Getting answers to common parenting questions down to a science

Jenna Vassallo
Dec 13, 2023
Person sits in a dark room on their phone

Parents are inundated with many opinions on what to do or not to do for their children.

There is a ton of information on everything from sleep training to screen time guidelines—and separating noise from facts is not easy. Much of the “conventional wisdom” parents are sold isn’t always backed by data.

Emily Oster decided this needed to change.

An economics professor at Brown University and mom of two, Emily has written multiple books on pregnancy and parenting and is also the founder of ParentData.

One of the most trusted and influential voices in the parenting space, Emily joined us on The False Tradeoff. Here are 3 takeaways from the conversation.

The pandemic changed everything—for Emily and most parents

After writing a few books as she continued her work as a professor, Emily launched ParentData, a newsletter designed to empower parents with facts and decision-making tools needed to make sound choices.

What Emily didn’t realize is that we were about to face a global pandemic less than a month later. And with that, her platform and ability to reach parents grew significantly:

“It very rapidly turned into something that was much more than COVID,” Emily said. “And I think at that point, there were a lot of people who had been in my audience because of the books, who were sort of like trapped at home with their babies or trapped at home pregnant. And I think I was there in a moment that was helpful.”

Becoming the go-to resource for parents

If you’re a parent, you’ve likely panic-scrolled to see what your baby’s cough means, if their rash is contagious or why they’ve suddenly stopped sleeping.

Emily wants ParentData to “be the thing that you go to in the night that answers your question so you can go back to sleep.” This entails giving parents permission to make decisions based on the information they have.

“I want this to be a place where you can go, you can have good quality information that is based in data and that you then understand better and you can move forward with whatever is the right decision,” Emily said. “And we want to build that and we wanna make it as accessible as possible.”

Hot takes on everything from discipline to children percentiles

After booking Emily on the podcast, we asked our LinkedIn community to share questions so we could end the episode with her “hot takes” on the most pressing pregnancy and parenting topics.

We got quite a range of questions and Emily did not disappoint.

Wondering what you can do to support your partner during the pregnancy as a first-time dad?

Emily’s number one recommendation is to schedule biweekly meetings with your partner for after the baby, where you can talk about how things are going.

What about discipline styles - does one way work better than another?

Emily confirmed that physical discipline is not effective, but for everything else, the key is consistency:

And lastly, why do we talk about percentiles when we bring our kids to the doctor?

Because as Emily put it, “people like to rank their kids and they like numbers.” She added that it doesn’t matter where they are outside of major extremes that your doctor will share if they’re worried about growth over time.

Podcast recap
Working parenthood
Work discussion

Hear the rest of Emily’s hot takes - as well as her journey from academia into the public eye.

Listen to this episode of The False Tradeoff!