Kai-Ryssdal
Kai Ryssdal | Biography 2021

Quick Information

  • Full Name Kai Ryssdal
  • Occupation Radio Host, Former U.S. Navy Pilot, Former U.S. Foreign Service Staff
  • Nationality American
  • Birth Date Oct 08, 1963
  • Age 57 Years, 9 Months
Host and Senior Editor of NPR's 'Marketplace'

Kai Ryssdal | Biography 2021

Former U.S. Navy Pilot and Foreign Service Staff

To Mediabistro, he also shared that he woke up early from 4:30 to 5:00. He said, “I get up really early because out here in California, we’re behind the time zone. By the time I get up at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning, things are already happening on the East Coast.” He then explained that his usual morning routine shited from market research, story selection and verification, role assignments to writing and collaborating with editors before going live.


Kai Ryssdal is a radio host of American Public Media’s radio show Marketplace.

Who is Kai Ryssdal?

Kai Ryssdal spent eight years in the U.S. Navy, flying E-2 Hawkeyes off the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and then worked with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. He was also a member of the U.S. Foreign Service, with assignments in Ottawa, Canada, and Beijing, China. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Emory University and his master’s degree from Georgetown University.

Before taking over as host of APM's Marketplace in 2005, he was the host of the Marketplace Morning Report, a seven-minute business summary show, and the weekend radio show Marketplace Money.

In 2005, Ryssdal also began anchoring and later became senior editor of the popular business and economic radio show, Marketplace. In addition, he also co-hosts podcast Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly alongside Marketplace Tech’s Molly Wood to cover economics, technology, and culture.

Early Life and Military Career

Ryssdal was born on 8 October 1963. He struggled with English when he returned to the United States after growing up in Europe—first in England for five years and then in Denmark for three. 

After being accepted into military flight school during his senior year at Emory University in Atlanta, he spent the following six months dreading what lay ahead, putting himself through numerous physical fitness tests all across campus. As a result, he was in greater shape when he entered boot camp than when he exited.

For eight years, Kai served in the U.S. Navy as an aircraft pilot and afterward worked at the Pentagon as a staff for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He later worked as a member of the U.S. Foreign Service, serving in Ottawa, Canada, and Beijing, China. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the universities of Emory and Georgetown.

Eventually, he attended the foreign service exam and passed it.

“I had done everything I wanted to do in the Navy. I had gone to sea, learned how to fly, and worked at the Pentagon,” he shared why he chose to take the exam. 

U.S. Foreign Service

After serving in the U.S. Foreign Service for four years as an employee of the U.S. State Department, he moved to California after his wife was selected at the nearby Harvard University. In California, he got work at a Border’s bookshop in Palo Alto. There, he came across a book advertising radio internship one evening while stacking books and pondering what he wanted to do with his life. He then decided to try his hand at broadcasting.

Later, he schlepped at San Francisco’s KQED for a year and a half before getting on the air. Back at KQED, he lacked confidence when he showed up in a suit and tie for his interview, but he blended in unconsciously with the group of 19-year-old interns. He was barely making enough money to pay his rent. But six months later, he got chills the first time as he heard a live section he’d written.

In 2001, Ryssdal relocated to southern California and joined the Marketplace Morning Report, where he spent four years waking up at midnight to start airing at 2:50 a.m.

'Marketplace'

In 2005, he took over as host of Marketplace. He spoke with Mediabistro on how he created Marketplace stories that keep listeners interested.

"One of the most important things we do is context — to place individuals and companies and the larger economy in their proper context. For individuals, it’s why things like auction rate securities matter, [and] what that will mean for their municipalities as they try to get loans to build a new swimming pool,"  he explained. "For companies, what the earnings picture is. For the U.S. economy, what the global economy picture is. There’s a finite amount that anybody can digest. This stuff is dense, and it’s hard, and it’s complicated — and frankly, sometimes it’s not all that interesting. It’s a pretty high bar to get on to the program."

To Mediabistro, he also shared that he woke up early from 4:30 to 5:00. He said, “I get up really early because out here in California, we’re behind the time zone. By the time I get up at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning, things are already happening on the East Coast.” He then explained that his usual morning routine shited from market research, story selection and verification, role assignments to writing and collaborating with editors before going live.

In 2012, he won an Emmy for investigative reporting on a PBS Frontline documentary, Big Sky, Big Money, which focused on money in politics.

‘Make Me Smart’ Podcast

Since 28 November 2016, he has been co-hosting the podcast Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly alongside Marketplace Tech’s Molly Wood. The podcast focuses on economics, technology, and culture.

Wife and Family

In a foreign service orientation, Ryssdal met his wife, Stephanie Fossan, just before they took an assignment in Ottawa, Canada. The two offered to go anywhere they were needed for their next job as long as they could stay together. As a result, they spent six months learning Chinese to be considered for jobs in Beijing. Later, Stephanie was admitted into Stanford University’s MBA program in the U.S. after being in China for eighteen months.

Ryssdal recalls, “We quit our jobs, got married, she started school, and I moped around for a while, trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.”

He has four children with Fossan, namely Liv Ryssdal, Adin Ryssdal, Tait Ryssdal, and Soren Ryssdal are his kids’ names. The family resides in Los Angelos.

Did You Know?

Rysdall's Marketplace can also be listened to on National Public Radio's website as a podcast. 

Fact-checking and Ethical Concerns

We assure our audience that we will remove any contents that are not accurate or according to formal reports and queries if they are justified. We commit to cover sensible issues responsibly through the principles of neutrality.

To report about any issues in our articles, please feel free to Contact Us. Our dedicated Editorial team verifies each of the articles published on the Biographyhost.