Episode 453: What Causes What?

What causes what? The human brain is programmed to answer this question constantly, and using a very basic method. This is how we survive. What made that noise? A bear made that noise. What caused my hand to hurt? Fire caused my hand to hurt.

But sometimes, we use these simple tools to solve complex problems. And so we get things wrong. I wore my lucky hat to the game. My team won. Therefore, my lucky hat caused my team to win.

On today’s show we dive deep into correlation and causation with Charles Wheelan, author of the book, Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data.

The most important metric in analyzing a schools is value added. Many private and charter schools start with more affluent and motivated students.

Planet Money: Blacklisted in China

China is trying a bold experiment. The government wants to make it easier for people to trust each other. They are creating something known as a social credit score.

This would be a nationwide system, similar to an American credit score, but that stretches deep into all kinds of areas of public and private life. It involves tracking, monitoring and sometimes shaming people who break rules and default on debts.

Planet Money: The Seattle Experiment

It’s no secret how elections work: A winning campaign costs a lot of money, so candidates court people who have the money to spend. Say, business interests. Then, when a politician takes office, their powerful donors have more influence than the average citizen. It’s not a great system.

So Seattleites decided to tear it all up and try something radical: Fighting big money by flooding elections with even more money. The experiment… did not necessarily go as planned.

This episode is a collaboration with Vox’s The Impact podcast.