Freak Out on New Years Day With a Freakonomics Freakathon

Dec 23, 2013

The new year begins with a Freakonomics Freakathon on Wednesday, January 1, from 10 am - 3 pm, on Public Radio 89.5-1.

In their books Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner use the tools of economics to explore real-world behavior. As boring as that may sound, what they really do is tell stories — about cheating schoolteachers, self-dealing real-estate agents, and crack-selling mama's boys. Those Freakonomics stories — and plenty of new ones — are now coming to the radio, with Dubner as host. Just like the books, Freakonomics Radio explores “the hidden side of everything.” It will tell you things you always thought you knew but didn't, and things you never thought you wanted to know, but do.

10:00 am • 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.

11:00 am • Spite Happens

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. We hear the story of super-athlete Bo Jackson's very costly decision to spurn one particular football team; and Freakonomics Radio producer Katherine Wells talks with biologist E. O. Wilson about whether spite exists in nature.

12:00 pm • Women Are Not Men

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. So how do we explain this paradox? In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, host Stephen Dubner looks at some of the ways in which women are not men.

1:00 pm • How Much Does Your Name Matter?

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? Thousands of Google searches later, Sweeney discovered that Googling distinctively black names is more likely to produce an ad that suggests a criminal background. In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, host Stephen Dubner investigates the latest research on names. Steve Levitt reveals what a name says about your economic status and race. And University of Chicago political scientist Eric Oliver explains why a baby named Cody is likely to have conservative parents, while Leif was probably born into a liberal family.

2:00 pm • The Cobra Effect

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.