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Episode 205: Allowance, Taxes And Potty Training

Jul 6, 2012

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It's really, really hard to create the right kind of economic incentives — even if you're a professional economist, and all you're trying to do is teach your kids to use the toilet.

On today's Planet Money, we talk to economist Joshua Gans and his 11-year-old daughter.

Gans, who wrote a book called Parentonomics, tried to create a toilet-training economy for his young children. He rewarded them with candy for sitting on the toilet — and the older ones got candy if they helped the younger ones.

But, like tiny Wall-Street bankers, the kids figured out how to work the system for maximum advantage.

His daughter managed to go to the bathroom every 20 minutes, all day long. For a while, she got a treat every time.

She also wrung everything she could out of her brother:

I realized that if I helped my brother go to the toilet, I would get rewarded, too. And I realized that the more that goes in, the more comes out. So I was just feeding my brother buckets and buckets of water.

Also on the podcast: We discuss the jobs numbers that the government reported today. And we talked about this graph, the most vivid illustration you'll see of how slow this recovery is.

Subscribe to the podcast. Music: Owl City's "Dental Care." Find us: Twitter/ Facebook/ Spotify/ Tumblr.

Note: Part of today's podcast is a rerun. It first ran in August, 2010.

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