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.

The mortgage interest deduction is popular, even among people who don't claim it. It is widely believed to encourage and subsidize homeownership by allowing people to deduct the interest they pay on their mortgages. But economists tell a different story. They've been pointing out the problems with it for years, seemingly to no avail.

The lion's share of people who work in finance are men. That has been changing a little in recent years, but not in the bond market. In fact, the number of women managing bond portfolios has been falling over the last few years. But the women who do choose the bond market do very well — even better than their male colleagues. Today we talk to Marilyn Cohen, owner of Envision Capital Management, and 30 year veteran of the bond market. She talks about what the bond market is like, what it takes to succeed and why she thinks women aren't picking it.

The commencement speech is a proud tradition. Or at least it's a tradition.

And since no college invited Stacey and Cardiff to give a commencement speech, they're taking to the podcast to offer their own brand of evidence-based wisdom for new college grads.

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Highest Educational Levels Reached by Adults in the U.S. Since 1940

Time Bandits

May 18, 2018

Time theft happens when companies get employees to work hours for which they are not paid. A new study from the University of Oregon says it's happening more and more and workers are losing billions of dollars in wages every year.

This often happens through mandated breaks that workers can't actually take or through timekeeping software that rounds to the nearest quarter hour.

Music: "Shifty Looking Characters"

The proposed expansion of work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — commonly referred to as food stamps — has been controversial.

All Bets Are On

May 16, 2018

This week, the Supreme Court paved the way for states to legalize sports gambling, which has been illegal almost everywhere but Nevada since 1992. States expect to make billions in new revenues.

Opponents of the decision worry that gambling will bring back the scandals of an earlier era, when athletes betting on the outcomes of their own games would deliberately try to lose. Are they right?

Interest rates had been falling for most of the past three decades – but two years ago, they started climbing. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note recently climbed above 3%, up from less 1.5% just a couple of years ago.

Among the reasons that rising rates matter is that they have numerous effects on the housing market. Some of these effects are obvious. As interest rates climb, so will mortgage rates, making houses relatively less affordable. Refinancing also becomes less attractive.

About three years ago, the Chinese government introduced an economic plan, Made in China 2025. The goal was for China to elevate itself from a middle-income country to a high-income country, upgrading its domestic companies so that they can compete with the most technologically advanced companies in the world. This meant reducing China's reliance on importing certain high-tech goods from abroad, including from the United States.

The wine scoring system was popularized by Robert Parker in the 70s. It has numerous critics. But whatever the system's merits, the scores themselves do make a big difference for a winery business. Today, we explore the weird world of wine ratings and test the system for ourselves.

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It's been about 10 years since the housing crisis started. Home prices now are back up, even breaking records in some parts of the country. But is the market perhaps overheating? Here's Stacey Vanek Smith from Planet Money's Indicator podcast.

Failing College

May 10, 2018

Colleges have a problem: fewer people are applying every year. Universities are competing like crazy for any edge they can get. Some are offering more financial aid, others are building tiger habitats. But the economic impact of fewer universities could be large.

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

How many possible shows could the Indicator do? How many indicators will there be? How many almost-indicators will never see the light of day? The answer to all of these questions is: infinity

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When Republicans in Congress passed a big corporate tax cut in December, they hoped it would incentivize companies to invest more money in equipment, new buildings, research, and software.

This kind of investment would help workers be more productive, making it possible for them to receive bigger raises. Critics of the tax cut responded that companies would just give the money they saved to their shareholders, by buying back their own shares.

A few decades ago, nobody paid much attention to LIBOR. The London Interbank Offered Rate was just an interest rate for loans between banks. It was set by a group of low-level bankers in the bowels of major financial institutions, according to David Enrich, author of The Spider Network. Then banks started using the LIBOR rates to set interest rates for other loans, like mortgages and student loans. A huge scandal ensued, but replacing the infamous rate has proven to be difficult.

The U.S. economy is improving steadily. The unemployment rate continues to fall. Usually, when companies expand their workforces and start hiring, the supply of workers dries up and wages start to climb faster.

But that's not happening right now. Wages are rising at a measly 2.6 percent. That's barely higher than inflation.

Elise Gould, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, says the way we classify workers misses a key part of the potential workforce. And there's a lot more slack in the labor market than you'd think just by looking at the unemployment rate.

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