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Freakonomics

A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

By , (Author)

Paperback published by William Morrow Paperbacks

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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? 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.

Bonus material added to the revised and expanded 2006 edition

  • The original New York Times Magazine article about Steven D. Levitt by Stephen J. Dubner, which led to the creation of this book.
  • Seven “Freakonomics” columns written for the New York Times Magazine, published between August 2005 and April 2006.
  • Selected entries from the Freakonomics blog, posted between April 2005 and May 2006 at http://www.freakonomics.com/blog/.
Show less

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.

Bonus material added to the revised and expanded 2006 edition

  • The original New York Times Magazine article about Steven D. Levitt by Stephen J. Dubner, which led to the creation of this book.
  • Seven “Freakonomics” columns written for the New York Times Magazine, published between August 2005 and April 2006.
  • Selected entries from the Freakonomics blog, posted between April 2005 and May 2006 at http://www.freakonomics.com/blog/.
Product Details
Paperback (352 pages)
Published: August 25, 2009
Imprint: William Morrow Paperbacks
ISBN: 9780060731335
Other books bySteven D. Levitt
  • Think Like a Freak CD

    Think Like a Freak CD
    The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain...
    The New York Times bestselling Freakonomics changed the way we see the world, exposing the hidden side of just about everything. Then came SuperFreakonomics, a documentary film, an award-winning podcast, and more. Now, with Think Like a Freak, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner have written their most revolutionary book yet. With their trademark blend of captivating storytelling and unconventional analysis, they take us inside their thought process and teach us all to think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally—to think, that is, like a Freak. Levitt and Dubner offer a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems, whether your interest lies in minor lifehacks or major global reforms. As always, no topic is off-limits. They range from business to philanthropy to sports to politics, all with the goal of retraining your brain. Along the way, you'll learn the secrets of a Japanese hot-dog-eating champion, the reason an Australian doctor swallowed a batch of dangerous bacteria, and why Nigerian e-mail scammers make a point of saying they're from Nigeria. Some of the steps toward thinking like a Freak: First, put away your moral compass—because it's hard to see a problem clearly if you've already decided what to do about it. Learn to say "I don't know"—for until you can admit what you don't yet know, it's virtually impossible to learn what you need to. Think like a child—because you'll come up with better ideas and ask better questions. Take a master class in incentives—because for better or worse, incentives rule our world. Learn to persuade people who don't want to be persuaded—because being right is rarely enough to carry the day. Learn to appreciate the upside of quitting—because you can't solve tomorrow's problem if you aren't willing to abandon today's dud. Levitt and Dubner plainly see the world like no one else. Now you can too. Never before have such iconoclastic thinkers been so revealing—and so much fun to read.

    SuperFreakonomics

    SuperFreakonomics
    The New York Times bestselling Freakonomics was a worldwide sensation, selling more than four million copies in thirty-five languages and changing the way we look at the world. 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. 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? What do hurricanes, heart attacks, and highway deaths have in common? Can eating kangaroo save the planet? Levitt and Dubner mix smart thinking and great storytelling like no one else. 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.

    SuperFreakonomics

    SuperFreakonomics
    Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why...
    SuperFreakonomics was an instant New York Times bestseller that caused a media uproar, continuing the amazing success begun with the groundbreaking, worldwide sensation Freakonomics. 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? Freakonomics has been imitated many times over -- but only now, with SuperFreakonomics, has it met its match.

    SuperFreakonomics, Illustrated edition

    SuperFreakonomics, Illustrated edition
    Seeing is believing . . . The Smash Hit SuperFreakonomics is now Bigger and Better SuperFreakonomics was an instant New York Times bestseller that caused a media uproar, continuing the amazing success begun with the groundbreaking, worldwide sensation Freakonomics. With the Illustrated Edition, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner bring alive their smart thinking and great storytelling with an explosion of visual evidence, including: A by-the-numbers tally of a high-priced call girl's career, and a tracking sheet from an intensive survey of Chicago street prostitutes. A visual quiz that lets you pit your memory against the memory of a chess grand master. Images of the hurricane-killing machine and other geo-engineering inventions described in SuperFreakonomics. A look into whether doctors are better at saving lives in TV dramas or in real hospitals. Whether probing the intricacies of sex change oper-ations, the effectiveness of child car seats, or what really motivates people to do good, the Illustrated Edition of SuperFreakonomics employs photographs, drawings, and graphs that will lead readers to see the world in a bold, fresh way.

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  • The most brilliant young economist in America -- the one so deemed, at least, by a jury of his elders -- brakes to a stop at a traffic light on Chicago's south side.

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  • His name is Ted Kaczynski.

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