Feb 162014

In the Freakonomics: Everybody Gossips (and That’s a Good Thing) show, Stephen Dubner talks about what gossip is, or isn’t; about the characteristics of the people who produce and consume gossip; and about the functions of gossip, good and bad. You’ll hear from our usual assortment of professors and theorists but also from TV/movie star Adrian Grenier (talking about what it’s like to be the subject of gossip) and Nick Denton, the publisher of Gawker (whose tagline is “Today’s gossip is tomorrow’s news”).



Stephen J. DUBNER: Thomas Corley has made a habit – a career, really – of studying the difference between rich people and poor people.

Thomas CORLEY: 44 percent of the wealthy wake up three hours before work starts versus three percent for the poor.

DUBNER: Corley is an accountant and a financial planner in New Jersey. He wrote a book called “Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals.” He did five years’ worth of research.

CORLEY: I interviewed 233 wealthy people and 128 poor people. And when I was done there was about 149 metrics that I followed or that I tracked.

DUBNER: By “wealthy,” Corley means annual income over $160,000 and net liquid assets of $3.2 million. By “poor,” he mean income less than $35,000 and net liquid assets of less than $5,000. There were a lot of differences between these two groups.

CORLEY: Wealthy people spend 30 minutes or more every morning doing technical reading, some type of technical self-improvement reading.

DUBNER: They also keep track of things:

CORLEY: Oh, 81 percent of the wealthy maintain a to-do list versus 19 percent for the poor.

DUBNER: Corley found that rich people exercise more, and eat healthier:

CORLEY: 97 percent of the poor people in my study ate more than 300 junk food calories a day. 70 percent of the wealthy ate less than 300 junk food calories per day.

DUBNER: But you know what Corley found that really surprised him? It has to do with – well, here, I’ll give you a hint – Hey, psst … did you hear about…


CORLEY: Six percent of the wealthy gossip, compare that to 79 percent of the poor who gossip. This is one of those habits that really sticks out like that Grand Canyon of differences that I saw, this is one that really sends that message home that wealthy people and poor people do certain things differently on a daily basis. Gossip happens to be one of them.


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