Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner make statistics apply to your life, and they make you see those things in a whole different light. Somehow, they make stats seem...cool. Narrator Dubner pulls off a little miracle, too. At first, he sounds a bit geeky, but it doesn't take long before you are hanging on to his every word, waiting for the next nugget of information, and thinking that this geeky-sounding guy is really pretty smart. And it doesn't take long before you realize that you've read an entire book on economic theory and statistics - and enjoyed every minute of it. Go figure.
These may not sound like typical questions for an economist 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 regularly turn the conventional wisdom on its head. Thus the new field of study contained in this book: Freakonomics.
Levitt and co-author Stephen J. 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 set out to explore the hidden side of...well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The secrets of the Ku Klux Klan.
What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking. Steven Levitt, through devilishly clever and clear-eyed thinking, shows how to see through all the clutter.
©2005 Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner; (P)2005 HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
"An eye-opening, and most interesting, approach to the world." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Prepare to be dazzled." (Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink and The Tipping Point)
"It might appear presumptuous of Steven Levitt to see himself as an all-purpose intellectual detective, fit to take on whatever puzzle of human behavior grabs his fancy. But on the evidence of Freakonomics, the presumption is earned." (The New York Times)
I found myself believing everything they say but wanted to run the math. I listen in the car so do not have paper handy and am not a math whiz so maybe paper would not have helped. Definitely thought-provoking. Well worth the time and money...am sure the authors could find a story and math to support any viewpoint.
I found this book completely involving, informative and often eye-opening. The authors take mounds of facts and figures and analyze them to come to some unexpected conclusions--or sometimes to expected conclusions that have not previously been based on actual data. The reviewers who did not like this book, I would guess, were likely put off by one of two things: The mathematical component (each subject is assessed by crunching lots of survey data and other detailed records), or the rejection of the "common sense" approach to social conundrums like abortion, crime, drug sales, school cheating, and the like. The authors avoid all moral judgment and simply assess these issues according to actual verifiable facts, and the results often do not agree with so-called conventional wisdom or moral imperatives. But each is entertainingly presented and fascinating. Someone other than the journalist half of the team should have done the reading--he should keep his day job--but one gets used to it.
If you liked Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink", then you might also find this book interesting. It's thought-provoking and does a good job of using the percentages and numbers without glassing your eyes over. The information and even examples become repetitive after the first third of the book. The narrarator has a good voice for an audio book.
Although a popular book, I found it repetitive and tedious. The authors continued to pound the same key...that abortion has had a significant impact on US crime statistics. The first time, it was interesting and insightful. The second time, it was emphasis. Subsequent times, I began to question their motives.
Finally, the popularity of names for children sliced by demographics was worse than having a distinction witout a difference...it was absolutely boring and unnecessary.
the narrator was very dry. The material has potential for a very colorful delivery (except for some of he lists). The drug dealer encounters, the accounts of Stetson, and several others have dramatic potential. But instead, it felt "read" and attempts to mimic dialects were comical. A professional narrator would improve the audiobook 100% (well, 25% to 5 stars).
That aside, the content was fresh and thought provoking. Recommended listening for the curious and those with interest in why things work the way they do.
The authors have taken something as cut and dry as economic analysis and applied those same principles to the things in our society which are the most resistant to an objective, non-emotional treatment: abortion, crime, poverty, children's academics. While you may not want to agree with their conclusions, there is only a little wiggle room in their methods for plausible argument. It's an eye-opening effort that, if nothing else, should spark fresh debate and reexamination of some topics we'd closed the books on years ago. Though, I do have to say, this book begs to become a series.. I have so many more questions that deserve this kind of treatment.
The only redeeming qualities were the story of the Bagel man and the Economics of Drug Dealers. I believe this whole book was written to justify abortion. The Economist found stats to back him up and ran with it. Take the Roe v Wade section out and he might sell 6 copies.
So when the Author explains his epiphany of Roe v Wade and that Crime dropped dramaticly 20 after the "Unwanted Children" were allowed not to be born, ask yourself why Violent crime is still up 95% from 1960 to 2003? Before 1960 Abortion was illegal in all 50 states. Did the "Unwanted Children" before 1960 not commit crimes? I think the question is not why did the crime rate go down in the 1990s, but why did it go up in the late 1960’s? Crime had not been a major US issue since Prohibition and all of a sudden crime increases 160% in 5 years. WHY?
FYI Numbers from the FBI (Take a look) from 1960 to 1973, Violent Crime increased 160%, Murders increased 80%, Rape increased 155%, and Robbery increased 200%. On an average crime rates increased from 100% to 150% and 80% of that rate increase was from 1969 to 1973. In Freakanomics defense, crime rates did drop once the middle 1990s hit. Violent Crime dropped 38% from its peak in 1991, Murder dropped 41%, Rape dropped 25%, and Robbery dropped 47%. To put this into perspective from 1960 to 2003, Violent Crime increased 95%, Murders increased 12%, Rape increased 135%, and Robbery increased 137%.
a bunch of interesting facts but at the end of the book the author even admits that it is a disjointed jumble of thoughts.
I did however find it to be entertaining.
The book would have been much more interesting to read in print. Many of cases and conclusions are fascinating in themselves, but the material is hindered by the format. The narrator is definitely an economist, not a voice actor. His narration presents the material dispassionately and rhythmically: wonderful for science, bad for story-telling. There were also multiple parts of the book that were difficult to follow aurally. Comprehension would be better visually. The chapter on the migration and social effects of names, featuring long lists of names for various social groups over multiple decades, was particularly excruciating. On the plus side, the studies on abortion and crime, and nature vs. nurture for raising children were extremely interesting. A few repetitions of certain material, due to many (or all?) of these essays being published before, were forgivable. I would skip it here, and get it in print if I were to do it over.
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