with Jason and Travis Kelce, (produced by Wave Sports + Entertainment). EXTRAS: "When Is a Superstar Just Another Employee?" by Freakonomics Radio (2023). SOURCES: Jason Kelce, center for the Philadelphia Eagles.
565. Are Private Equity Firms Plundering the U.S. Economy?
They say they make companies more efficient through savvy management. Critics say they bend the rules to enrich themselves at the expense of consumers and employees. Can they both be right? (Probably not.) RESOURCES: Plunder: Private Equity's Plan to Pillage America, by Brendan Ballou (2023). Two and Twenty: How the Masters of Private Equity Always Win, by Sachin Khajuria (2022). "Local Journalism under Private Equity Ownership," by Michael Ewens, Arpit Gupta, and Sabrina T. Howell (NBER Working Paper, 2022). “Owner Incentives and Performance in Healthcare: Private Equity Investment in Nursing Homes,” by Atul Gupta, Sabrina T. Howell, Constantine Yannelis, and Abhinav Gupta (NBER Working Paper, 2021). “Leveraged Buyouts and Financial Distress,” by Brian Ayash and Mahdi Rastad (Finance Research Letters, 2021). “Have Private Equity Owned Nursing Homes Fared Worse Under COVID-19?” by Ashvin Gandhi, YoungJun Song, and Prabhava Upadrashta (SSRN, 2020). “When Investor Incentives and Consumer Interests Diverge: Private Equity in Higher Education,” by Charlie Eaton, Sabrina T. Howell, and Constantine Yannelis (The Review of Financial Studies, 2020). “The Economic Effects of Private Equity Buyouts,” by Steven J. Davis, John Haltiwanger, Kyle Handley, Ben Lipsius, Josh Lerner, and Javier Miranda (SSRN, 2019). “How Acquisitions Affect Firm Behavior and Performance: Evidence from the Dialysis Industry,” by Paul J. Eliason, Benjamin Heebsh, Ryan C. McDevitt, and James W. Roberts (The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2019). "In Silicon Valley, Even Mobile Homes Are Getting Too Pricey for Longtime Residents," by Tracy Lien (Los Angeles Times, 2017). “The Operational Consequences of Private Equity Buyouts: Evidence from the Restaurant Industry,” by Shai Bernstein and Albert Sheen (SSRN, 2013). "Private Equity and Employment," by Steven J. Davis, John C. Haltiwanger, Ron S. Jarmin, Josh Lerner, and Javier Miranda (NBER Working Paper, 2011). EXTRAS: "Should You Trust Private Equity to Take Care of Your Dog?" by Freakonomics Radio (2023). "Do You Know Who Owns Your Vet?" by Freakonomics Radio (2023). "Mobile Home Parks," by The Economics of Everyday Things (2023). "The Secret Life of a C.E.O.," series by Freakonomics Radio (2018). "Extra: David Rubenstein Full Interview," by Freakonomics Radio (2018). SOURCES: Brendan Ballou, special counsel at the Department of Justice. Dan Glickberg, venture-capital investor. Hannah Howard, food writer. Sachin Khajuria, investor.
480. How Much Does Discrimination Hurt the Economy? (Replay)
Evidence from Nazi Germany and 1940’s America (and pretty much everywhere else) shows that discrimination is incredibly costly — to the victims, of course, but also the perpetrators. One modern solution is to invoke a diversity mandate. But new research shows that’s not necessarily the answer. RESOURCES: "Discrimination, Managers, and Firm Performance: Evidence from 'Aryanizations' in Nazi Germany," by Kilian Huber, Volker Lindenthal, and Fabian Waldinger (Journal of Political Economy, 2021). "Diversity and Performance in Entrepreneurial Teams," by Sophie Calder-Wang, Paul A. Gompers, and Kevin Huang (SSRN, 2021). "Systemic Discrimination Among Large U.S. Employers," by Patrick M. Kline, Evan K. Rose, and Christopher R. Walters (NBER Working Papers, 2021). City of Champions: A History of Triumph and Defeat in Detroit, by Silke-Maria Weineck and Stefan Szymanski (2020). "The Allocation of Talent and U.S. Economic Growth," by Chang-Tai Hsieh, Erik Hurst, Charles I. Jones, and Peter J. Klenow (Econometrica, 2019). Genius & Anxiety: How Jews Changed the World, 1847-1947, by Norman Lebrecht (2019). "And the Children Shall Lead: Gender Diversity and Performance in Venture Capital," by Paul A. Gompers and Sophie Q. Wang (NBER Working Papers, 2017). "The Political Economy of Hatred," by Edward Glaeser (The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2005). "Statistical Theories of Discrimination in Labor Markets," by Dennis J. Aigner and Glen G. Cain (Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 1977). The Economics of Discrimination, by Gary S. Becker (1957). EXTRAS: "A New Nobel Laureate Explains the Gender Pay Gap (Replay)," by Freakonomics Radio (2023). "Edward Glaeser Explains Why Some Cities Thrive While Others Fade Away," by People I (Mostly) Admire (2021). "What Are the Secrets of the German Economy — and Should We Steal Them?" by Freakonomics Radio (2017). SOURCES: Kilian Huber, professor of economics at the University of Chicago. Silke-Maria Weineck, professor of German studies and comparative literature at the University of Michigan. Sophie Calder-Wang, professor of economics at the University of Pennsylvania.
564. How to Succeed at Failing, Part 4: Extreme Resiliency
Everyone makes mistakes. How do you learn from them? Lessons from the classroom, the Air Force, and the world’s deadliest infectious disease. RESOURCES: Right Kind of Wrong: The Science of Failing Well, by Amy Edmondson (2023). "You Think Failure Is Hard? So Is Learning From It," by Lauren Eskreis-Winkler and Ayelet Fishbach (Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2022). "The Market for R&D Failures," by Manuel Trajtenberg and Roy Shalem (SSRN, 2010). "Performing a Project Premortem," by Gary Klein (Harvard Business Review, 2007). EXTRAS: “How to Succeed at Failing,” series by Freakonomics Radio (2023). "Moncef Slaoui: 'It’s Unfortunate That It Takes a Crisis for This to Happen,'" by People I (Mostly) Admire (2020). SOURCES: Will Coleman, founder and C.E.O. of Alto. Amy Edmondson, professor of leadership management at Harvard Business School. Babak Javid, physician-scientist and associate director of the University of California, San Francisco Center for Tuberculosis. Gary Klein, cognitive psychologist and pioneer in the field of naturalistic decision making. Theresa MacPhail, medical anthropologist and associate professor of science & technology studies at the Stevens Institute of Technology. Roy Shalem, lecturer at Tel Aviv University. Samuel West, curator and founder of The Museum of Failure.
563. How to Succeed at Failing, Part 3: Grit vs. Quit
Giving up can be painful. That's why we need to talk about it. Today: stories about glitchy apps, leaky paint cans, broken sculptures — and a quest for the perfect bowl of ramen. RESOURCES "Data Snapshot: Tenure and Contingency in US Higher Education," by Glenn Colby (American Association of University Professors, 2023). Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth (2016). "Entrepreneurship and the U.S. Economy," by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2016). "A CV of Failures," by Melanie Stefan (Nature, 2010). EXTRAS “How to Succeed at Failing,” series by Freakonomics Radio (2023). "Annie Duke Thinks You Should Quit," by People I (Mostly) Admire (2022). "How Do You Know When It’s Time to Quit?" by No Stupid Questions (2020). “Honey, I Grew the Economy,” by Freakonomics Radio (2019). “The Upside of Quitting," by Freakonomics Radio (2011). "The Ramen Now - Rapid Desktop Cooking for Delicious Meals," Kickstarter campaign by Travis Thul. SOURCES: John Boykin, website designer and failed paint can re-inventor. Angela Duckworth, host of No Stupid Questions, co-founder of Character Lab, and professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Amy Edmondson, professor of leadership management at Harvard Business School. Helen Fisher, senior research fellow at The Kinsey Institute and chief science advisor to Match.com. Eric von Hippel, professor of technological innovation at M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management. Jill Hoffman, founder and C.E.O. of Path 2 Flight. Gary Klein, cognitive psychologist and pioneer in the field of naturalistic decision making. Steve Levitt, host of People I (Mostly) Admire, co-author of the Freakonomics books, and professor of economics at the University of Chicago. Joseph O’Connell, artist. Mike Ridgeman, advocacy manager at Trek Bicycles and former professor. Melanie Stefan, professor of physiology at Medical School Berlin. Travis Thul, director of operations and senior fellow at the University of Minnesota Technological Leadership Institute.
562. How to Succeed at Failing, Part 2: Life and Death
In medicine, failure can be catastrophic. It can also produce discoveries that save millions of lives. Tales from the front line, the lab, and the I.T. department. RESOURCES: Right Kind of Wrong: The Science of Failing Well, by Amy Edmondson (2023). "Reconsidering the Application of Systems Thinking in Healthcare: The RaDonda Vaught Case," by Connor Lusk, Elise DeForest, Gabriel Segarra, David M. Neyens, James H. Abernathy III, and Ken Catchpole (British Journal of Anaesthesia, 2022). "Dispelling the Myth That Organizations Learn From Failure," by Jeffrey Ray (SSRN, 2016). "A New, Evidence-Based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated With Hospital Care," by John T. James (Journal of Patient Safety, 2013). To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System, by the National Academy of Sciences (1999). "Polymers for the Sustained Release of Proteins and Other Macromolecules," by Robert Langer and Judah Folkman (Nature, 1976). EXTRAS: "How to Succeed at Failing," series by Freakonomics Radio (2023). "Will a Covid-19 Vaccine Change the Future of Medical Research?" by Freakonomics Radio (2020). "Bad Medicine, Part 3: Death by Diagnosis," by Freakonomics Radio (2016). SOURCES: Amy Edmondson, professor of leadership management at Harvard Business School. Carole Hemmelgarn, co-founder of Patients for Patient Safety U.S. and director of the Clinical Quality, Safety & Leadership Master’s program at Georgetown University. Gary Klein, cognitive psychologist and pioneer in the field of naturalistic decision making. Robert Langer, institute professor and head of the Langer Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. John Van Reenen, professor at the London School of Economics.