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Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt

Freakonomics (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner (Author)

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19,25736784 (3.83)257
A highly original and mindblowing book about the hidden connections of everyday things. Wanna ever know why we're going to poll? What cause a crime rate to fall? And of course why the drug dealers living with their mom.... :-) An awesome and easy read, ( )
  TheCrow2 | May 18, 2012 |
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This book has been around for a while, but only just recently hit the top of one of my to be read piles. Which means a lot of it is not topical, but the basic ideas are still valid. Things that don't, at first, seem to be related can impact each other in surprising ways. Incentives need to be matched to the audience. People can be incentivized by strange things, not necessarily what conventional wisdom would suggest. I found the book interesting and informative. ( )
  susanbeamon | Nov 6, 2015 |
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  jrthebutlertest | Sep 23, 2015 |
Interesting and enjoyable. My favorites were the cheating teachers and the two abortion law stories. I really didn't believe that teachers cheated, and it was exciting to see them caught in the act by analyzing data in such a clever way. Took some practical knowledge away from this as well; I'm going to use the internet to save some money! ( )
  engpunk77 | Aug 10, 2015 |
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
If you think that statistics are cold and downright boring, Freakonomics will change that. Levitt and Dubner take us through the processes of economics and show how they can be applied to make the world understandable and our problems potentially solvable. They investigate and correlate sumo wrestlers to teachers, abortion to crime, and expose the inner workings of crack gangs and the Ku Klux Klan. Long held assumptions are shaken when the numbers don't add up.
Recommended by Geo, July 2005
  dawsong | Jun 12, 2015 |
Having read this, I now understand why half the people on the subway are poring it over (the other half are reading the Steig Larsson books). The book is fascinating, eye-opening, layer-peeling, revelatory and everything I hoped my Economics classes in college would be, but wasn't. Had it been, heck, I might've been an Economist, who knows. Excellent read. ( )
  MartinBodek | Jun 11, 2015 |
A good overview and explanation of lots of things we have all wondered about. ( )
  Heather_Arrington | May 31, 2015 |
An economist and a journalist team up to tackle some rather odd ball questions:
- 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?
Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner label their research into the hidden side of everything “Freakonomics”, a study of incentives and how people get what they want. Whether they’re looking at the Klu Klux Klan or lives of crack dealers, the writers always uncover a new way to look at the story.

Since I started listening to the Freakonomics podcast, I’ve seen the occasional criticism of the team from various economists who say their methodology is flawed or the work is more in line with sociology. This is probably true. I’m mostly listening to these guys because I want a little bit of entertainment and I want to learn something new. They usually provide enough facts that even if I don’t agree with their conclusions I know enough to go off and do my own research.

There are some really interesting stories in this book. I think the chapter I found the most intriguing was one in which they describe what a child’s name reveals about the parents. As we all know, names go in and out of vogue. Certain names become trendy with certain socioeconomic groups. I’ve heard that individuals with an “ethnic” name often have a harder time getting job interviews, a theory that Freakonomics supports. What I found fascinating is that names move down the economic ladder; a name popular with upper middle class families one year starts popping up as a top name for lower middle class children a few years later. That’s something I’ve never really considered before.

When the Freakonomics team gets something wrong, they try to own up to it. The version of this book that I listened to (since I’m used to the podcast I opted for an audiobook) is the ‘Revised and Expanded Edition’, which corrects some misinformation regarding a story about information control and the Klu Klux Klan. The first edition of the book had some statements that later proved to be exaggerations, so the authors went back and corrected the affected chapters. They also removed the quotes at the beginning of each chapter that were taken from an article Dubner wrote about Levitt. It was very pretentious and pompous, and once the authors realized the negative effect the quotes had on readers, they were gone.

So is this “proper” economics? No. I imagine that my economics professors in college would have had fits about the methodology. But it sure is some darn good storytellin’. ( )
  makaiju | May 6, 2015 |
It is impossible to finish this book without becoming annoying at parties. There's a real joy in deflating old tropes and assumptions and this does so. A good read and education. ( )
  LauraCLM | May 6, 2015 |
或許是由於沒有經濟學背景,抑或因朱敬一時常引用,我在看完之後,並沒有什麼新奇的感受。作者其實不過是回​歸那些社會科學初興時學者們所關切的問題:我們如何用理性去分析這個世界,找出背後的規律。李維特並沒有提​出什麼驚人的理論,有的只是關注人性的運作以及良好的分析方法。前者是普遍的,後者則是經濟學的工具。​ ( )
  windhongtw | Apr 3, 2015 |
Very interesting analysis of how some data tells us different answers than we expect to hear. We often see what we look for, this book asks us to look at things from a different perspective. ( )
  Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |
Many of Levitt's claims are fantastical, and given the amount of evidence in stark contrast to at least one of Levitt's favorite "can you believe it" topics (abortion and crime) it's hard to believe any of what he says. As others have said, little of what he talks about has anything to do with economics, so from my perspectives he's an economist trying to use his knowledge to inform topics he knows little to nothing about. I'm neither an economist nor a sociologist, but even I am aware of some of the arguments that he very blatantly ignores (for instance, his prison arguments very clearly ignore the fact that crimes that would have been a slap on the wrist or played off as "kids will be kids" years ago now carry stiff prison sentences because the prison-system has been privatized and the government has contracts with these prisons ensuring at least a minimum population.
Levitt's worst sin though is his constant inserting of news clippings tauting his perfection and insight. ( )
  benuathanasia | Feb 5, 2015 |
This is a very fascinating book, which I highly recommend to everyone. Essentially, the authors use economic principles and ideas to analyze several very interesting questions, such as why drug dealers live with their mothers. Trust me when I say that you never knew just how large of a role economics plays in our everyday world. I came away from the book looking at everything in a whole new way, and with a whole new level of appreciation for economics as a field of study. The anecdotes are amusing, the questions explored are relevant and interesting in ways you have never realized, and the entirety is tied together nicely and written in a very approachable fashion. The one downside, if you can call it that, is that not a lot of the data and information used in the analyses was provided or explained, with the authors instead largely falling back on saying what they found, with the reader basically taking their word for it. While this makes the book far more approachable and interesting for an everyday reader, it means that the education in actual economics that is provided is severely limited in scope, and their conclusions cannot be investigated further (based on what is provided in the book alone) if someone wishes to do so. They basically manage to make economics readily approachable for the everyday reader, while also allowing for very little true additional understanding of the field of study itself. This is only a minor weakness overall, as most would not be reading it for those purposes, but it did jump out at me a bit. ( )
  TiffanyAK | Jan 1, 2015 |
Uno dei pochi libri divertenti scritti da un economista. Purtroppo non vi sono altre traduzioni attuali delle opere di Stephen Leavitt e questo è un peccato. I sei capitoli che compongono il libro sono assai interessanti, dando intepretazioni basate sulla obiettività delle analisi regressive e non in base al buon senso comune - che prende sonore e poco metaforiche legnate ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
Freakonomics is fast, consistently interesting read and best when it digs in and tackles a question at length, as with the issue of the relationship of legal abortion to crime rates or the section on the socioeconomic trends in baby names. The only real overarching theme of the book, however, is Levitt's own cleverness--every chapter is preceded by a fawning blurb about Levitt from the same New York Times magazine piece.
Rather than just further refining and cashing in on this Steven Levitt "brand" of the impish public affairs gadfly who throws grenades at small hills of conventional wisdom in easy-reading bestsellers, I'd like to see Levitt take on an important subject and make his case so thoroughly that citizens and policymakers can actually turn his insights into action. ( )
  AThurman | Dec 7, 2014 |
I love this book. It is thought provoking and causes you to re-examine long-held positions or notions in light of actual sociological data analysis. Everyone should read this. ( )
  fredheid | Oct 22, 2014 |
Another one of my favorite non-fiction books. I love how it even explains baby-name trends. ( )
  piersanti | Sep 28, 2014 |
rabck from Judyslump612; interesting - an economist takes on questions that can be quantified, with surprising results. Such as is a gun or swimming pool more dangerous (hint - it’s not the one you think). And what do Chicago school teachers and Sumo Wrestlers have in common? (They both cheat when they feel the circumstances warrant it). Some real interesting questions....and answers based on data...that might have you looking at things in a very different way. ( )
  nancynova | Aug 29, 2014 |
Not bad but I like the podcasts more, the book was disjointed. Unfortunately I saw the movie first which discussed many of the same topics so they got a little tiresome for me. ( )
  yougotamber | Aug 22, 2014 |
Many interesting ideas. ( )
  auntieknickers | Aug 8, 2014 |
The authors did a fairly good job showing that everything is related to everything else. And that Economics isn't just as simple as politicians like to say it is.

However, I still think that sometimes they look for correlation where it may not exist, or some how think the ends justify the means.

While many arguments were good, like all the government regulation we have regarding child safety seats, and cribs and everything are nothing compared to if parents would just play some bloody attention to their kid at the pool. Of course politicians can't create regulations for this, as too many adults like pools and don't want to be told what to do. And that adding a late fee for picking up kids from day care, actually made folks feel better about doing so, as compared to the old shaming from the neighborhood they used to do.

However the disturbing argument that the reason the crime rate is as low in the U.S. is because we have abortion on demand, and their are less poor black kids, is disturbing and made me want to be sick.

A good audio book in all, but be warned. ( )
  fulner | Jul 14, 2014 |
An interesting read about unintended consequences of certain events that seem unrealated, but really when examined closely - are related. ( )
  berthacummins | Apr 26, 2014 |
I started listening to the Freakonomics podcast a while back, so I knew what I was getting into with this book. For the kind of general trade book this is, I think it's well structured, highly readable, and surprisingly thought-provoking. Far too many such books promise much and live up to only a portion of their claims, so the fact that this one exceeded my expectations garnered it a higher rating than many other readers seem to think it deserves. Maybe I reacted strongly to it because it managed both to reveal new facts while confirming my belief that most things are more difficult to understand than they at first appear. The authors undermine many of the assumptions of "conventional wisdom," and they do so with logic and supporting data carefully considered. I look forward to hearing more from them. ( )
  phredfrancis | Feb 8, 2014 |
I found this book fun, interesting, and highly readable, though not really scientific in the way that I think the authors intended.

The book's rating went down an entire star due to the incredibly fatuous, self-congratulatory quotations used as chapter epigraphs. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 4, 2014 |
I could not finish this book. It made me cringe twice on each of the hundred odd pages that I did force myself to read.

Would I recommend this book to you? If you don't know how people use statistics to detect fraud, go ahead and read this book. You will find it to be entertaining and informative. On the other hand, if you feel strongly about the difference between correlation and causality and already know what, say, Benford's law is, spare yourself the horror. You will find yourself reaching for the wall (to bang your head on) by page 10.

Also, the title is a bit misleading. This book is NOT about economics. ( )
  ikka123 | Jan 22, 2014 |
What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? How much does a parent matter in the success of their child? These are only a few of the questions addressed in Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, a very funny and analytic book Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. The two authors tackle some of the weirdest questions that seem to have no correlation or relevance, but somehow, in the end, are connected. It touches on some very interesting topics and does so in a very light-heated and intellectual way.

The premise of the book is to look at the hidden reasons for a certain event, in this case, the drop of the crime rate in the 1990s. The two authors break apart the drop using the tools of economics to try and reason why it baffled the criminologists who, at the time, expected a severe rise in the crime rate. From this single questions, Freakonomics delves into a series of other, related but odd, questions that slowly build a picture of the different factors that lead to the drop in crime rate, ending with a very interesting look the merits and advantages of good parenting.

What Freakonomics does a great job of doing is not losing the reader with over-the-top explanations of economic principals or jargon. Instead, it takes a more open approach that is very much accessible to those without very good education in the field of economics. At no point in time while I was reading the book did I really find myself struggling to get through the concepts that Dubner and Levitt were using to break apart these questions that they proposed. In fact, they took what could have been a relatively boring topic and analysis and filled it with humor and made it much more palatable to a greater audience.

I really enjoyed reading about all these different factors and was amazed by what they came up with from the data that they used. Some of the things may seem counter intuitive, but they do a great job of digging deeper behind these types of occurrences and eventually, you start to understand where they are coming from and then you start to feel like you want to try and do something yourself.

The fast amount of statistics and data that are represented throughout the pages aren't daunting and are presented in a way that doesn't take away from the very witty and interesting writing. There are graphs and tables and charts filled with numbers and, at the end, names, but they are used very sparingly or have a well-defined purpose that allows the readers to look and see for themselves what they are talking about in words.

All in all, Freaknomics is a wonderful exploration into topics that I normally wouldn't have taken a second glance at if I saw them. They turn huge reams of data into a short book that quickly and precisely answer some of the most odd yet intriguing questions I have ever seen. Freaknomics is one of those books that takes something that could be boring and turns it into a very enjoyable experience. ( )
  Plyte | Nov 17, 2013 |
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