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SuperFreakonomics [Kindle Edition]

Steven D. Levitt , Stephen J. Dubner
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (796 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Freakonomics lived on the New York Times bestseller list for an astonishing two years. Now authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner return with more iconoclastic insights and observations in SuperFreakonomics—the long awaited follow-up to their New York Times Notable blockbuster. Based on revolutionary research and original studies SuperFreakonomics promises to once again challenge our view of the way the world really works.

Books In This Series (2 Books)
Complete Series

  • Editorial Reviews Review

    Book Description

    The New York Times best-selling Freakonomics was a worldwide sensation, selling over four million copies in thirty-five languages and changing the way we look at the world. Now, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner return with SuperFreakonomics, and fans and newcomers alike will find that the freakquel is even bolder, funnier, and more surprising than the first.

    Four years in the making, SuperFreakonomics asks not only the tough questions, but the unexpected ones: What's more dangerous, driving drunk or walking drunk? Why is chemotherapy prescribed so often if it's so ineffective? Can a sex change boost your salary?

    SuperFreakonomics challenges the way we think all over again, exploring the hidden side of everything with such questions as:

    • How is a street prostitute like a department-store Santa?
    • Why are doctors so bad at washing their hands?
    • How much good do car seats do?
    • What's the best way to catch a terrorist?
    • Did TV cause a rise in crime?
    • What do hurricanes, heart attacks, and highway deaths have in common?
    • Are people hard-wired for altruism or selfishness?
    • Can eating kangaroo save the planet?
    • Which adds more value: a pimp or a Realtor?

    Levitt and Dubner mix smart thinking and great storytelling like no one else, whether investigating a solution to global warming or explaining why the price of oral sex has fallen so drastically. By examining how people respond to incentives, they show the world for what it really is – good, bad, ugly, and, in the final analysis, super freaky.

    Freakonomics has been imitated many times over – but only now, with SuperFreakonomics, has it met its match.

    From Superfreakonomics: Where do you stand on the freak-o-meter?

    Four years ago, you were cool. You read Freakonomics when it first came out. You impressed family and friends and dazzled dates with the insights you gleaned. Now Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner return with Superfreakonomics, a freakquel even bolder, funnier, and more surprising than the first.

    Have you been keeping up? Can you call yourself a SuperFreak? Test your Superfreakonomics know-how now:

    Question 1: 5 points
    According to Superfreakonomics, what has been most helpful in improving the lives of women in rural India?
    A. The government ban on dowries and sex-selective abortions
    B. The spread of cable and satellite television
    C. Projects that pay women to not abort female babies
    D. Condoms made specially for the Indian market

    Question 2: 3 points
    Among Chicago street prostitutes, which night of the week is the most profitable?
    A. Saturday
    B. Monday
    C. Wednesday
    D. Friday

    Question 3: 5 points
    You land in an emergency room with a serious condition and your fate lies in the hands of the doctor you draw. Which characteristic doesn’t seem to matter in terms of doctor skill?
    A. Attended a top-ranked medical school and served a residency at a prestigious hospital
    B. Is female
    C. Gets high ratings from peers
    D. Spends more money on treatment

    Question 4: 3 points
    Which cancer is chemotherapy more likely to be effective for?
    A. Lung cancer
    B. Melanoma
    C. Leukemia
    D. Pancreatic cancer

    Question 5: 5 points
    Half of the decline in deaths from heart disease is mainly attributable to:
    A. Inexpensive drugs
    B. Angioplasty
    C. Grafts
    D. Stents

    Question 6: 3 points
    True or False: Child car seats do a better job of protecting children over the age of 2 from auto fatalities than regular seat belts.

    Question 7: 5 points
    What’s the best thing a person can do personally to cut greenhouse gas emissions?
    A. Drive a hybrid car
    B. Eat one less hamburger a week
    C. Buy all your food from local sources

    Question 8: 3 points
    Which is most effective at stopping the greenhouse effect?
    A. Public-awareness campaigns to discourage consumption
    B. Cap-and-trade agreements on carbon emissions
    C. Volcanic explosions
    D. Planting lots of trees

    Question 9: 5 points
    In the 19th century, one of the gravest threats of childbearing was puerperal fever, which was often fatal to mother and child. Its cause was finally determined to be:
    A. Tight bindings of petticoats early in the pregnancy
    B. Foul air in the delivery wards
    C. Doctors not taking sanitary precautions
    D. The mother rising too soon in the delivery room

    Question 10: 3 points
    Which of the following were not aftereffects of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks on September 11, 2001:
    A. The decrease in airline traffic slowed the spread of influenza.
    B. Thanks to extra police in Washington, D.C., crime fell in that city.
    C. The psychological effects of the attacks caused people to cut back on their consumption of alcohol, which led to a decrease in traffic accidents.
    D. The increase in border security was a boon to some California farmers, who, as Mexican and Canadian imports declined, sold so much marijuana that it became one of the states most valuable crops.

    Answers and Scoring
    Question 1
    B, Cable and satellite TV. Women with television were less willing to tolerate wife beating, less likely to admit to having a “son preference,” and more likely to exercise personal autonomy. Plus, the men were perhaps too busy watching cricket.

    Question 2
    A, Saturday nights are the most profitable. While Friday nights are the busiest, the single greatest determinant of a prostitute’s price is the specific trick she is hired to perform. And for whatever reason, Saturday customers purchase more expensive services.

    Question 3
    C, One factor that doesn’t seem to matter is whether a doctor is highly rated by his or her colleagues. Those named as best by their colleagues turned out to be no better than average at lowering death rates--although they did spend less money on treatments.

    Question 4
    C, Leukemia. Chemotherapy has proven effective on some cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, and testicular cancer, especially if these cancers are detected early. But in most cases, chemotherapy is remarkably ineffective, often showing zero discernible effect. That said, cancer drugs make up the second-largest category of pharmaceutical sales, with chemotherapy comprising the bulk.

    Question 5
    A, Inexpensive drugs. Expensive medical procedures, while technologically dazzling, are responsible for a remarkably small share of the improvement in heart disease. Roughly half of the decline has come from reductions in risk factors like high cholesterol and high blood pressure, both of which are treated with relatively inexpensive drugs. And much of the remaining decline is thanks to ridiculously inexpensive treatments like aspirin, heparin, ACE inhibitors, and beta-blockers.

    Question 6
    False. Based on extensive data analysis as well as crash tests paid for by the authors, old-fashioned seat belts do just as well as car seats.

    Question 7
    B, Shifting less than one day per week’s worth of calories from red meat and dairy products to chicken, fish, eggs, or a vegetable-based diet achieves more greenhouse-gas reduction than buying all locally sourced food, according to a recent study by Christopher Weber and H. Scott Matthews, two Carnegie Mellon researchers. Every time a Prius or other hybrid owner drives to the grocery store, she may be cancelling out its emissions-reducing benefit, at least if she shops in the meat section. Emission from cows, as well as sheep and other ruminants, are 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide released by cars and humans.

    Question 8
    C, the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines discharged more than 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, which acted like a layer of sunscreen, reducing the amount of solar radiation and cooling off the earth by an average of one degree F.

    Question 9
    C, doctors not taking sanitary precautions. This was the dawning age of the autopsy, and doctors did not yet know the importance of washing their hands after leaving the autopsy room and entering the delivery room.

    Question 10
    C, the psychological effect of the attacks caused people to increase their alcohol consumption, and traffic accidents increased as a result.

    32-40: Certified SuperFreak
    25-31: Freak--surprises lay in wait for you
    16-24: Wannabe freak--you’ve got some reading to do
    1-15: Conventional wisdomer--you’re still thinking in old ways

    From Publishers Weekly

    Economist Levitt and journalist Dubner capitalize on their megaselling Freakonomics with another effort to make the dismal science go gonzo. Freaky topics include the oldest profession (hookers charge less nowadays because the sexual revolution has produced so much free competition), money-hungry monkeys (yep, that involves prostitution, too) and the dunderheadedness of Al Gore. There's not much substance to the authors' project of applying economics to all of life. Their method is to notice some contrarian statistic (adult seat belts are as effective as child-safety seats in preventing car-crash fatalities in children older than two), turn it into economics by tacking on a perfunctory cost-benefit analysis (seat belts are cheaper and more convenient) and append a libertarian sermonette (governments tend to prefer the costly-and-cumbersome route). The point of these lessons is to bolster the economist's view of people as rational actors, altruism as an illusion and government regulation as a folly of unintended consequences. The intellectual content is pretty thin, but it's spiked with the crowd-pleasing provocations—'A pimp's services are considerably more valuable than a realtor's' —that spell bestseller. (Nov.)
    Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    Product Details

    • File Size: 708 KB
    • Print Length: 300 pages
    • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; Reprint edition (September 30, 2009)
    • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B002R2OFGY
    • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
    • X-Ray:
    • Word Wise: Enabled
    • Lending: Not Enabled
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,046 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    207 of 232 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars The idea is to make you THINK! January 4, 2010
    I had to laugh as I read some of the negative reviews. Listen people, it's not intended to be a TEXTBOOK, nor is it written like one, thankfully. I've read both books. Super Freakonomics is a good exercise in critical thinking (something that is becoming sorely lacking in the age of American Idol, thanks to our putrid public schools and Playstation parenting); it makes you think about a lot of "truths" that we take for granted. For example, this book actually made me change some of my thinking about global warming. The book is super-interesting, and full of information that you'd be hard-pressed to find in your typical daily reading; and, it "sexes-up" the fields of microeconomics and behavioral economics. One of the points (relentlessly made) is how we (especially our governments) seem to prefer complex, costly solutions to problems, when cheaper, simpler solutions often exist, and the book does a great job of providing many examples of this. Is it a definitive tome on the many topics it covers? No - again, it's not a textbook, but it was definitely worth the time I spent reading it - I hated putting it down.
    Was this review helpful to you?
    69 of 79 people found the following review helpful
    Superfreakonomics is the follow-up to the wildly successful Freakonomics, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This edition is more of the same. If you liked the first one, you'll like this one. If you didn't, then you probably won't. If you haven't read either, read the first one. This one is interesting, mostly, but the last chapter was a bit of a drag for me. There are some fascinating theories, statistics and illustrations. For the fans of their New York Times blog, however, there's not much that's new. The first book was a novelty, and a fascinating interdisciplinary one. This book is clearly a concerted effort, and it's enjoyable, but I recall random trivia and interesting points rather than the overarching themes. Did I enjoy it? Absolutely. Will I still talk about it at dinner parties in five years as I still talk about some of the theories in the first one? Well, I will reference one specific chapter.

    In short, I loved it, although not quite as much as the first one.
    Comment | 
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    482 of 592 people found the following review helpful
    2.0 out of 5 stars A tired formula. October 21, 2009
    By Mobius
    I gave a positive review to the first Freakonomics. That book distilled some 10 years of academic research by Mr. Levitt, and it was already stretched a bit thin. Levitt does not have another 10 years of research to convert into a second book, so instead we get a collection of magazine articles with cutesy "counterintuitive" angles to them. I know a popular book like this can't be expected to be completely rigorous, but what I've learned about Levitt since the first book has left me less willing to take him at face value. For example his famous study of the link between abortion and crime was later shown to suffer from a programming error in which he neglected to properly normalize a series of crime statistics. When the error was corrected, the trumpeted correlation went away. Levitt responded by re-jiggering his assumptions in a complicated way so he could keep his original conclusions intact. He certainly doesn't make his readers aware of how much subjectivity is in his analysis, and he gives short shrift to legitimate alternate interpretations. Without the penumbra of credibility Levitt enjoyed from his work in econometrics, he's just another moderately amusing magazine writer who shouldn't be taken too seriously.
    Was this review helpful to you?
    32 of 39 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Economics can be Fun January 25, 2010
    Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It sheds light on why I bothered studying for a degree in economics at university. Yes, economics can be fun. It's a pity it gets such a bum rap. Why should it be called the "dismal science"?

    Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner have written an amusing and readable book. It's full of anecdotes and whimsical stories without ever seriously veering from the science of microeconomics which is its basis. The two Steves have researched an array of topics from street prostitution, to hospital deaths in the 19the century before opining upon global warming and how it might be resolved if, indeed, it is a problem. It's this final point that I particularly loved. Global warming has become a modern religion. It has its own dogmas and turns a blind eye to anyone who questions the "rules". I am quite confident that, in due course, global warming will be solved but it won't be by the naïve and cack handed solutions that greens put forward. It will be economics that comes to the rescue. This has always been the history of the world and I see no reason why this should change now.

    Perhaps the most pleasant feature of "SuperFreakonomics" (and its predecessor "Freakonomics") is that it brings economics away from the realm of stuffy ivory towered professors and their arcane theories and formulas. Instead, economics is presented as something to enjoy. This is the book's real strength. I can only hope that this technique has introduced economics to a wider audience.

    However, before finishing up, I find myself wondering which of the "case studies" amused me the most. I think it was the story about travel in New York City and how horses caused more deaths per capita than cars. It's ironic then that the car is seen as the work of the devil by some when, in fact, it has been a great liberator of the human race. Yes, "SuperFreakonomics" is a great read. Read it and enjoy.
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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    4.0 out of 5 stars Although not necessarily as good as the first one it's still managed...
    Although not necessarily as good as the first one it's still managed to capture my interest. It did, however, feel more like a continuation of the first book instead of an actual... Read more
    Published 4 days ago by Luis Tirado
    3.0 out of 5 stars then you will enjoy this one also
    This is the book that answers the question, why should suicide bombers buy life insurance? How valuable are car seats for children? Read more
    Published 4 days ago by perry man
    4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
    Every story is both fun and (strangely) useful.
    Published 4 days ago by Tibor Sands
    3.0 out of 5 stars The book has 216 pages not 247
    Not as good as freakonomics.
    The part on global warming is more like a popular science book. The chapter on altruism cited an experiment by List is flawed. Read more
    Published 6 days ago by YIPLIU
    5.0 out of 5 stars Churns the brain cells. I found a little redundancy ...
    Churns the brain cells. I found a little redundancy with "Freakonomics" but was impressed with the level of research and ability of the authors to develop their... Read more
    Published 11 days ago by Sandra Martin
    5.0 out of 5 stars Words fail me....
    Hilarious AND educational....what's better than that?? Fascinating. I will be a return customer to these guys. What else have they written....?
    Published 13 days ago by Christen Taylor
    5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant commentary on global warming
    Much more interesting and well written than the original book. Highly recommend, especially for the analysis of global warming theories.
    Published 16 days ago by mm27
    4.0 out of 5 stars overall a recommended read.
    Interesting read.
    Sometimes the topics do change abruptly. However, overall a recommended read.
    Published 19 days ago by Legend
    5.0 out of 5 stars Amusing insights
    I read this book very quickly, because like the original Freakonomics, it is chocked full of interesting analyses of social behavior. Read more
    Published 24 days ago by Paul Skinner
    5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
    Great book
    Published 28 days ago by Alejandro Reynoso
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    Topic From this Discussion
    The book gets climate science wrong
    Here's an article on what Caldeira's real opinion on geoengineering is. Compare it with Chapter 5.

    'Caldeira says that, in any case, geoengineering is probably not the first option in... Read More
    Oct 19, 2009 by Guy |  See all 47 posts
    Kindle Price
    Actually, the Kindle price is now HIGHER than the soft cover book (excluding shipping). Since the Freakonomics books advocates looking at the world in terms of economics, perhaps readers of Superfreakonomics are willing to pay a premium price for instant delivery.
    May 30, 2012 by Steve O |  See all 2 posts
    Don't buy this book - it's full of misleading facts and lies.
    I think that we just need to realize that these are economists writing about atypical topics. They don't consider morals because that's simply not part of thinking like an economist. I think that Levitt and Dubner are brilliant with their ideas. They make you think and question the world. You... Read More
    May 31, 2010 by Samuel C. Mindes |  See all 4 posts
    How Depressing!
    Wow, how about a little perspective here? Read Dubner's article in the NYT regarding the work they did with the Climate Scientists in question on this one chapter of the new book and then see if you feel the same as what was written above. The moral of the story (so far): don't believe... Read More
    Oct 19, 2009 by Scoob Edoo |  See all 11 posts
    don't buy this book
    Levitt and Dubner like to make you think. And that's what this book does. It makes you think about things in a new way. It makes you take a step back and change your point of view. I don't think that this is a bad thing at all. I think that we should always question the way we think and what we... Read More
    May 31, 2010 by Samuel C. Mindes |  See all 10 posts
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