A Guide to Making Data-Based Decisions in Health, Parenting… and Life

Emily Oster and Hanne Winarsky

Are chia seeds actually that good for you? Will Vitamin E keep you healthy? Will breastfeeding babies make them smarter? There’s maybe no other arena where understanding what the evidence truly tells us is harder than in health… and parenting. And yet we make decisions based on what we hear about in studies like the ones listed above every day. In this episode, Brown University economics professor Emily Oster, author of Expecting Better and the recently released book Cribsheet: A Data-driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool, in conversation with Hanne Tidnam, dives into what lies beneath those studies… and how to make smarter decisions based on them (or not). Oster walks us through the science and the data behind the studies we hear about — especially those hot-button parenting issues that are murkiest of all, from screen time to sleep training.

How we can tell what’s real and what’s not? Oster shows us the research about how these guidelines and advice that we are “supposed” to follow get formalized and accepted inside and outside of healthcare settings — from obstetrics practices to pediatrics to diet and lifestyle; how they can (or can’t) be changed; and finally, how the course of science itself can be influenced by how these studies are done.

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