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The Economics of Everyday Things

Brought to you by, Freakonomics Network & Zachary Crockett

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The Economics of Everyday Things

Who decides which snacks are in your office’s vending machine? How much is a suburban elm tree worth, and to whom? How did Girl Scout Cookies become a billion-dollar business? In bite-sized episodes, journalist Zachary Crockett looks at quotidian things and finds amazing stories. 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 freakonomics.com/plus.

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Recent Episodes of The Economics of Everyday Things


49. Weather Forecasts

49. Weather Forecasts

With industries relying on them and profits to be made, weather forecasts are more precise and more popular than ever. But there are clouds on the horizon. Zachary Crockett grabs an umbrella.

 

SOURCES:Steve Adelman, head of Adelman Law Group, PLLC and vice president of the Event Safety Alliance.Peter Neilley, director of weather forecasting sciences and technologies for The Weather Company.

 

RESOURCES:"Traders Have Turned Betting on the Weather, a Technique Pioneered by Enron, Into a Booming $25 Billion Market," by Dylan Sloan (Fortune, 2024)."Why Your Weather Forecasts May Soon Become More Accurate," by Da...

Episode 49 20 May 2024 13m and 46s


48. College Fraternities

48. College Fraternities

A fraternity’s budget includes broken windows, liability insurance, chili dog breakfasts, and the occasional $40,000 DJ. Zachary Crockett crashes the party.

 

SOURCES:Anthony Anderson, member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.Danielle Logan, owner of Fraternity Management.Charlie O’Neill, member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.Stephen J. Schmidt, professor of economics at Union College.

 

RESOURCES:"If Student Deaths Won't Stop Fraternity Hazing, What Will?" by Ben Kesslen (NBC News, 2021)."Social Animal House: The Economic And Academic Consequences Of Fraternity Membership," by Jack Mara, Lewis Davis, and Stephen Schmidt (Contemporary Economic Policy, 2018)."How Frater...

Episode 48 13 May 2024 19m and 24s


47. Bail Bonds

47. Bail Bonds

How does bail work — and who's really paying? Zachary Crockett follows the money.

 

SOURCES:Joshua Page, professor of sociology and law at the University of Minnesota.Steven Zalewski, criminal defense attorney and co-owner of Affordable Bails New York.

 

RESOURCES:"Does Bail Reform Increase Crime in New York State: Evidence from Interrupted Time-Series Analyses and Synthetic Control Methods," by Sishi Wu and David McDowall (Justice Quarterly, 2023)."Profit Over People: The Commercial Bail Industry Fueling America’s Cash Bail Systems," by Allie Preston and Rachael Eisenberg (Center for American Progress, 2022)."All Profit, No Risk: How the Bail I...

Episode 47 6 May 2024 17m and 54s


46. Car Colors

46. Car Colors

So many vehicles on the road today are white, black, or gray — but automotive designers find that consumer preferences may be changing lanes. Zachary Crockett surveys the lot.

 

SOURCES:Tom Crockett, classic car enthusiast.Mark Gutjahr, global head of design at BASF.Nikkie Riedel, carline planning manager at Subaru of America.

 

RESOURCES:BASF Color Report 2023 for Automotive OEM Coatings."Beige on an S.U.V. Will Cost You, but for Pickups It’s Golden," by Roy Furchgott (The New York Times, 2021)."A Brief History Of Car Colors — And Why Are We So Boring Now?" (Consumer...

Episode 46 29 April 2024 18m and 26s


45. Storage Units

45. Storage Units

Americans love to buy new stuff and hate to get rid of old stuff, which is why storing it all has become a $45 billion business. Zachary Crockett cleans out the garage.

 

SOURCES:Zachary Dickens, executive vice president and chief investment officer of Extra Space Storage.Anne Mari DeCoster, self-storage consultant.Kara Kolodziej, self-storage unit tenant.

 

RESOURCES:"A Fifth Of Americans Rent Self Storage, With Millennials Overtaking Gen Xers In Generational Storage Wars," by Francis Chantree (Storage Cafe, 2024)."Lessors of Mini Warehouses and Self-Storage Units Show Significant Financial Gains During COVID-19 Pandemic," by Ben Chandler an...

Episode 45 22 April 2024 15m and 51s


44. Movie Sound Effects

44. Movie Sound Effects

The background noises you hear in film and TV — from footsteps to zombie guts — are produced in specialized studios by professionals known as Foley artists. Zachary Crockett makes some noise.

 

SOURCE:Gregg Barbanell, foley artist at Universal Studios.

 

RESOURCES:"The Weird, Analog Delights of Foley Sound Effects," by Anna Wiener (The New Yorker, 2022)."The Strangest Foley Sounds in Cinema," by Amber Gibson (ACMI, 2021)."The Man Who Makes Hollywood’s Smallest Sounds," by Zachary Crockett (Priceonomics, 2015).

 

EXTRA:"No Hollywood Ending for the Visual Effects Industry," by Freakonomics Radio (2017).

Episode 44 15 April 2024 19m and 27s


43. Top-Level Domains

43. Top-Level Domains

Those letters at the end of web addresses can mean big bucks — and, for some small countries, a substantial part of the national budget. Zachary Crockett follows the links.

 

SOURCES:Vince Cate, technical contact for the .ai domain in Anguilla.Kim Davies, Vice President of Internet Assigned Numbers Authority Services and President of Public Technical Identifiers at ICANN.Tianyu Fang, contributing editor at Reboot.

 

RESOURCES:"The Two-Decade Fight for Two Letters on the Internet," by Jacob Judah (The New York Times, 2024)."Whose Domain Is It?" by Tianyu Fang (Reboot, 2023)."How a Tiny Pacific Island Beca...

Episode 43 8 April 2024 18m and 43s


42. Cemeteries

42. Cemeteries

The verdant lawns promise everlasting rest — but what does it mean to sign a lease for all eternity? Zachary Crockett finds out where the bodies are buried.

 

SOURCES:Terry Arellano, co-founder and president of Cemetery Property Resales, Inc.Jeff Lindeman, C.E.O. and General Manager of Mountain View Cemetery.Tanya Marsh, professor of law at Wake Forest University.Maureen Walton, founder and president of The Cemetery Exchange.

 

RESOURCES:"Los Angeles Burial Crypt Near Marilyn Monroe, Hugh Hefner on Sale for $2 Million," by Stephanie Nolasco (Fox 10 Phoenix, 2023)."Why the Brooklyn-Queens Border Is Full of Dead...

Episode 42 1 April 2024 18m and 59s


41. Pet Movers

41. Pet Movers

Relocating halfway across the world is hard enough for humans. For pets it can require a specialist. Zachary Crockett waits at the airport, holding a sign saying "Fluffy."

 

SOURCES:Amelia Barklow, owner of two pet ducks, Wobbles and Bean.Mike Gays, managing director of Global Pet Relocation.Gemma Tappin, pet relocation consultant team leader at Global Pet Relocation.

 

RESOURCES:"Service Dogs Are Allowed on Planes, but There Are Some Requirements to Get Them There," by Zach Wichter (USA Today, 2023)."More Dogs Die on United Than on Any Other Airline. Here’s Why," by Martine Powe...

Episode 41 25 March 2024 15m and 53s


40. Prosthetic Limbs

40. Prosthetic Limbs

More and more Americans rely on prostheses. They’re custom-fitted, highly personal, and extremely expensive. Zachary Crockett investigates.

 

SOURCES:Jordan Beckwith, YouTuber and advocate.Eric Neufeld, owner and medical director of Agile Orthopedics.

 

RESOURCES:"Medicare Coverage of Durable Medical Equipment & Other Devices," by Medicare (2024)."Limb Loss in the U.S.," infographic by the Amputee Coalition (2022)."A Robot Hand Helps Amputees 'Feel' Again," by Jeffery Delviscio (Scientific American, 2019)."Differences in Myoelectric and Body-Powered Upper-Limb Prostheses: Systematic Literature Review," by Stephanie L. Carey, Derek J. Lura, and Jason Highsmith (Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, 2015)."Local Cove...

Episode 40 18 March 2024 17m and 14s

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