Ep 135. Emily Oster: An Economist's Parenting Wisdom

Ep 135. Emily Oster: An Economist’s Parenting Wisdom

“The feeling of early parenting is an endless array of ‘I’m doing it wrong.’”

Emily Oster

Emily Oster is Professor of Economics at Brown University and a mom of two. She has written two parent's guides to the chaos and frequent misinformation that often occurs in the early years of parenthood. She addresses, and often debunks, myths on breast feeding, sleep training, language acquisition, and more. In both her books -- Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool and Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong and What You Really Need to Know -- she aims to create a world of more relaxed pregnant women and parents. She holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University.

In this episode, Stew and Emily discuss the state of the research on parenting and how much of it can result in one-size-fits-all recommendations that may not be accurate or useful for individual children, parents, and families. In describing the source of inspiration for her books on parenting, Emily explains her journey from her first pregnancy through her current situation, raising two children, and how the medical recommendations she received were not as helpful as she’d hoped. Using the skills and methods from her training as an economist — cost benefit analyses — she assessed the state of the literature to help herself and others. With the exception of vaccinations — where the research is crystal clear that the benefits outweigh the costs — she found that for most other parenting decisions the answer is essentially “it depends.” The bottom line is: do what’s right for you and your family but learn to ask the right questions, which is what her books help you to do. In today’s high-pressure environment, her reasoned, evidence-based approach is a balm for young families and those who care about them.

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