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; she's traveled to Pune, India, to track down the man who pitched the country's dramatic currency devaluation to the prime minister; and she's spoken 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.

In June, the Trump administration introduced Operation Warp Speed, an initiative to deliver 300 million doses of an effective COVID-19 vaccine by January 2021.

On Fox & Friends Wednesday morning, President Trump said the effort to accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of a vaccine for COVID-19 is making good progress.

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The gender pay gap exists for a variety of reasons. Discrimination is one; educational experience and job choice are others. The fields that employ a lot of women tend to pay less.

More than 60 million years ago, the Tyrannosaurus rex roamed North America. Today, they're fetching 7 figures from museums and private buyers all over the world. There is a thriving market for dinosaur fossils and T-Rex is at the top of the food chain... but some people say this market is bad for science.

Today on The Indicator: the economics of dinosaur fossils. How does one come to own a T-Rex? Who buys them? And... aren't fossils priceless?

Today on the show, two indicators from our sibling podcast, The Indicator from Planet Money.

First, The Indicator goes to Georgia, to talk with a peanut farmer dealing with two major economic disasters: A hurricane and a trade war with China.

Then The Indicator turns to the World Happiness Report, and finds that the United States of America, despite its prosperity, only ranks 19th in overall happiness, which is kind of sad.

Q-W-E-R-T-Y, or "QWERTY," are the first six letters on most keyboards in English-speaking countries. That letter sequence seems random. And over time, some have tried to break our QWERTY spell with different letter sequences, but QWERTY has always prevailed — and the reasons contain some economic lessons.

To tell this story, we brought in economist Tim Harford, host of "Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy" for the BBC World Service.

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Many economists and politicians argue that international trade has been a good thing. Countries that open themselves up for trade tend to be more peaceful, more efficient, and consumers can get cheaper and more varied goods. But it has also contributed to rising income inequality, as some workers lose out from the benefits of trade.

Today on The Indicator: how does trade affect inequality, and how did it get to be that way?

More than 70 percent of the world's maple syrup comes from the Canadian province of Quebec. Producing maple syrup is very dependent on the weather, but global demand doesn't quit just because of a bad spring. So the maple syrup producers of Quebec set production quotas to control over-production and a reserve, to make sure the supply never runs dry. That's right, there's a global strategic reserve of maple syrup.

Today on The Indicator, big maple. How Quebec's supply management system affects the rest of the syrup-producing world, and what that means for your breakfast table.

President Donald Trump just announced plans for a new round of U.S. tariffs on European products. The list includes aircraft materials, wine, cheese, motorcycles ... and even escargots. The new round appears to be retaliation for Europe's subsidies to planemaker Airbus. It's part of a spat that goes back nearly 15 years... and it's complicated. Because Europe has accused the U.S. of subsidizing its own planemaker, Boeing. Today on the show, a look at what's behind this latest round of proposed tariffs — and what this means for the economies of Europe and the U.S.

Global demand for hazelnuts is on the rise, but the industry has a problem. More than 70% of the world's hazelnuts come from just one place: Turkey. And that leaves producers and Nutella lovers everywhere vulnerable.

But lucky for them one scientist in New Jersey has spent the last 23 years on a global quest to reinvent the hazelnut. And now his dream may finally be coming to fruition.

Today on The Indicator: how one man's lifelong obsession could end up revolutionizing an entire industry.

Risk is a constant part of our lives, but most of us don't understand risk very well. Allison Schrager is an economist, author, and personal finance specialist. Her new book, An Economist Walks Into A Brothel, examines how people working in different industries handle risk in different ways.

Music: "Black Waxploitation"

Traditionally, taking a company public involved a trade-off: on the one hand, selling shares in your company could mean bringing in a ton of money; on the other hand, you had to give up some of your power to shareholders. And then tech CEOs started using a trick to make sure they could raise money and keep a lot of the power for themselves: dual-class stock.

Music: "Morning Start".

Getting a higher education degree — whether it's an Associate's, a Bachelor's, or something else — increases your earning potential over your life. But going to school is expensive, and Americans have more than $1.5 trillion worth of outstanding student debt. That debt isn't exclusively held by the students: people over 60 are the fastest-growing segment of student loan borrowers, as parents and grandparents are increasingly taking out loans to help their kids and grandkids go to college.

This week's news stories about corruption and cheating in the college admissions process is an eye-opening lesson in how much people value getting their children into certain schools.

Lori Loughlin, who played Aunt Becky on the TV sitcom Full House, paid $500,000 to get her two daughters into the University of Southern California. That seemed like a lot to us... and raised the question: is a slot at a top-tier university worth that kind of money?

Gender segregation is the idea that jobs in some occupations are overwhelmingly done by men, while jobs in other occupations are overwhelmingly done by women. Today on The Indicator, our friend Martha Gimbel from the Indeed Hiring Lab tells us why that's a big deal for women, men, and the economy as a whole.

Some of the studies, articles, and research used for this episode:

From academic journals, think tanks, and other research groups:

Today, the U.S. confirmed it will hold off on a new round of tariffs on imports from China that was supposed to be put in place this month. There's also word that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are getting close to completing a trade deal, which would mean both countries getting rid of many of the tariffs and trade restrictions that have been put in place. Today on the show, Stacey talks to Chad Bown of the Peterson Institute for International Economics about the trade war with China and asks, 'Is a trade truce on the horizon?'

Millions of Americans have used payday loans. These are small, short-term loans known for charging staggering interest rates — sometimes in the 300 to 400% range.

Whether you're new to investing, or if you've been investing for years, you are going to run into the question of whether or not you should 'time the market.' Timing the market essentially means guessing when is the best time you should put your money to work. Buy low, sell high, right? It sounds so obvious. But as Jill Schlesinger tells Stacey in this episode, falling for the temptation of trying to time the market is a fool's errand. Jill is the author of a new book: The Dumb Things Smart People Do With Their Money.

One of the main jobs of the Federal Reserve is to keep inflation rising at about 2 percent a year (yes, a little inflation is a good thing...but that's another story). When the economy is strong, as it is right now, the Fed keeps a close eye on inflation, and it uses interest rates to keep things in line. By raising interest rates the Fed makes it more expensive to borrow, which should keep spending low and keep prices down. And vice versa.

Utilities in the U.S. are generally private companies regulated by government commissions. With a dedicated customer base - everyone needs water and power, right? - and government protection and oversight, utilities seemed like a safe bet for most investors.

There are plenty of reasons why the U.S. economy could slip into recession within the next couple of years. There's the trade war with China, slowing economic growth, rising interest rates, dysfunction in the government, and the prospect of fading stimulus.

But what about the other side? What about the case for optimism? Economist Jared Bernstein, an old friend of the show, got in touch because he thinks we shouldn't neglect the positive economic signals that he's seeing right now.

The labor force participation rate is the percentage of adults who have a job, or who are looking for one. In the U.S., about 75% of women ages 25 to 54 participate in the workforce. That's less than men of the same age, who come in at 90%. Still, the number is a big improvement over the early 70s, when fewer than half of women were in the labor force.

Today on The Indicator, we play Overrated/Underrated with a room full of economists at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association. We ask them which economic indicators get too much attention and which indicators we should pay more attention to.

A previous version of this podcast misstated Economist Gray Kimbrough's name.

2018 marked the 10-year anniversary of a nationwide housing crisis. It was a calamity that triggered a credit crunch and a financial meltdown that brought the entire global economy to its knees. A decade on, the economy has recovered. Housing has come back, too, but a lot more slowly. And over the last year, that uptick lost some of its momentum. Today on The Indicator, we talk with Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman about why housing is still in the dumps.

H-1B is a work visa used to employ specialty workers in the U.S. It's often referred to as the highly skilled worker visa, because many H-1B holders work as engineers, scientists, and in the tech industry. In 2018, 199,000 people applied for an H-1B visa. That's way more than the 85,000 slots available every year. But that's also way down from 2017, when 236,000 people applied for the H-1B. That's roughly a 16% drop in applications. Today on The Indicator, we talk with William Kerr, a professor at Harvard Business School, about what that could mean for the U.S. economy.

It's jobs day! The U.S. economy created 155,000 jobs in November. That's less than the roughly 200,000 jobs a month that the economy has been creating for the past year. But with solid wage growth and an unemployment rate holding steady at 3.7 percent, the jobs report overall looks pretty good.

Paris is still smoldering in the wake of violent protests last weekend. The protestors, known as the gilets jaunes, or yellow vests, were reacting to a bunch of economic reforms President Emmanuel Macron has put in place — including a planned tax increase on gasoline. Today on the show, we look at Macron's economic reforms for France, why they got people so upset, and how the yellow vest movement parallels things going on in the U.S.

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