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Freakonomics is one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes, discussing many fascinating and broad socioeconomic topics. It started in 2009 as a spinoff from the 2005 best-selling book “Freakonomics.” The show is hosted by the journalist Stephen Dubner, and the economist Steven Levitt comes onto the show as a regular guest.
Their partnership, at first in the writing of the book, to the radio show and podcast has been very successful. You don’t have to be an economist to understand and enjoy the podcast. Here are some of the best Freakonomics episodes to look into.
The Best Freakonomics Podcast Episodes
Is There Really a “Loneliness Epidemic”?
With technology offering so many instant ways to communicate with friends and family all over the world, many people believe there is a growing level of individualism, superficiality, and surface-level connections. In Episode 407, podcast host Stephen Dubner talks to Eric Klinenberg, a professor of sociology at New York University, about the “loneliness epidemic.”
There has been a lot of research emerging in recent years about the rising levels of loneliness in society today. We also read about the long-term effects of loneliness and its possible impact on health, wellbeing, and lifespan. In the episode, Dubner asks Professor Klinenberg some interesting questions on the rise of isolation and the validity of the current research about it.
You can also expect some insights from other experts and a look into top figures who have spoken openly about loneliness. Human beings are social creatures, so this is a great episode to explore our need for connection and why it is not being met. Perhaps, it can inspire some changes in behavior.
Why Does Tipping Still Exist?
It’s standard practice to leave a tip for the server or waiter after eating at a restaurant, for example. There are standard practices about the best ways to do this and what percentage is acceptable. Different restaurants have different policies about how their staff can collect tips as well. In Episode 396, the podcast explores everything you want to know about tipping and why it still exists.
The in-depth look into tipping dives into its history and purpose. Some practical examples of companies who have adapted successful and not-so-successful policies with regards to tipping are looked at as well. Tips are a significant component of the take-home pay of many restaurant staff. Still, with human beings being very unpredictable, that also means that their income is hard to predict. This challenge is one reason to ask why tipping is still the norm—a great dilemma worth thinking about in this much-listened-to episode.
What Can Uber Teach Us About the Gender Pay Gap?
The pay disparity between men and women workers is an important issue that is far from resolved. In many sectors of the economy, there still exist gaps that are hard to explain away. In Episode 371, the gender pay gap is explored with a particular focus on the case of ridesharing company, Uber. Not only is this episode among the favorite ones, but it is also eye-opening, and relevant to the growing gig economy participants.
The basis of this episode is a revealing study done on the gender pay gap in the gig economy. Data gathered from over a million Uber drivers reveal that the flexible nature of their work has not dealt a final blow to the gender issue in the workplace. In this informative show, you are taken through some of the key findings from the paper.
Some of the paper’s authors are guests on the show. They are economist and the chairman of the University of Chicago economics department, John List, from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, economist Rebecca Diamond, and economist Jonathan Hall, who leads the team in public policy and economics team at Uber.
How to Make Meetings Less Terrible
In Episode 389, you can hear more about the activity that takes up a lot of the workday—meetings. Some people love them, while many people can’t stand them. They are not all equal, and the level of usefulness and productivity very largely.
This episode is all about making the over 55 million meetings held in the U.S. each day a little less terrible. A range of creative solutions are explored with some insightful real-life examples. Improving the agenda of the meetings and reducing the invite-list are both great starting points.
The Zero-Minute Workout
In Episode 383, the podcast host explores a solution to a question asked by many, often silently. We know what’s right for us, but it’s usually a struggle to do it. Eating healthy is good, but many people struggle to do it. Exercise, too, has many immediate and long-term health benefits, but for one reason or another, knowing this does not automatically wipe away the challenges we face with being involved in regular exercise.
If there was a way to get that much-needed exercise without spending the required time, the lines of people queuing up for it might likely be massive. Imagine a pill you could take to get your dose of daily exercise. The idea must sound like the solution to your problem.
If you are someone who enjoys exercising, then the exercise pill might not seem as appealing. The episode discussing such a possibility was highly popular, with over 2 million downloads alone. It was rebroadcast a few months later to keep the conversation going. You do not want to miss this interesting topic.