Stacey Vanek Smith

Stacey Vanek Smith is the co-host of NPR's The Indicator from Planet Money. She's also a correspondent for Planet Money, where she covers business and economics. In this role, Smith has followed economic stories down the muddy back roads of Oklahoma to buy 100 barrels of oil; flew to Pune, India, to track down the man who pitched the country's dramatic currency devaluation to the prime minister; and spoke with a North Korean woman who made a small fortune smuggling artificial sweetener in from China.

Prior to coming to NPR, Smith worked for Marketplace, where she was a correspondent and fill-in host. While there, Smith was part of a collaboration with The New York Times, where she explored the relationship between money and marriage. She was also part of Marketplace's live shows, where she produced a series of pieces on getting her data mined.

Smith is a native of Idaho and grew up working on her parents' cattle ranch. She is a graduate of Princeton University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in comparative literature and creative writing. She also holds a master's in broadcast journalism from Columbia University.

They were, once upon a time, a fixture in circus tents and at birthday parties, but today demand for clowns is down. Fewer people are interested in becoming clowns. Membership in the biggest clown associations has fallen.

Part of the problem is with the image of clowns projected in movies, cartoons, and books: instead of being fun, they're weird, or creepy, or downright menacing.

Faced with that kind of portrayal, clowns are looking for ways to counter this decades-long narrative. Stacey and Cardiff speak to one of them.

Ten years ago, Financial Times reporter John Auther was so worried about the possible contagion from the collapse of Lehman Brothers that he went down to his bank to shift some of his cash to another bank, ensuring that more of it was insured by the government.

What he saw freaked him out even further. The bank was full of Wall Street professionals — the very people who knew firsthand just how bad the financial crisis really was — all standing in line to do what he wanted to do: move their own personal money to accounts protected by deposit insurance.

The Price Of Rice In Japan

Sep 13, 2018

The Japanese are eating less rice. Blame TV, the internet, burgers, Italian food, a growing economy. Blame the lunch ladies! Rice consumption in Japan is about half what it was in the 1960s.

But guess what? Demand for Japanese rice may be way down, but prices are going up. In fact, prices are now so high that Japanese people are buying imported rice, rather than the home-grown stuff.

New York University's School of Medicine recently announced that every one of its students will receive their education for free. They will graduate with no debt. As the school's benefactor, Ken Langone put it,

"The day they get their diploma, they owe nobody nothing."

NYU says medicine isn't diverse enough, in part because the high price of medical school dissuades people from low income backgrounds, who are often people of color. NYU also said the high cost of med school skews graduates to higher-paying specialties and away from primary care.

The Liars Of Romance

Sep 11, 2018

Newsflash! People lie when they're dating online. It's the downside of the anonymity offered by the Internet. In today's show, we cut through the web of falsehoods, to determine what kind of fibs people tell, and how often they tell them.

Music by Drop Electric. Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

Until recently, it was a misdemeanor in Alabama for a certified professional midwife to deliver a baby. That changed last year, and there are now 12 certified professional midwives in the state. Pregnant women now have more options when it comes to birth, and because vaginal births cost less than surgical options like a Caesarean section, that change could lead to some serious cost savings.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Why Aren't We More Productive?

Sep 6, 2018

Advances in technology have driven eye-popping advances in productivity over the last hundred years. As machines have replaced artisans, individual humans have gone from making a single item every so often to producing hundreds of lamps or chocolate bars or T-shirts every hour.

Back in 1907, America's financial system was pretty unsophisticated. There was no central bank, barely any kind of regulatory framework, and no backstop in case of a crash.

Meanwhile, the economy was growing fast, with people borrowing and investing at a dizzying rate. And when people lost confidence in a kind of unregulated lending institution called a trust, panic spread through the economy.

Most products in this world are vulnerable to creative destruction: as new products are developed, they make old ones obsolete.

But there are some exceptions to this rule. There are products that persist, resisting change while economic evolution continues on without them.

Like the graphing calculator.

The Venezuelan economy has collapsed. Years of economic mismanagement and a deepening political crisis have led to a recession that has almost no parallel in recent memory.

But explaining just how bad things have gotten is also really hard because the normal economic indicators that we use to measure a country's economy have started to sound so so unfathomable — 25,000% inflation, for example — that it feels impossible to get our heads around them.

Sun Tzu's book on battlefield strategy, "The Art of War", has been required reading for the thoughtful military officer for more than 2,500 years. Today, though, among, the books biggest fans are American business people, many of whom regard it as an essential guide to business strategy. It's no accident that Donald J Trump himself echoed the book's title in his own work, The Art of the Deal.

Beyond GDP

Aug 23, 2018

Gross domestic product, or GDP, has been a wonderful indicator — the indicator, really, for knowing how the economy is doing at any given moment.

But it was invented during an earlier time, back when the economy was simpler and the goods it produced were less varied. As Diane Coyle argues in her book, the economy has evolved and GDP may no longer be enough for understanding its many dimensions.

Diane tells Cardiff why we should appreciate what GDP has done for us, but she also suggests some alternative measures of the economy.

Beach reads are usually the territory of thrillers and light fiction and romance novels. But we, at The Indicator, think economics books should have a place in the pantheon. So in honor of the last stretch of summer, we have selected some economic beach reads! Books that will teach you something about economics and also pair well with a pina colada.

We wanted to buy a digital creature called a Cryptokitty. Not as easy as it sounds. You can't use regular money. You have to use a digital currency called Ethereum. That requires making a long journey into the heart of the uncertain, speculative world of cryptocurrency, and the blockchain.

The IndiCATurrrr purchased two CryptoKitties and bred them!

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