The Stakes

The Stakes

The Stakes is a show about social change, hosted by Kai Wright. We live in extreme times—a climate on the verge of crisis, an economy built on inequality and a political system that feels like it’s falling apart. So, how’d we get to this point? And what happens next? From democracy to healthcare, from pop culture to the environment, our reporters are working to understand why we live the way we do—and why it matters. Because if we can better understand the society we‘ve got, maybe we can figure out how to create one that works for more people. The Stakes is produced by WNYC Studios, home of other great podcasts including Radiolab, Death, Sex & Money, On the Media, Nancy and Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin.


November 7, 2019 24 min

Haitian migrants fled a violent dictatorship and built a new community in Miami’s Little Haiti, far from the coast and on land that luxury developers didn’t want. But with demand for up-market apartments surging, their neighborhood is suddenly attractive to builders. That’s in part because it sits on high ground, in a town concerned about sea level rise. But also, because Miami is simply running out of land to build upon. 

In the f...

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Valencia Gunder used to dismiss her grandfather’s warnings: “They’re gonna steal our communities because it don't flood.” She thought, Who would want this place? But Valencia’s grandfather knew something she didn’t: People in black Miami have seen this before. 

In the second episode of our series on “climate gentrification,” reporter Christopher Johnson tells the story of Overtown, a segregated black community that was moved, e...

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process that may intensify the affordability crisis in cities all over the country.

Little Haiti sits on high ground, in a city that’s facing increasing pressure from rising sea levels and monster storms. For years, researchers at Harvard University’s Design School have been trying to identify if and how the changing climate will reshape the real estate market globally. In Miami’s Little Haiti, they have found an ideal case study f...

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An ambitious young immigrant needs a car and ends up with a loan he can’t afford. His lender, Credit Acceptance, specializes in subprime car loans -- lending to people with poor credit at exorbitant interest rates. Reporter Anjali Kamat tells the story of one man’s journey with his Credit Acceptance loan from a used car lot to a courtroom, and traces how, a decade after subprime mortgages brought down the economy, subprime car loan...

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September 18, 2019 28 min

It's becoming harder and harder to deny that the Earth is warming. But climate change skeptics not only have a plan for how to keep the public arguing about the validity of the science, they also have the ear of the most powerful person on the planet. Reporter Amanda Aronczyk goes inside the Trump International Hotel in Washington to attend one of the largest gatherings of climate deniers in the country and discovers that their...

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September 3, 2019 23 min

Whiteness, as an idea and as an identity, is not as fixed as many people believe. Over the centuries, Western societies have defined and redefined it. But always, it has served to delineate who gets access to rights and privileges, and who doesn't. In this episode, we meet an Italian American family as they reflect on a time when they weren't yet white in America, and consider how that changed. And we explore the role white...

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August 13, 2019 31 min

Silicon Valley’s so-called “millionaire maker” is a behavioral scientist who foresaw the power of putting persuasion at the heart of the tech world’s business model. But behind the curtain of the industry’s behemoth companies is a cadre of engineers and executives small enough to rein in. This is the final installment of our three-part series. If you haven't heard parts one and two, start there first.

In this episode, we hear f...

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August 8, 2019 26 min

Ted Kaczynski had been a boy genius. Then he became the Unabomber. After years of searching for him, the FBI finally caught him in his remote Montana cabin, along with thousands of pages of his writing. Those pages revealed Kaczynski's hatred towards a field of psychology called "behaviorism," the key to the link between him and James McConnell.

This is part two of our three-part series. If you haven't heard part on...

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July 30, 2019 21 min

Infinite scrolling. Push notifications. Autoplay. Our devices and apps were designed to keep us engaged and looking for as long as possible. Now, we’ve woken up from years on social media and our phones to discover we've been manipulated by unaccountable powers using persuasive psychological tricks. But this isn’t the first time.

In this three-part series of The Stakes, we look at the winding story of the science of persuasion ...

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July 16, 2019 24 min

If you want to change the law, you have to name the problem. That's why, in 1975, five to eight women in a room in Ithaca, New York came up with two words that changed the law, and the workplace, forever. But as you'll hear, victory really has a thousand mothers.

You'll hear from:

- Linda Hirschman, author of Reckoning: The Epic Battle Against Sexual Abuse and Harassment

- Susan Meyer, a founder of Working Women United


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July 2, 2019 35 min

The Declaration of Independence was America’s first act of social design. The men who drafted America’s founding document recognized the tension between their ideals of liberty and the realities of the nation's slave economy. But they couldn’t deal with that tension, so they chose to avoid it. A generation later, in a July 5, 1852, speech in Rochester, Frederick Douglass delivered one of history's most stirring oratorical r...

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Host of The Stakes Kai Wright visits the Alabama Women's Center, one of three remaining abortion providers in the state—and the sole provider within 150 miles. Alabama passed the nation's most restrictive abortion law in May—a law that would make the providers at this clinic into felons. It was one of a dozen states that have passed new abortion restrictions already this year. But from the vantage of the Alabama Women's...

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In honor of Stonewall’s 50th anniversary, it’s time for an intergenerational queer conversation. Kristin Tomlinson is a gender fluid, pansexual 21-year-old. She takes Kai into her very fluid online and IRL world of cartoon cats in crop tops, Instagram icons and friends who see gender as just another construct. Along the way, we look at the meaning of labels and categories for youth today and whether they’re necessary to create and ...

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May 21, 2019 24 min

Drug wars, recessions and record violence in the 1980s had US cities in crisis. Hip hop artists responded by shifting from party music to a new style called "conscious rap." Artists like Public Enemy and Digable Planets championed a sound that was political, community-minded and deeply pro-black. But about six years after it started, that first wave of socially-conscious hip hop seemed to be over. Who killed it? And what’s ...

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May 7, 2019 23 min

A black woman in America is three to four times more likely to die than a white woman during pregnancy, childbirth, and in the year after the baby's born, according to the Centers for Disease Control. As more and more black women share their near death experiences while giving birth, including world tennis champion Serena Williams, we see this reality affecting black woman regardless of education or wealth. So what are black wo...

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April 30, 2019 25 min

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Former US Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. told us that that only happens when people put their hands on that arc and pull on it. He joins host Kai Wright and a live audience to discuss the Mueller Report, voting rights, the state of democracy in America and whether or not we should have faith in our national institutions...

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April 23, 2019 29 min

One of the longest-running public health epidemics in American history involves a handful of baby teeth, a creepy cartoon character and The Young Lords. This is a story about a fight for accountability.

Hosted by Kai Wright. Reported by Christopher Werth.

Support for WNYC reporting on lead is provided by the New York State Health Foundation, improving the health of all New Yorkers, especially the most vulnerable. Learn more at www....

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Coming up on The Stakes podcast, host Kai Wright and team identify what's not working about our society and imagine ways to fix it. From healthcare to climate change, from the music we consume to the food that we eat, everything we experience is the result of some rule, decision or system that someone put in place. That means that if we don't like the world we live in now, we can design a better one. And we have to. From th...

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