Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

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Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? What kind of impact did Roe v. Wade have on violent crime?

These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much heralded scholar who studies the stuff and riddles of everyday life -- from cheating and crime to sports and child rearing -- and whose conclusions regularly turn the conventional wisdom on its head. He usually begins with a mountain of data and a simple, unasked question. Some of these questions concern life-and-death issues; others have an admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study contained in this book: freakonomics.

Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, Levitt and co-author Stephen J. Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives -- how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they set out to explore the hidden side of ... well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher. The secrets of the Ku Klux Klan.

What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world, despite a surfeit of obfuscation, complication, and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and -- if the right questions are asked -- is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking. Steven Levitt, through devilishly clever and clear-eyed thinking, shows how to see through all the clutter.

Freakonomics establishes this unconventional premise: If morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work. It is true that readers of this book will be armed with enough riddles and stories to last a thousand cocktail parties. But Freakonomics can provide more than that. It will literally redefine the way we view the modern world.

 

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User Review  - xiaomarlo - www.librarything.com

It's like a Malcolm Gladwell book, but written by economists -- it's definitely got that asshole quality about it where they're like "we're just looking at the numbers! we're the only ones being ... Read full review

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User Review  - cavernism - www.librarything.com

Interesting enough that I got through it pretty quickly, but each chapter was kind of ..unsatisfying. I wasn't shocked or awed by many hypotheses or "revelations" put forth, and I don't know if I came ... Read full review

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Contents

The Hidden Side of Everything
3
What Do Schoolteachers and Sumo Wrestlers Have
19
How Is the Ku Klux Klan Like a Group
55
Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live with Their Moms?
89
Where Have All the Criminals Gone?
117
What Makes a Perfect Parent?
147
Would
179
Two Paths to Harvard
205
Acknowledgments
231
Copyright

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About the author (2005)

Steven D. Levitt received a B.A. from Harvard University in 1989 and a Ph.D. from M.I.T. in 1994. He is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago where he has been teaching since 1997. He was awarded the 2003 John Bates Clark Medal, an award that recognizes the most outstanding economist in America under the age of 40. He is the coauthor, with Stephen J. Dubner, of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. It won the inaugural Quill Award for best business book and a Visionary Award from the National Council on Economic Education. He also wrote SuperFreakonomics, Think Like a Freak and When to Rob a Bank:...And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants with Stephen J. Dubner.

While attending Appalachian State University, Stephen J. Dubner started a rock band that was signed to Arista Records. He eventually stopped playing music to earn an M.F.A. in writing at Columbia University, where he also taught in the English Department. He was an editor and writer at New York magazine and The New York Times before leaving to focus on writing books. He is the coauthor, with Steven D. Levitt, of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. It won the inaugural Quill Award for best business book and a Visionary Award from the National Council on Economic Education. He also wrote SuperFreakonomics and Think Like a Freak with Steven D. Levitt. His other works include Turbulent Souls: A Catholic Son's Return to His Jewish Family, Confessions of a Hero-Worshiper, and The Boy with Two Belly Buttons.

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