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Freakonomics [Revised and Expanded]: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 17, 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 846 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Freakonomics Series

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“If Indiana Jones were an economist, he’d be Steven Levitt… Criticizing Freakonomics would be like criticizing a hot fudge sundae.” (Wall Street Journal)

“Provocative… eye-popping.” (New York Times Book Review: Inside the List)

“The guy is interesting!” (Washington Post Book World)

“The funkiest study of statistical mechanics ever by a world-renowned economist... Eye-opening and sometimes eye-popping” (Entertainment Weekly)

“Steven Levitt has the most interesting mind in America... Prepare to be dazzled.” (Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink and The Tipping Point)

“Principles of economics are used to examine daily life in this fun read.” (People: Great Reads)

“Levitt dissects complex real-world phenomena, e.g. baby-naming patterns and Sumo wrestling, with an economist’s laser.” (San Diego Union-Tribune)

“Levitt is a number cruncher extraordinaire.” (Philadelphia Daily News)

“Levitt is one of the most notorious economists of our age.” (Financial Times)

“Hard to resist.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Freakonomics is politically incorrect in the best, most essential way.... This is bracing fun of the highest order.” (Kurt Andersen, host of public radio's Studio 360 and author of Turn of the Century)

“Freakonomics was the ‘It’ book of 2005.” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

“An eye-opening, and most interesting, approach to the world.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“An unconventional economist defies conventional wisdom.” (Associated Press)

“A showcase for Levitt’s intriguing explorations into a number of disparate topics…. There’s plenty of fun to be had.” (Salon.com)

“One of the decade’s most intelligent and provocative books.” (The Daily Standard)

“Freakonomics challenges conventional wisdom and makes for fun reading.” (Book Sense Picks and Notables)

“The trivia alone is worth the cover price.” (New York Times Book Review)

“An easy, funny read. Many unsolvable problems the Americans have could be solved with simple means.” (Business World)

“Economics is not widely considered to be one of the sexier sciences.... Steven D. Levitt will change some minds.” (Amazon.com)

About the Author

Steven D. Levitt, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, given to the most influential American economist under forty. He is also a founder of The Greatest Good, which applies Freakonomics-style thinking to business and philanthropy.



Stephen J. Dubner is an award-winning author, journalist, and radio and TV personality. He quit his first career—as an almost rock star—to become a writer. He has since taught English at Columbia, worked for The New York Times, and published three non-Freakonomics books.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; Revised & Expand, Roughcut edition (October 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061234001
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061234002
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (846 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,371 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Maxim Masiutin on February 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book, described as melding pop culture with economics, is a collection of economic articles written by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt, translated into prose meant for a wide audience by New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner. Levitt had already gained a reputation in academia for applying economic theory to diverse subjects not usually covered by "traditional" economists.

"Freakonomics" peaked at number two among nonfiction on the New York Times bestseller list and was named the 2006 Book Sense Book of the Year in the Adult Nonfiction category.

It became so popular that the other authors began to scrutinize "Freakonomics" in their new books.
Currently, more than 18 books cite Freakonomics. For example, "Freedomnomics", a book is a book by John R. Lott, Jr. (author of More Guns, Less Crime and The Bias Against Guns) takes an economic look at the effects of the free market, and presents some arguments against those found in "Freakonomics". Another example is presented by Ben Fine, author of "Marx's Capital" (2003), "The New Development Economics" (2005), "Social Capital Versus Social Theory" (2007), will release a new book in December 2008, entitled "From Political Economy to Freakonomics".

In "Freakonomics", the authors demonstrate the power of data mining. Many of their results emerge from Levitt's analysis of various databases, and his creativity in asking the right questions. But the book is somewhat oversimplified, because it is targeted to wide audience.

If you like the creativity in asking the right questions, the power to analyze the data, to think differently to popular beliefs, and if you don't like wide audience books, I would recommend "The Only Three Questions That Count" by Kenneth L. Fisher. Both books are essentially about the same, but "The Only Three Questions That Count" is deeper than "Freakonomics".
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Format: Audio CD
This is not a book on economics but on the application of economic mathematical techniques to problems outside the normal field of economic analysis. The techniques are used to attempt to identify some cause and effect relationships in our culture.

The big one that has generated is his analysis that relates the passage of Roe v. Wade (the abortion case) to the big reduction in crime that's been seen in recent years. His analysis offends a lot of people, but for the most part the author just puts out the data as he sees it.

Other points that directly affect what our culture is doing involve the public education system:

One analysis of his says if you install standardized tests in school with a program to reward the teachers who do best, then you encourage teachers to cheat -- in some cases by directly altering the test sheets, as was the cause of a scandal in Chicago.

Another looks at what things (such as reading to them) help a kid in school. As with his other studies, the results are surprising.

This is a popular book, written somewhat to amuse and illustrate. It does not have the heavy mathematical analysis that you would expect in an economics book.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent, very readable book by a couple of guys who like to go against the grain.

Steven D. Levitt is the economist who teaches at the prestigious University of Chicago school of economics, and Stephen J. Dubner is the talented wordsmith. They come off a little on the self-satisfied side here, but who can blame them? They have a surprise best seller in a new edition.

What really powered this book to national attention was their argument that the sharp nation-wide drop in crime starting in about 1990 was not due so much to having more cops on the beat, or smarter, better policing, or to having so many criminals in prison--as most of us thought--but instead the reason the crime rate dropped is that Roe v. Wade became the law of the land in 1973!

Arguments about this unintended (to say the least) consequence of making abortion legal raged as soon as this book hit the stores (or maybe before) and are raging still. Personally, put me down among those who find the argument persuasive. But I don't want to rehash all that now. Instead let me point to some other topics in the book.

Most interesting is the chapter entitled "Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live with Their Moms?" The authors tell the story of Sudhir Venkatesh who was working on a PhD in sociology at the University of Chicago. He was sent to do some sociology in Chicago's poorest black neighborhoods and ended up spending several years learning about the crack business at the street level complete with--oh, how the economists loved this!--spiral notebooks with four years worth of the crack gang's financial transactions. Venkatesh discovered that the gang worked a lot like "most American businesses, actually, though perhaps none more so than McDonald's." (p.
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Format: Hardcover
If you want to become really depressed about the state of intellectual life in America, then "Freakonomics" is the book for you. It was widely praised by sources ranging from the New York Times to the Weekly Standard, and anything that earns the support of both those publications should be highly suspect. In truth, "Freakonomics" is a mixture of two types of conclusions: the obvious and the obviously wrong. In that respect it mirrors other recent pop sociology efforts such as Predictably Irrational, but without even the touches of humor and warmth in that book.

One problem with "Freakonomics" is its habit of hailing the blatantly obvious as new and revolutionary. For instance, Levitt offers to prove that real estate agents try harder to sell their owns houses than to sell their clients' houses. The only response that any intelligent person could offer is, "Well of course they do. Why wouldn't they?" Teachers spent more effort teaching their children than others. Gardeners garden harder in their own gardens than in anyone else's. Professional investors devote the most attention to their own investments. Why wouldn't real estate agents do what everyone else does?

Another example comes in a chapter with the pointedly irritating title, 'What do Teachers and Sumo Wrestlers have in Common?' The dramatic answer is--drum roll please--they cheat. Substantially effort is spent establishing the fact that a sizable percentage of teachers cheat on standardized tests, but this is old news. The techniques for catching cheaters that Levitt uses were already known long before he wrote this book, so what's the big deal?
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