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Emily Oster tells it like it is. The Professor of Economics at Brown University is known for her books that take a data-driven approach to pregnancy and parenting. Wondering what’s behind the sushi rule during pregnancy or how much coffee you’re allowed to drink? Curious about co-sleeping? Potty Training? Emily provides the data and analysis that drive these well-known rules. 

Emily’s first book, Expecting Better, provides information to help women make their own well-informed decisions throughout pregnancy. She then wrote Cribsheet, a similarly data-driven book to help new parents navigate all of the conflicting information about how to breastfeed, sleep-train, and potty training. 

Her most recent book, The Family Firm, provides a framework for data-driven parents to think about the key issues of the elementary years: school, health, extracurricular activities, and more. 

In this week’s episode, Sonya and Emily talked about many topics of interest in early childhood development.

“The main sources of our guilt are feeling that we’re doing the wrong thing – that there is a right choice and maybe we’re not making it. Maybe there’s a best thing to do with my kid and I’m not doing that thing and then I think that is sort of a source of guilt. So some of the discussion in the book I think is really about trying to make the choice that is right for you, sort of recognizing that in this space, and in any of these spaces, there’s no right choice. There may be a right choice for you and the way you can get to that choice is by thinking carefully about what’s going to work for you and thinking about your kid and thinking about the constraints and coming to a place where you’re confident that the choice is right, that you didn’t make it haphazardly. And once you’re there, I think that there should be a little, hopefully, freedom to be like, okay, this was the right choice and I’m confident in the way that I made the choice and I’m going to try to move forward and not sort of second guess.”

-Emily Oster

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Key Takeaways

  • Hierarchy of types of research studies
  • Confusion around data reporting
  • Do childhood vaccines cause Autism
  • Does sleep training work and is it beneficial
  • How having children impacts marital satisfaction
  • What’s best: nanny vs. daycare vs. stay at home parent
  • Data around TV watching and learning for kids under 5
  • Potty training
  • Alcohol and breastfeeding and pregnancy



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