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Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics co-author Stephen J. Dubner uncovers the hidden side of everything. Why is it safer to fly in an airplane than drive a car? How do we decide whom to marry? Why is the media so full of bad news? Also: things you never knew you wanted to know about wolves, bananas, pollution, search engines, and the quirks of human behavior. Join the Freakonomics Radio Plus membership program for weekly member-only episodes of Freakonomics Radio. You’ll also get every show in our network without ads. To sign up, visit our show page on Apple Podcasts or go to


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 (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).
56:10 11/30/23
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.
54:45 11/23/23
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.
56:39 11/19/23
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.
51:17 11/16/23
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.
57:50 11/9/23
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.
52:00 11/2/23
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 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.
63:37 10/26/23
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.
54:03 10/19/23
561. How to Succeed at Failing, Part 1: The Chain of Events
We tend to think of tragedies as a single terrible moment, rather than the result of multiple bad decisions. Can this pattern be reversed? We try — with stories about wildfires, school shootings, and love. RESOURCESRight Kind of Wrong: The Science of Failing Well, by Amy Edmondson (2023)."Michigan School Shooter Is Found Eligible for Life Sentence Without Parole," by Stephanie Saul and Dana Goldstein (The New York Times, 2023)."How Fire Turned Lahaina Into a Death Trap," by Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Serge F. Kovaleski, Shawn Hubler, and Riley Mellen (The New York Times, 2023).The Violence Project: How to Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic, by Jillian Peterson and James Densley (2021)."I Was Almost A School Shooter," by Aaron Stark (TEDxBoulder, 2018).EXTRAS "Is Perfectionism Ruining Your Life?" by People I (Mostly) Admire (2023)."Why Did You Marry That Person?" by Freakonomics Radio (2022)."What Do We Really Learn From Failure?" by No Stupid Questions (2021)."How to Fail Like a Pro," by Freakonomics Radio (2019)."Failure Is Your Friend," by Freakonomics Radio (2014).SOURCES:Amy Edmondson, professor of leadership management at Harvard Business School.Helen Fisher, senior research fellow at The Kinsey Institute and chief science advisor to Galea, founding director of the Fire Safety Engineering Group at the University of Greenwich.Gary Klein, cognitive psychologist and pioneer in the field of naturalistic decision making.David Riedman, founder of the K-12 School Shooting Database.Aaron Stark, assistant manager at Kum & Go and keynote speaker.John Van Reenen, professor at the London School of Economics.
55:18 10/12/23
232. A New Nobel Laureate Explains the Gender Pay Gap (Replay)
Claudia Goldin is the newest winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. We spoke with her in 2016 about why women earn so much less than men — and how it’s not all explained by discrimination.  SOURCES:Claudia Goldin, professor of economics at Harvard University.
44:33 10/10/23
560. Is This “the Worst Job in Corporate America” — or Maybe the Best?
John Ray is an emergency C.E.O., a bankruptcy expert who takes over companies that have succumbed to failure or fraud. He’s currently cleaning up the mess left by alleged crypto scammer Sam Bankman-Fried. And he loves it. RESOURCES:"United States of America v. Samuel Bankman-Fried, a/k/a 'SBF,'" by the United States District Court Southern District of New York (2023)."Does FTX’s New CEO Have the Worst Job in Corporate America?" by Ben Cohen (The Wall Street Journal, 2022)."John J. Ray III, a St. Joseph’s Grad From Pittsfield, Is Earning $1,300 an Hour to Sort Out the Remains of the FTX Cryptocurrency Collapse," by Larry Parnass (The Berkshire Eagle, 2022)."'Pit Bull' Fights to Pick Up Enron's Pieces," by Ameet Sachdev (Chicago Tribune, 2007).EXTRAS:“The Secret Life of a C.E.O.,” series by Freakonomics Radio (2018-2023)."Did Michael Lewis Just Get Lucky with Moneyball?" by Freakonomics Radio (2022)."Does the Crypto Crash Mean the Blockchain Is Over?" by Freakonomics Radio (2022)."What Can Blockchain Do for You?" series by Freakonomics Radio (2022).SOURCES:John Ray, C.E.O. of FTX.
40:07 10/5/23
559. Are Two C.E.O.s Better Than One?
If two parents can run a family, why shouldn’t two executives run a company? We dig into the research and hear firsthand stories of both triumph and disaster. Also: lessons from computer programmers, Simon and Garfunkel, and bears versus alligators.RESOURCES:"How Allbirds Lost Its Way," by Suzanne Kapner (The Wall Street Journal, 2023)."Is It Time to Consider Co-C.E.O.s?" by Marc A. Feigen, Michael Jenkins, and Anton Warendh (Harvard Business Review, 2022)."The Costs and Benefits of Pair Programming," by Alistair Cockburn and Laurie Williams (2000)."Strengthening the Case for Pair Programming," by Laurie Williams, Robert R. Kessler, Ward Cunningham, and Ron Jeffries (IEEE Software, 2000). EXTRAS:"The Facts Are In: Two Parents Are Better Than One," by Freakonomics Radio (2023)."The Secret Life of a C.E.O.," series by Freakonomics Radio (2018-2023). SOURCES:Jim Balsillie, retired chairman and co-C.E.O. of Research In Motion.Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder and co-C.E.O. of Atlassian.Scott Farquhar, co-founder and co-C.E.O. of Atlassian.Marc Feigen, C.E.O. advisor.Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, professor of management studies and senior associate dean at the Yale School of Management and founding president of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute.Laurie Williams, professor of computer science at North Carolina State University...
50:35 9/28/23
558. The Facts Are In: Two Parents Are Better Than One
In her new book The Two-Parent Privilege, the economist Melissa Kearney says it’s time for liberals to face the facts: U.S. marriage rates have plummeted but the babies keep coming, and the U.S. now leads the world in single-parent households. Plus: our friends at Atlas Obscura explore just how many parents a kid can have.
64:07 9/21/23
557. When Is a Superstar Just Another Employee?
The union that represents N.F.L. players conducted their first-ever survey of workplace conditions, and issued a report card to all 32 teams. What did the survey reveal? Clogged showers, rats in the locker room — and some helpful insights for those of us who don’t play pro football. For show notes, visit
60:53 9/14/23
556. A.I. Is Changing Everything. Does That Include You?
For all the speculation about the future, A.I. tools can be useful right now. Adam Davidson discovers what they can help us do, how we can get the most from them — and why the things that make them helpful also make them dangerous. (Part 3 of "How to Think About A.I.")
48:34 9/7/23
555. New Technologies Always Scare Us. Is A.I. Any Different?
Guest host Adam Davidson looks at what might happen to your job in a world of human-level artificial intelligence, and asks when it might be time to worry that the machines have become too powerful. (Part 2 of "How to Think About A.I.")
47:33 8/31/23
554. Can A.I. Take a Joke?
Artificial intelligence, we’ve been told, will destroy humankind. No, wait — it will usher in a new age of human flourishing! Guest host Adam Davidson (co-founder of Planet Money) sorts through the big claims about A.I.'s future by exploring its past and present — and whether it has a sense of humor. (Part 1 of "How to Think About A.I.")
48:05 8/24/23
553. The Suddenly Diplomatic Rahm Emanuel
The famously profane politician and operative is now U.S. ambassador to Japan, where he’s trying to rewrite the rules of diplomacy. But don’t worry: When it comes to China, he’s every bit as combative as you’d expect.
56:21 8/17/23
Should Traffic Lights Be Abolished? (Ep. 454 Replay)
Americans are so accustomed to the standard intersection that we rarely consider how dangerous it can be — as well as costly, time-wasting, and polluting. Is it time to embrace the lowly, lovely roundabout?
46:48 8/10/23
Extra: A Modern Whaler Speaks Up
Bjorn Andersen killed 111 minke whales this season. He tells us how he does it, why he does it, and what he thinks would happen if whale-hunting ever stopped.  (This bonus episode is a follow-up to our series “Everything You Never Knew About Whaling.")
26:42 8/6/23
552. Freakonomics Radio Presents: The Economics of Everyday Things
In three stories from our newest podcast, host Zachary Crockett digs into sports mascots, cashmere sweaters, and dinosaur skeletons. 
47:17 8/3/23
551. What Can Whales Teach Us About Clean Energy, Workplace Harmony, and Living the Good Life?
In the final episode of our whale series, we learn about fecal plumes, shipping noise, and why "Moby-Dick" is still worth reading. (Part 3 of "Everything You Never Knew About Whaling.")
47:45 7/27/23
550. Why Do People Still Hunt Whales?
For years, whale oil was used as lighting fuel, industrial lubricant, and the main ingredient in (yum!) margarine. Whale meat was also on a few menus. But today, demand for whale products is at a historic low. And yet some countries still have a whaling industry. We find out why. (Part 2 of “Everything You Never Knew About Whaling.”)
37:11 7/20/23
549. The First Great American Industry
Whaling was, in the words of one scholar, “early capitalism unleashed on the high seas.” How did the U.S. come to dominate the whale market? Why did whale hunting die out here — and continue to grow elsewhere? And is that whale vomit in your perfume? (Part 1 of “Everything You Never Knew About Whaling.”)
43:51 7/13/23
548. Why Is the U.S. So Good at Killing Pedestrians?
Actually, the reasons are pretty clear. The harder question is: Will we ever care enough to stop?
44:57 7/6/23
Why Did You Marry That Person? (Ep. 511 Replay)
Sure, you were “in love.” But economists — using evidence from Bridgerton to Tinder — point to what’s called “assortative mating.” And it has some unpleasant consequences for society.
47:04 6/29/23
547. Satya Nadella’s Intelligence Is Not Artificial
But as C.E.O. of the resurgent Microsoft, he is firmly at the center of the A.I. revolution. We speak with him about the perils and blessings of A.I., Google vs. Bing, the Microsoft succession plan — and why his favorite use of ChatGPT is translating poetry.
36:45 6/22/23
546. Are E.S.G. Investors Actually Helping the Environment?
Probably not. The economist Kelly Shue argues that E.S.G. investing just gives more money to firms that are already green while depriving polluting firms of the financing they need to get greener. But she has a solution.
54:38 6/15/23
545. Enough with the Slippery Slopes!
Gun control, abortion rights, drug legalization — it seems like every argument these days claims that if X happens, then Y will follow, and we’ll all be doomed to Z. Is the slippery-slope argument a valid logical construction or just a game of feelingsball?
44:11 6/8/23
544. Ari Emanuel Is Never Indifferent
He turned a small Hollywood talent agency into a massive sports-and-entertainment empire. In a freewheeling conversation, he explains how he did it and why it nearly killed him.
65:47 6/1/23

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