Charles Wheelan

Economics and data shouldn't be accessible only to the experts—the ideas are too important.

Author of Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data

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Charles Wheelan | Author of Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

“Economics should not be accessible only to the experts. The ideas—especially now—are too important.” Enter Charles Wheelan: a speaker with a flair for turning the “dismal science” into talks that help solve genuine problems. In his book Naked Statistics, he makes sense of big data: data is simply raw fuel; statistics are what we create from it. And in the new Naked Money, he asks the deceptively simple questions: What is money? And why does it matter?

“I recommend this book to anyone who wants to gain an understanding of basic economics with little pain and much pleasure.”

— Gary Becker, 1992 Nobel Prize winner in Economics, on Naked Economics

Many people—many otherwise intelligent people—struggle to understand even the basics of economics. They simply don't “get” it. For them, for all of us, there’s Charles Wheelan, the breezy opposite of your typical droning economist. “Economics should not be accessible only to the experts. The ideas are too important and too interesting.” In all of his work, he shows us how to apply economics to solve real world problems. Wheelan has a flair for turning the so-called dismal science into affecting, comprehensible prose. Nowhere is this more evident than in his classic book, Naked Economics, an accessible and entertaining introduction to economics for lay readers. 


In his new book Naked Money: A Revealing Look at What It Is and Why It Matters, Wheelan tours the bizarre world of modern finance, exploring how the challenges of new innovations like bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will drive the future evolution of the global financial system. In Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data, he strips away arcane and technical details to get at the underlying intuition that is so key to understanding the power of statistical concepts. The Centrist Manifesto is a call for a new political party, as Wheelan outlines and predicts at least five Centrist leaders emerging in New England, the Midwest, and elsewhere.


“The best math teacher you never had. [Naked Statistics] is filled with practical lessons, like how to judge the validity of polls, why you should never buy a lottery ticket, and how to keep an eye out for red flags in public statements.”

San Francisco Chronicle

Wheelan writes Yahoo!'s popular “Naked Economics” column, contributes regularly to NPR, has an appointment at the University of Chicago, and is senior lecturer and policy fellow at the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy at Dartmouth. The former Midwest correspondent for The Economist, and a former gubernatorial speechwriter, his book, Naked Economics, has been published in seven languages. In his refreshingly honest book, 10 1/2 Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said, Wheelan offers 10 head-turning aphorisms—backed up by a PhD in public policy and extensive social science research—that set the record straight on what graduates should expect in the real world, and how their partying and class-skipping has not, in fact, ruined their chances at success.

Speech Topics

Big Data
Naked Statistics Meets Big Data Stripping the Dread from the Data

“Data are to statistics what a good offensive line is to a star quarterback.” Everyone’s talking about big data. But what we should focus on, instead, is statistics. Data is like a resource—a raw fuel that is abundant, but formless. It’s just there. Statistics are what allow us to turn data into intelligence, into pragmatic action in government, the corporate world, science, innovation, education. Without this interpretive filter, we are left asking bad questions, which leads to bigger bad answers.

In this talk, Charles Wheelan turns data on its head, makes it comprehensible, and—with humor and real world examples—shows you how to turn this suddenly “sexy” concept into something actually, and endlessly, useful. His case studies are relatable and resonant: How does Netflix know which movies you’ll like? Why is autism on the rise? How can we catch schools that cheat on standardized testing? How can we become more effective marketers? These are just a handful of examples. He also customizes for various industries, pulling out the newest and most illuminating intelligence. In the end, you’ll come to see how you can exploit the valuable data all around you to solve your thorniest problems. Wheelan’s keynote is witty, fast-moving, and essential—it’s one of the most useful statistics and big data talk you’ll hear. Also, the most fun!

U.S. Economy
The American Economy Economic Priorities for the Country—and the World

We are facing a seismic shift in the economic future of the industrialized world, and U.S. leaders will have to blaze a near-perfect direction of economic oversight, including crucial moves with taxes, stimulus programs, regulation, and increased government involvement in key financial industries. Find out what these moves are, how they affect your industry, and what the future holds in store, economically, in this fascinating talk.

Financial Survival What the Heck is Going On?

In this talk, Charles Wheelan reveals the many events that lead to the economic crises we face today—and how to avoid them in the future. Also: once we’re in a mess, how, practically, can we get out of it? What, specifically, does your industry need to know to weather a financial crisis, and how do you come out the other side, robust and profitable once again?

Naked Trends What Can Basic Economics Tell Us About the Future?
“I’ve never liked how economics is taught—too dry, too, mathematical, too detached from the real world.” On stage, Wheelan offers a corrective. He speaks with humor, clarity, and insight; makes inspired pop culture allusions; and possesses a rare gift for making the tough economic concepts and trends not only understandable, but also fun and empowering. Wheelan addresses timely issues—such as outsourcing, and rocketing gas prices—showing how individuals, companies, and communities are likely to be affected. An agile presenter, he is available to speak with you beforehand to hone in on a specific topic, such as health care or regional development. 
U.S. Politics
Public Policy Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?
Why can’t the folks in Washington “just do the right thing”? Why is it so hard to “make the world a better place”? With two decades of public policy experience, Wheelan shows you why running a community or a nation is not like running a business, why healthy public policy is important, and how to realistically achieve it.