People are Bad at Cost-Benefit Risk Analysis : The Indicator from Planet Money Life constantly requires us to calculate risk, and we're just not very good at it.

We're Bad At Calculating Risk

We’re Bad At Calculating Risk

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images
(Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

This past year we have been constantly assessing risk. From questioning whether to wipe down our mail or sanitize our groceries to figuring out when it's safe to see our families, it has often felt like we constantly have to judge the safety of our actions. Now, there's the vaccine itself, specifically the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Last month, news started breaking about a rare side effect possibly linked to the vaccine. Blood clots were occurring in women, between the ages of 18 and 59. What happened next made clear that we are really bad at assessing risk. While the blood clots were serious and in a few cases deadly, it was just the tiniest handful of people out of millions who have gotten the J&J vaccine. Still, after the CDC said they were going to review the J&J shot again, there was a drop in demand for the vaccine. Meanwhile, we know that COVID has killed almost 600,000 Americans.

On The Indicator from Planet Money, we chat about how we assess risk. Why are we so often more worried about shark attacks and dying in fiery plane crashes than cancer or COVID? Life requires us to constantly calculate the odds and we're just not very good at it.

Music by Drop Electric. Find us: Twitter / Facebook / Newsletter.

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, PocketCasts and NPR One.