Conventional Wisdom versus The Data


The following are questions to which many people believe they know the answers. We call the answers “conventional wisdom” because the answers are repeated so frequently that people come to believe them to be correct despite never having seen evidence for or against.


In each of the following cases, you will see evidence relevant to the questions.




Trade and Immigration


What countries supply the most oil to the U.S.?


Do immigrants take jobs from Americans?


How many jobs does America outsource to foreigners?


Are immigrants a drain on Social Security?


Does trade help or hurt American jobs?




Prices, Wages, Employment, and Standards of Living


How can the unemployment rate be falling while so many people are unemployed?


Are we worse off than our parents?


Are the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer?


What do the poor in America own?


Is gas more expensive now than in the past?


Do males earn more than females and, if so, why?


Why is a college education so expensive?


Why is a health insurance so expensive?


Is an MBA degree valuable?




Government Spending and Taxation


What if the government were the size of a household?


How far in debt is the government?


Who pays the most taxes?


How does the rising cost of health care compare to the rising cost of government?


Is Social Security bankrupt?


Does increasing tax rates increase government revenue?


Can we reduce deficits by raising tax rates?


Can the government spend us out of recession?


Who spends the most on lobbying and political donations?


How many people work for the government?


How has the economy performed under different Presidents?






Do alcohol controls save lives?


Would people give to the poor if there were no welfare?


How dangerous is driving?


Can one measure the value of a life?


What does the rising cost of health care buy us?


How many people are uninsured?


What is the effect of the minimum wage on unemployment?


What happens if Social Security is privatized?


Among the states, does gun ownership increase crime rates?


Do countries with fewer guns have fewer murders?


Are personal bankruptcies higher now than ever?


Is unemployment higher now than ever?




Corporations and Banks


How much profit do insurance companies make?


Are a lot of U.S. banks going bankrupt?


Who wields more economic power: corporations or workers?


Are oil companies making monopoly profits?


Which industries have been gaining jobs and which have been losing jobs?




The Environment


Can property rights be used as a tool for conservation?


Does man-made CO2 have an effect on global temperatures?


Is global warming real?

(article on global cooling, Newsweek, April 28, 1975)


Of what am I most likely to die?






How much is $1 trillion?


What do people want to do all day?


How much pie have you eaten?


What is the intersection of large, happy, and verdant?


People who know the rules of Fight Club


Capitalism and Socialism


Venn Diagrams


Mom, can I...