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.

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.

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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.

Baby Bubbles

May 3, 2018

It's been more than a decade since a bursting housing bubble triggered the 2008 financial crisis. And, once again, the housing market is booming. Home prices are rising way faster than inflation. And that's got a lot of people worried about another bubble.

We talked to a developer in one of the hottest markets in the country about what he's seeing on the home front. And we asked an economist at the Urban Institute whether he thinks we're on the verge of another housing bust.

Aging Up

May 2, 2018

There's this perception that successful entrepreneurs are invariably youthful, full of ideas and energy, and unburdened by responsibilities that come with middle age. Pair that with the idea that as we get older we decline cognitively, and it makes sense that we think of entrepreneurship as a young person's deal, right?

Ben Jones at the Kellogg School of Management doesn't agree.

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