Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics Radio + Stitcher

Society & Culture>Documentary

594 episodes

Discover the hidden side of everything with Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of the Freakonomics books. Each week, Freakonomics Radio tells you things you always thought you knew (but didn’t) and things you never thought you wanted to know (but do) — from the economics of sleep to how to become great at just about anything. Dubner speaks with Nobel laureates and provocateurs, intellectuals and entrepreneurs, and various other underachievers. 


  • 29 JUL 2021
    Two (Totally Opposite) Ways to Save the Planet (Ep. 346 Rebroadcast)
    53m 28s

    The environmentalists say we’re doomed if we don’t drastically reduce consumption. The technologists say that human ingenuity can solve just about any problem. A debate that’s been around for decades has become a shouting match. Is anyone r...

  • 22 JUL 2021
    470. The Pros and Cons of America’s (Extreme) Individualism
    47m 30s

    According to a decades-long research project, the U.S. is not only the most individualistic country on earth; we’re also high on indulgence, short-term thinking, and masculinity (but low on “uncertainty avoidance,” if that makes you feel be...

  • 15 JUL 2021
    469. The U.S. Is Just Different — So Let’s Stop Pretending We’re Not
    50m 19s

    We often look to other countries for smart policies on education, healthcare, infrastructure, etc. But can a smart policy be simply transplanted into a country as culturally unusual (and as supremely WEIRD) as America?

  • 08 JUL 2021
    468. Nap Time for Everyone!
    36m 50s

    The benefits of sleep are by now well established, and yet many people don’t get enough. A new study suggests we should channel our inner toddler and get 30 minutes of shut-eye in the afternoon. But are we ready for a napping revolution?

  • 01 JUL 2021
    How Stupid Is Our Obsession With Lawns? (Ep. 289 Rebroadcast)
    27m 23s

    Nearly two percent of America is grassy green. Sure, lawns are beautiful and useful and they smell great. But are the costs — financial, environmental and otherwise — worth the benefits?

  • 24 JUN 2021
    467. Is the Future of Farming in the Ocean?
    42m 55s

    Bren Smith, who grew up fishing and fighting, is now part of a movement that seeks to feed the planet while putting less environmental stress on it. He makes his argument in a book called Eat Like a Fish; his secret ingredient: kelp. But do...

  • 17 JUN 2021
    466. She’s From the Government, and She’s Here to Help
    45m 13s

    Cecilia Rouse, the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, is as cold-blooded as any economist. But she admits that her profession would do well to focus on policy that actually helps people. Rouse explains why President Bide...

  • 10 JUN 2021
    465. Introducing a New “Freakonomics of Medicine” Podcast
    23m 9s

    Bapu Jena was already a double threat: a doctor who’s also an economist. Now he’s a podcast host too. In this sneak preview of the Freakonomics Radio Network’s newest show,  Bapu discovers that marathons can be deadly — but not for the reas...

  • 03 JUN 2021
    464. Will Work-from-Home Work Forever?
    48m 4s

    The pandemic may be winding down, but that doesn’t mean we’ll return to full-time commuting and packed office buildings. The greatest accidental experiment in the history of labor has lessons to teach us about productivity, flexibility, and...

  • 27 MAY 2021
    463. How to Get Anyone to Do Anything
    58m 3s

    The social psychologist Robert Cialdini is a pioneer in the science of persuasion. His 1984 book Influence is a classic, and he has just published an expanded and revised edition. In this episode of the Freakonomics Radio Book Club, he give...

  • 20 MAY 2021
    These Shoes Are Killing Me! (Ep. 296 Rebroadcast)
    39m 51s

    The human foot is an evolutionary masterpiece, far more functional than we give it credit for. So why do we encase it in “a coffin” (as one foot scholar calls it) that stymies so much of its ability — and may create more problems than it so...

  • 13 MAY 2021
    462. The Future of New York City Is in Question. Could Andrew Yang Be the Answer?
    42m 38s

    The man who wants America to “think harder” has parlayed his quixotic presidential campaign into front-runner status in New York’s mayoral election. And he has some big plans.

  • 06 MAY 2021
    461. How to Stop Worrying and Love the Robot Apocalypse
    48m 22s

    It’s true that robots (and other smart technologies) will kill many jobs. It may also be true that newer collaborative robots (“cobots”) will totally reinvigorate how work gets done. That, at least, is what the economists are telling us. Sh...

  • 29 APR 2021
    460. The True Story of the Minimum-Wage Fight
    44m 15s

    Backers of a $15 federal wage say it’s a no-brainer if you want to fight poverty. Critics say it’s a blunt instrument that leads to job loss. Even the economists can’t agree! We talk to a bunch of them — and a U.S. Senator — to sort it out,...

  • 22 APR 2021
    459. Let’s Be Blunt: Marijuana Is a Boon for Older Workers
    35m 24s

    The state-by-state rollout of legalized weed has given economists a perfect natural experiment to measure its effects. Here’s what we know so far — and don’t know — about the costs and benefits of legalization.

  • 15 APR 2021
    458. How to Manage Your Goal Hierarchy
    51m 26s

    In this special crossover episode, People I (Mostly) Admire host Steve Levitt admits to No Stupid Questions co-host Angela Duckworth that he knows almost nothing about psychology. But once Angela gives Steve a quick tutorial on “goal confli...

  • 08 APR 2021
    457. Is Dialysis a Test Case of Medicare for All?
    53m 28s

    Kidney failure is such a catastrophic (and expensive) disease that Medicare covers treatment for anyone, regardless of age. Since Medicare reimbursement rates are fairly low, the dialysis industry had to find a way to tweak the system if th...

  • 01 APR 2021
    456. How to Fix the Hot Mess of U.S. Healthcare
    49m 50s

    Medicine has evolved from a calling into an industry, adept at dispensing procedures and pills (and gigantic bills), but less good at actual health. Most reformers call for big, bold action. What happens if, instead, you think small?

  • 25 MAR 2021
    Policymaking Is Not a Science (Yet) (Ep. 405 Rebroadcast)
    46m 1s

    Why do so many promising solutions — in education, medicine, criminal justice, etc. — fail to scale up into great policy? And can a new breed of “implementation scientists” crack the code?

  • 21 MAR 2021
    How Does New York City Keep Reinventing Itself? (Bonus)
    52m 28s

    In a word: networks. Once it embraced information as its main currency, New York was able to climb out of a deep fiscal (and psychic) pit. Will that magic trick still work after Covid? In this installment of the Freakonomics Radio Book Club...

  • 18 MAR 2021
    455. Are You Ready for a Fresh Start?
    42m 3s

    Behavioral scientists have been exploring if — and when — a psychological reset can lead to lasting change. We survey evidence from the London Underground, Major League Baseball, and New Year’s resolutions; we look at accidental fresh start...

  • 11 MAR 2021
    454. Should Traffic Lights Be Abolished?
    44m 48s

    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?

  • 04 MAR 2021
    453. A Rescue Plan for Black America
    56m 47s

    New York Times columnist Charles Blow argues that white supremacy in America will never fully recede, and that it’s time for Black people to do something radical about it. In The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto, he urges a “reverse...

  • 25 FAB 2021
    Am I Boring You? (Ep. 225 Rebroadcast)
    39m 12s

    Researchers are trying to figure out who gets bored — and why — and what it means for ourselves and the economy. But maybe there’s an upside to boredom?

  • 18 FAB 2021
    452. Jeff Immelt Knows He Let You Down
    45m 48s

    Not so long ago, G.E. was the most valuable company in the world, a conglomerate that included everything from light bulbs and jet engines to financial services and The Apprentice. Now it’s selling off body parts to survive. What does the C...

  • 11 FAB 2021
    451. Can I Ask You a Ridiculously Personal Question?
    42m 44s

    Most of us are are afraid to ask sensitive questions about money, sex, politics, etc. New research shows this fear is largely unfounded. Time for some interesting conversations!

  • 04 FAB 2021
    450. How to Be Better at Death
    57m 38s

    Caitlin Doughty is a mortician who would like to put herself out of business. Our corporate funeral industry, she argues, has made us forget how to offer our loved ones an authentic sendoff. Doughty is the author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes:...

  • 28 JAN 2021
    449. How to Fix the Incentives in Cancer Research
    44m 16s

    For all the progress made in fighting cancer, it still kills 10 million people a year, and some types remain especially hard to detect and treat. Pancreatic cancer, for instance, is nearly always fatal. A new clinical-trial platform could c...

  • 21 JAN 2021
    448. The Downside of Disgust
    45m 40s

    It’s a powerful biological response that has preserved our species for millennia. But now it may be keeping us from pursuing strategies that would improve the environment, the economy, even our own health. So is it time to dial down our dis...

  • 14 JAN 2021
    447. How Much Do We Really Care About Children?
    47m 45s

    They can’t vote or hire lobbyists. The policies we create to help them aren’t always so helpful. Consider the car seat: parents hate it, the safety data are unconvincing, and new evidence suggests an unintended consequence that is as anti-c...

  • 07 JAN 2021
    446. “We Get All Our Great Stuff from Europe — Including Witch Hunting.”
    40m 20s

    We’ve collected some of our favorite moments from People I (Mostly) Admire, the latest show from the Freakonomics Radio Network. Host Steve Levitt seeks advice from scientists and inventors, memory wizards and basketball champions — even hi...

  • 31 DEC 2020
    Trust Me (Ep. 266 Rebroadcast)
    30m 55s

    Societies where people trust one another are healthier and wealthier. In the U.S. (and the U.K. and elsewhere), social trust has been falling for decades — in part because our populations are more diverse. What can we do to fix it?

  • 24 DEC 2020
    445. Why Do We Seek Comfort in the Familiar?
    36m 56s

    In this episode of No Stupid Questions — a Freakonomics Radio Network show launched earlier this year — Stephen Dubner and Angela Duckworth debate why we watch, read, and eat familiar things during a crisis, and if it might in fact be bette...

  • 17 DEC 2020
    444. How Do You Cure a Compassion Crisis?
    48m 50s

    Patients in the U.S. healthcare system often feel they’re treated with a lack of empathy. Doctors and nurses have tragically high levels of burnout. Could fixing the first problem solve the second? And does the rest of society need more com...

  • 10 DEC 2020
    443. A Sneak Peek at Biden’s Top Economist
    43m 16s

    The incoming president argues that the economy and the environment are deeply connected. This is reflected in his choice for National Economic Council director — Brian Deese, a climate-policy wonk and veteran of the no-drama-Obama era. But...

  • 06 DEC 2020
    PLAYBACK (2015): Could the Next Brooklyn Be ... Las Vegas?!
    57m 2s

    Tony Hsieh, the longtime C.E.O. of Zappos, was an iconoclast and a dreamer. Five years ago, we sat down with him around a desert campfire to talk about those dreams. Hsieh died recently from injuries sustained in a house fire; he was 46.

  • 03 DEC 2020
    442. Is it Too Late for General Motors to Go Electric?
    44m 41s

    G.M. produces more than 20 times as many cars as Tesla, but Tesla is worth nearly 10 times as much. Mary Barra, the C.E.O. of G.M., is trying to fix that. We speak with her about the race toward an electrified (and autonomous) future, China...

  • 26 NOV 2020
    441. Does Advertising Actually Work? (Part 2: Digital)
    48m 21s

    Google and Facebook are worth a combined $2 trillion, with the vast majority of their revenue coming from advertising. In our previous episode, we learned that TV advertising is much less effective than the industry says. Is digital any bet...

  • 19 NOV 2020
    440. Does Advertising Actually Work? (Part 1: TV)
    37m 12s

    Companies around the world spend more than half-a-trillion dollars each year on ads. The ad industry swears by its efficacy — but a massive new study tells a different story.

  • 12 NOV 2020
    439. Please Get Your Noise Out of My Ears
    49m 41s

    The modern world overwhelms us with sounds we didn’t ask for, like car alarms and cell-phone “halfalogues.” What does all this noise cost us in terms of productivity, health, and basic sanity?

  • 05 NOV 2020
    438. How to Succeed by Being Authentic (Hint: Carefully)
    47m 32s

    John Mackey, the C.E.O. of Whole Foods, has learned the perils of speaking his mind. But he still says what he thinks about everything from “conscious leadership” to the behavioral roots of the obesity epidemic. He also argues for a style o...

  • 31 OCT 2020
    Why the Left Had to Steal the Right’s Dark-Money Playbook
    45m 19s

    The sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh spent years studying crack dealers, sex workers, and the offspring of billionaires. Then he wandered into an even stranger world: social media. He spent the past five years at Facebook and Twitter. Now that...

  • 29 OCT 2020
    437. Many Businesses Thought They Were Insured for a Pandemic. They Weren’t.
    40m 51s

    A fine reading of most policies for “business interruption” reveals that viral outbreaks aren’t covered. Some legislators are demanding that insurance firms pay up anyway. Is it time to rethink insurance entirely?

  • 22 OCT 2020
    436. Forget Everything You Know About Your Dog
    57m 37s

    As beloved and familiar as they are, we rarely stop to consider life from the dog’s point of view. That stops now. In this latest installment of the Freakonomics Radio Book Club, we discuss Inside of a Dog with the cognitive scientist (and...

  • 15 OCT 2020
    435. Why Are Cities (Still) So Expensive?
    44m 54s

    It isn’t just supply and demand. We look at the complicated history and skewed incentives that make “affordable housing” more punch line than reality in cities from New York and San Francisco to Flint, Michigan (!).

  • 08 OCT 2020
    434. Is New York City Over?
    49m 4s

    The pandemic has hit America's biggest city particularly hard. Amidst a deep fiscal hole, rising homicides, and a flight to the suburbs, some people think the city is heading back to the bad old 1970s. We look at the history — and the data...

  • 03 OCT 2020
    “Don’t Neglect the Thing That Makes You Weird” | People I (Mostly) Admire: Ken Jennings
    47m 8s

    It was only in his late twenties that America’s favorite brainiac began to seriously embrace his love of trivia. Now he holds the “Greatest of All Time” title on Jeopardy! Steve Levitt digs into how he trained for the show, what it means to...

  • 01 OCT 2020
    433. How Are Psychedelics and Other Party Drugs Changing Psychiatry?
    53m 33s

    Three leading researchers from the Mount Sinai Health System discuss how ketamine, cannabis, and ecstasy are being used (or studied) to treat everything from severe depression to addiction to PTSD. We discuss the upsides, downsides, and reg...

  • 24 SEP 2020
    432. When Your Safety Becomes My Danger
    47m 57s

    The families of U.S. troops killed and wounded in Afghanistan are suing several companies that did reconstruction there. Why? These companies, they say, paid the Taliban protection money, which gave them the funding — and opportunity — to a...

  • 19 SEP 2020
    “One Does Not Know Where an Insight Will Come From” | People I (Mostly) Admire: Kerwin Charles
    39m 29s

    The dean of Yale’s School of Management grew up in a small village in Guyana. During his unlikely journey, he has researched video-gaming habits, communicable disease, and why so many African-Americans haven’t had the kind of success he’s h...

  • 17 SEP 2020
    Does Anyone Really Know What Socialism Is? (Ep. 408 Rebroadcast)
    44m 24s

    Trump says it would destroy us. Biden needs the voters who support it (especially the Bernie voters). The majority of millennials would like it to replace capitalism. But what is “it”? We bring in the economists to sort things out and tell...