Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

| January 31, 2011

Title: Freakonomics:  A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Author: Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Publisher: New York : William Morrow/HarperCollins
Call Number: HB74.P8 L479 2006

From the Publisher:

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? How did the legalization of abortion affect the rate of violent crime?

These may not sound like typical questions for an econo-mist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much-heralded scholar who studies the riddles of everyday life—from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing—and whose conclusions turn conventional wisdom on its head.

Freakonomics is a groundbreaking collaboration between Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning author and journalist. They usually begin with a mountain of data and a simple 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 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 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 Klu Klux Klan.

What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world, despite a great deal of complexity 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.

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.

About the Author:

Steven D. Levitt is the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, where he directs the Becker Center on Chicago Price Theory. Levitt received his BA from Harvard University in 1989 and his PhD from MIT in 1994. He has taught at Chicago since 1997. In 2004, Levitt was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded to the most influential economist under the age of 40. In 2006, he was named one of Time magazine’s “100 People Who Shape Our World.”
Stephen J. Dubner is an award-winning author and journalist who lives in New York City. He earned an M.F.A. in writing at Columbia University, where he also taught in the English Department. From 1990-1994, Dubner was an editor and writer at New York Magazine. From 1994-1999, he was an editor and writer for The New York Times Magazine. He has also written for The New Yorker, Time, The Washington Post, and elsewhere. His journalism has been anthologized in The Best American Sports Writing and The Best American Crime Writing. He has also been a PBS correspondent, and is currently a regular contributor to ABC News, appearing monthly on Good Morning America and a segment of World News Tonight called “Freakonomics Friday.”

On the Web:

Freakonomics blog at the New York Times

Levitt on The Colbert Report

Levitt Seminar at Crooked Timber blog