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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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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.
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).
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. RESOURCES Right 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).
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).
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 foundering president of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute. Laurie Williams, professor of computer science at North Carolina State University..
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.
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 freakonomics.com/podcast/when-is-a-superstar-just-another-employee/
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.")
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.")